If being ranked among the nation’s best by the College Football Playoff Committee was among the doors Mark Stoops and Kentucky discussed knocking down this season, then they can check that off the list.
The first of several top-25 revelations came Tuesday night when the Cats were ranked No. 9 by the committee that decides what teams are in the College Football Playoff as well as what teams are part of the New Year’s Six bowls.
The weekly ratings between now and final Selection Day in early December are meant to generate discussion and excitement for the College Football Playoff.
The committee’s top four announced on Tuesday were: No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, No. 3 Louisiana State, No. 4 Notre Dame.
Kentucky’s Saturday opponent, Georgia, was ranked sixth overall by the committee.
“You have to be impressed with what Kentucky’s done. … ,” national college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said during the ESPN show that revealed this season’s first rankings. “What Terry Wilson did (against Missouri) that was the mystery. It looked like they couldn’t complete a pass here for a couple weeks and just when it looked like they were done and out, he comes up with some big plays to give them a lot of optimism for this week against Georgia with their defense.”
Kentucky’s defense is tied with Clemson’s for fewest points allowed per game this season in college football at 13.0.
UK is coming off a 15-14 come-from-behind victory over Missouri in which Wilson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Conrad on the game’s final play. In that game, the Kentucky defense did not allow the Tigers a first down in the second half.
The Wildcats (7-1 overall, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) play Georgia (7-1, 5-1) for the league’s East Division title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington. The winner earns a spot in the SEC Championship Game, a contest in which Kentucky has never played.
Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Kentucky were among seven SEC teams in this season’s first CFP Top 25, joined by No. 11 Florida, No. 18 Mississippi State and No. 20 Texas A&M. The Atlantic Coast Conference was next with five teams, followed by the Big Ten and Pac-12 with four each.
The College Football Playoff Committee, a group of former coaches, players and media as well as current athletic administrators, will release its top 25 four more times (Nov. 6, Nov. 13, Nov. 20, Nov. 27) before the Selection Day when the playoff semifinal teams are announced on Dec. 2 along with the other bowls.
Kentucky is currently ranked No. 11 in The Associated Press media poll and No. 12 in the coaches’ poll. Neither of those rankings count toward the College Football Playoff rankings.
“Their ability to run the ball, they play complementary football,” ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer said of Kentucky during Tuesday night’s broadcast. “They play really good defense on that side of the ball. They’re going to be a handful for Georgia this weekend.”
College Football Playoff
Rankings announced Tuesday night:
4. Notre Dame
8. Washington State
10. Ohio State
12. Central Florida
13. West Virginia
14. Penn State
18. Mississippi State
20. Texas A&M
21. N.C. State
22. Boston College
23. Fresno State
24. Iowa State