Keith Taylor

Keith Taylor

 

This time of year, you can pretty much count on Alabama having a “Roll Tide” kind of a season already and either Georgia or Florida sitting atop the SEC East as the best teams begin to separate themselves from the rest of the league. 

 

The Wildcats typically are in the middle of the pack with Tennessee, Missouri and South Carolina. Vanderbilt hasn’t been relevant since James Franklin left the Commodores for Penn State a few years ago.

 

Going into Saturday’s contest against LSU, Kentucky is tied with Georgia for first place in the SEC East, while Auburn and surprise contender Arkansas each trail Alabama by one game in the wild and wacky Western division of the league.

 

Kentucky has progressively made a steady climb up the ladder of respectability in the league and the Wildcats cracked the Associated Press Top 25 and made its debut at No. 16 this week. I’m not sure how long it’s been since the Wildcats were ranked this high more than a month after the opening kickoff, but the early success of the program is getting noticed not only locally and statewide, but nationally, giving Kentucky more exposure on a national scale.

 

Five victories in five weeks also mean the Wildcats are within one win of bowl eligibility and reaching the postseason for an unprecedented sixth consecutive season. Kentucky has won its last three bowl games, following losses to Georgia Tech (TaxSlayer Bowl) and Northwestern (Music City Bowl) in the first two postseason games of the Mark Stoops era.

 

Kentucky can clinch a postseason berth with a win over LSU Saturday but can make a bigger leap on the bowl drawing board during the next six weeks. The more wins, the bigger the bowl. 

 

Although the Wildcats proved themselves to be a legitimate contender with last week’s win over Florida, the road ahead remains filled with twists and turns starting with LSU on Saturday. The road doesn’t get any easier with road games at No.2 and SEC East leader Georgia on Oct. 16.  The contest in Athens is followed by another road encounter at Mississippi State on Oct. 30, before the team returns home to take on Tennessee on Nov. 6. Kentucky closes out the conference schedule at Vanderbilt on Nov. 13.

 

Much like the Wildcats, the Bulldogs are in the midst of a grueling stretch that will make or break a season. Georgia's coach knows his team has a tough road ahead beginning with Saturday’s game against Auburn.

 

There is no week off in our conference, so those teams could be higher ranked by the time we play them, they could be lower-ranked but they're going to be the same team regardless of what they're ranked (and) they're really good SEC teams,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart .

 

Smart compared the upcoming stretch to writing a book.

 

“I think it's more about how do you write the chapters in your book where all the chapters are good chapters,” he said. “We're trying to write a really good book and we don't want a bad chapter in our book. So, we're trying to write each individual chapter, and it has a history and life of its own, and you do that by focusing on what's present now.”

 

Kentucky will have to follow the same script in order to continue writing in its own history book this season and it starts with LSU.

 

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or via Twitter at keithtaylor21.

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