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The Bitter Taste of the Bottom: Kentucky Looks for a Bump at SEC Media Days

There was a touch of playfulness in his manner when Kentucky Wildcats head coach Rich Brooks formed a bit of a jovial growl to kick off his press conference, the final of the Wednesday beginning of SEC Media Days.

"I'll bet you're glad this day is over," Brooks said. "I'll be the last. That's where we get picked every year, so kind of appropriate, I guess."

Laughter filled the room. Brooks has made something of a habit of poking the press over their predictions; when he rebounded from the "hot seat" in 2006 with an 8-5 season, he began his presentation the following year with two words: "I'm baaaack."

Brooks return to his gripe about the ratings at the end of his remarks, capping them off with a reference to the reception held after the end of Wednesday's events.

"You guys can go have a cocktail, a cold beer, talk about where you're going to put Kentucky again," he said. "There you go. Have some fun with it. I'm having fun trying to prove you wrong on occasion."

Good luck with that. For the most part, the media has been pretty much on target in slotting Kentucky in one of the bottom two places in the SEC East. Since divisional play began in 1992, Kentucky has ranked better than 5th a total of four times. Only once in Brooks' six-year tenure -- the breakthrough 2006 season -- have the Wildcats accomplished the feat. (Some fans don't realize that because of its inferior conference record last year, Kentucky actually came in dead last in the East, behind even woeful Tennessee.)

Players seem unruffled by the snubs.

"They had us picked like that the last three years, so I guess we don't pay attention to it, just go out there and just play our hardest and see if we can get to go to another pretty good bowl and have another good season," said cornerback Trevard Lindley.

For the stagnation in the standings, though, Kentucky has improved over the last several years.

"People now look at the schedule and see us as a serious threat," said offensive tackle and All-Name candidate Zipp Duncan.

The problem they face -- the same one that has vexed South Carolina since the Gamecocks began their resurgence at the beginning of the decade -- is that Florida and Georgia also continue to improve. And in one of his more serious comments about the dynamics of the division, Brooks seemed to nod toward the fact that the writers' choices in recent years have been for good reasons.

"We've had success against a few teams, but we have to continue to build on that and beat more of them, because our goal is obviously to be a factor and have a chance to win the SEC East," he said. "To do that, we have to climb over the teams that have ruled the roost, if you will, and ruled it very well, I might add, in the past 10, 15 years."

That climb will have to precede any move up the media ballots.