The college football season is less than 100 days away from kicking off, and the Kentucky Wildcats have high expectations heading into the season.
The Cats are returning star quarterback Will Levis, who has been getting top 10 NFL Draft pick hype during the preseason, as well as a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
But none of this would be possible if not for the incredible coaching job Mark Stoops has done since arriving at Kentucky.
After a five-year stretch that saw Kentucky go 19-41 with no bowl trips, Kentucky has since been to six straight bowls with four straight wins. That includes a pair of 10-win seasons and Citrus Bowl victories over Penn State and Iowa respectively.
There’s no question this has been one of the best periods in program history, and Stoops is getting the recognition he deserves.
CBS Sports’ latest coaching power rankings saw Stoops check in at No. 16 overall, a six-spot climb from his 2020 ranking of 22.
Stoops continues his steady climb as he’s turned Kentucky into a respectable SEC program, which is not something anybody has ever expected from Kentucky football. The Wildcats went 10-3 last year, the second time the ‘Cats have won 10 games in a season under Stoops in the last four campaigns. The program had only two 10-win seasons in its history (1950, 1977) before Stoops showed up. While nobody is expecting Kentucky to topple Georgia for the SEC East, at this point, it wouldn’t be a major upset if they pulled off a win against the Dawgs. 2021 rank: 22 (+6)
Some notable coaches Stoops was ahead of include Mario Cristobal, Mack Brown, Mel Tucker, Sam Pittman, and Lane Kiffin.
This ranking has Stoops as the fifth-best SEC coach, trailing only Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher, and Brian Kelly.
It’s also worth noting that two of the coaches ahead of Stoops — James Franklin and Kirk Ferentz — are who the Wildcats beat in their Citrus Bowl victories.
Elsewhere, on Friday, CBS Sports released their annual breakdown of college football’s biggest names, games and stories as we begin the 100-day countdown.
Obviously, some of the big storylines are going to be Lincoln Riley’s first season at USC, Brian Kelly taking over at LSU, and what’s next for Georgia after losing 15 players to the NFL Draft.
However, one big storyline was the elite quarterback class that will be coming out in the 2023 draft. Despite getting top-10 praise and even being projected as the No. 1 overall pick by CBS Sports’ own Chris Trapasso, Levis was not named when talking about the QB class.
Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young will be getting most of the attention, but when talking about second-year stars, it was Texas’ Quinn Ewers and USC’s Caleb Williams getting mentioned over Levis.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise because we see the Cats getting overlooked year after year, yet and Stoops and his staff continue to prove everyone wrong.
As for the title contenders from the SEC, Alabama, Georgia, and Texas A&M come in as tier 1 contenders with Florida coming in as a tier 2 contender.
The Cats will face off against the Gators in Gainesville week 2 of the season with a chance to make a massive statement in what could be a very special season.
You can check out CBS Sports’ entire breakdown of college football’s biggest names, games, and stories here.