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Kentucky/Alabama Preview

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Terry Wilson (3) threw a touchdown pass to Kentucky Wildcats tight end Keaton Upshaw (88) in the second quarter as Kentucky played Mississippi State on October 10, 2020. Photo by Mark Cornelison

Kentucky will attempt to keep up their recent momentum as they travel to face the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. This will be the third time in a row that the Cats have faced the Tide as the top-ranked team in the nation, last time losing 34-6 in Tuscaloosa in 2016.

What makes this specific Bama squad such a difficult team to beat? Well, mostly because of their prolific offense. They rank first in the SEC in scoring (47.17 ppg), yards per play, yards per carry and QB rating. Their quarterback, current junior and former UK recruit Mac Jones, can sling it all over the field (twice throwing for over 400 yards) with SEC-leading accuracy (78.53% completion percentage). Running back Najee Harris has also lived up to expectation, ranking second in the SEC with 714 rushing yards on the season.

They did lose wideout Jaylen Waddle to a season-ending ankle injury against Tennessee, but it is as scary of an offense as UK has faced in recent years.

Now, is the Bama defense as dominant as we are used to seeing? While it is not the No. 1 defense in America in nearly category, they have found ways to play in different styles given how quickly their own offense is scoring and the pressure put on them to play without much break. They rank first in the SEC in redzone TD rate and first in opposing QB rating while producing 11 takeaways on the season.

What can Kentucky do to keep it competitive on Saturday? Well, they have to put all three phases together at once, first off. Kentucky has had real struggle with getting their offense and defense in sync, infuriating UK Head Coach Mark Stoops because of missed opportunities for big wins.

The UK offense that put up 38 points against Vanderbilt last weekend will have to play with similar efficiency, specifically riding on the back of sophomore RB Chris Rodriguez who leads the SEC with 6.39 rushing yards per carry. That, combined with accurate throws down the field from senior quarterback Terry Wilson and some effective scrambles, could lead to some points on the board Saturday.

Likewise, Kentucky’s defense will need to produce turnovers and get off the field on 3rd down. They currently rank second in the SEC with 11 interceptions and second in points given up, but have struggled at certain points with finishing off downs and giving up long drives. This was prevalent against Vandy last week, as the Commodores went 11/17 on 3rd down and were able to stay on the field for long periods of time.

Simply put, if UK cannot sync all phases together on Saturday, the game will likely not be too close. Otherwise, if the Cats play similar to how they performed in the second half of their 34-7 win at Tennessee, this matchup could be decently competitive in the second half, but the Bama offense is on such a role that it will be very difficult for really anyone in college football to keep up right now.

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