BOZICH | Can Kentucky crack the Top 10? Top Five?
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Two years ago this week, the University of Louisville crackled into the No. 7 spot in the Associated Press Top 25, nestled between Houston and Texas A&M.
By Week 9, Lamar Jackson’s team climbed to fifth, the highest ranking of any one-loss team in the poll. The Cards were No. 5 when they were toppled by Houston in mid-November.
This season is Kentucky’s football season to strut. The Wildcats (5-0) are parked 13th in the current AP poll. They have overtaken Virginia Tech, Michigan, USC, Stanford, Miami, Wisconsin and other program that aspire to play for the national championship over the last five weeks.
Not bad for a squad that earned one poll vote (from Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun), tied with Fresno State and Arkansas State, in the preseason AP poll.
All 12 teams ranked ahead of the Wildcats were already in front of UK in August.
The next questions are inevitable:
How many more teams can Kentucky overtake? What is the ceiling for Mark Stoops’ team? Can they crack the Top 10 or the Top 5 the way Louisville did in 2016?
Let’s take a look:
There’s no reason to indulge in this fun unless you’re willing to assume Kentucky will win its next three: at Texas A&M on Saturday, followed by Vanderbilt’s visit to Kroger Field on Oct. 20, followed by the game at Missouri on Oct. 27.
Yes, Kentucky is a 5 1/2 point underdog at College Station. They were double-digit underdogs against Florida and Mississippi State. They opened last week as an underdog against South Carolina.
So, let’s begin with the assumption of an 8-0 record forged over the next four Saturdays.
How many teams ranked ahead of Kentucky are likely to stumble during that stretch?
My research department reports a minimum of three (which would bump UK into the Top 10). If things get silly, I can envision eight of the top 12 losing at least once.
Top-ranked Alabama is off the table. So is No. 3 Ohio State, which does not play another ranked team until visiting Michigan State on Nov. 10. (Sorry, Indiana. The Hoosiers chances Saturday in Columbus are about the same as the Baltimore Orioles winning the World Series.)
West Virginia (No. 9) won’t be challenged until the Mountaineers visit Texas Nov. 3.
I’d add Central Florida to the untouchable list. Your favorite team would be untouchable if they were booked against SMU, Memphis and East Carolina (combined record 7-7) the next four weekends.
Those four have been scheduled favorably, but not the other eight.
Everybody is gaga about No. 11 Penn State. They say the Nittany Lions should have beaten Ohio State.
Not me. Penn State’s best win was against Appalachian State (in overtime). Could Penn State lose to Michigan State, Indiana (in Bloomington) or Iowa?
Absolutely. There’s a reason CBSSports.com had a preseason story about James Franklin being one of the nation’s most overrated coaches.
No. 10 Washington will lose for the second time against either Oregon (road, Oct. 13) or Colorado. The Ducks and Buffaloes are both ranked, and the Huskies rank sixth in the Pac-12 in total offense.
Auburn looks secure, but the Tigers will have to sweep the two Mississippi teams on the road. Should happen. But there’s a reason Auburn fans have been grumbling about Gus Malzahn.
Better Oklahoma teams than this have lost to Texas, and after the Red River Shootout, the Sooners also face a road game with TCU on Oct. 20. Reminder: Oklahoma needed overtime to beat Army.
Here come the Irish. Notre Dame has surged to No. 6 in the AP poll. But they didn’t look great against Ball State. And they didn’t look great against Vanderbilt. Virginia Tech this weekend smells like a trap game.
Louisiana State has been the surprise story of the season. Even if the Tigers win at Florida on Saturday, they’ve got to return home to beat Georgia Oct. 13. Good luck, Ed Orgeron.
There’s a bit of confusion about whether Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence suffered a neck injury or a concussion against Syracuse, but it appears he will try to play at Wake Forest on Saturday.
If Lawrence goes down again, the Tigers will be vulnerable against Wake or North Carolina State (Oct. 20).
Then there is Georgia. After dispatching Vanderbilt Saturday night, the Bulldogs visit LSU and get Florida in Jacksonville Oct. 27 prior to their trip to Kentucky.
Georgia has won all five of its games by at least two touchdowns. The Bulldogs are deserving of their Np. 2 ranking. But a Saturday in Death Valley is no gimme.
There’s your lists. Alabama, Ohio State, West Virginia and Central Florida look safe for the next four weekends.
Everybody else has serious work to do. Win in College Station on Saturday night and Kentucky’s path to the Top 10 will be clear.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.