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Kentucky Ready for National Showcase

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Momentum, in Lexington, is building. So, too, is the excitement.

It's going to be electric on Kroger Field in the evening on Saturday. I'm just really stoked and ready to go.
~Derek Abney

There is a lot of energy around Kentucky and rightfully so. The Wildcats are 2-0 in the SEC for just the second time since 1977 and have debuted at 23 in the national polls. A primetime spotlight now awaits; undefeated Kentucky will next host 9th-ranked Florida on ESPN. Fans from all across the country will soon be watching the Wildcats and they should be. This is a showcase Kentucky, winners of six in a row overall, has earned.

Already with two division wins in the SEC East, the Wildcats are positioning themselves for a run. A win over the Gators would only affirm that. The upcoming stretch for Kentucky, hosting Florida and LSU and playing at Georgia, is one of the toughest any team in college will face all season. It has the potential to be a defining one.

Momentum, in Lexington, is building. So, too, is the excitement.  

"Looking forward to this opportunity to be undefeated, playing a great Florida rushing offense, a top ten team. It's going to be electric on Kroger Field in the evening on Saturday," nodded Derek Abney, a former consensus All-American for the Wildcats who finished his college career with the second-most all-purpose yards in SEC history. "I'm just really stoked and ready to go."

Kentucky's start to the season has been an impressive one.

In addition to being undefeated, the Wildcats rank second in the SEC in total defense and are slotted 9th nationally. Offensively, Kentucky is one of just three league teams to rank in the top half of the conference in passing and rushing, joining Georgia and Ole Miss. Among other standouts, Chris Rodriguez ranks 4th in the country with 130.5 rushing yards per game, Wan'Dale Robinsons leads the SEC with 402 receiving yards and DeAndre Square and J.J. Weaver are among the league leaders in tackles for loss.   

Now 27-14 overall since the start of the 2018 season, Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have emerged as contenders in college football's toughest conference.

"He's done a great job recruiting, he has had consistent wins," Abney stated. "Coach Stoops does it right. Mitch Barnhart is the AD there, just a fantastic administrator. Coach Stoops is the long-game. He's been here doing it a long time and he will be here as long as he wants to be if he continues to produce like this."

The overall profile of Kentucky football continues to grow and expand. People are talking about the Wildcats and for good reason. This is a team on the rise. Media, fans and former players are all taking note. Abney, who attended Kentucky's game at South Carolina, a 16-10 win for the Wildcats, is excited about what lies ahead for Kentucky football -- and not just the big game this weekend.

"It's wonderful," Abney exlcaimed. "I'm glad to have been a part of Kentucky. Obviously I was well before Coach Stoops and his program so all kudos to him. They are doing us proud. To play in a league like this and be as successful as he is and arguably a top three team in the east, it's just wonderful to bleed blue honestly."

In the 2002 Kentucky-Florida game, Abney returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns and also had a receiving score as well. He is one of just two SEC players this millennium with such a single game performance on his resume and he did it in The Swamp. Abney certainly knows what it is like to have a signature performance against the Gators. Ahead of a high-profile challenge but also a high-profile chance, there is optimism around the Wildcats and their potential. 

Abney, an all-time great at Kentucky, is hoping for even more highlights for big blue against the orange and blue. 

"I'm just looking forward to the clash, it's going to be a tough one," Abney shared. "Really looking forward to it."

Kentucky will soon be under the bright lights. It's there a special passion and pride will be on display.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports