Cats Have Their Work Cut Out For Them
It’s been a difficult few weeks for Mark Stoops and the Kentucky football team. First it was back to back losses in which the offense did little. Then came an unimaginable loss with the death of offensive line coach John Schlarman following a two year battle with cancer. However, last Saturday they got back out on the field and defeated Vanderbilt 38-35 as a tribute to their fallen coach. In this year of all-SEC play business is certainly picking up this week as Kentucky faces a huge test on Saturday when they face 6-0 and top ranked Alabama.
Offense Gets Back On Track
Before last Saturday the Kentucky offense had been under 300 yards in each of the last four games. In addition they were under 200 twice, the only SEC team holding that dubious distinction. However against Vanderbilt they exploded for 458 yards of total offense, with 308 on the ground coming behind the “Big Blue Wall.” After missing the Georgia game due to a wrist injury Terry Wilson looked like the player of old throwing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also added another 83 yards and score on the ground. Whether that was the result of playing a winless Vandy squad it’s still encouraging numbers for a unit that’s seemingly been off this entire season. Continuing on with our preview of the game let’s now look at top ranked Alabama.
A Very Familiar Name
When the Cats and Crimson Tide line up on Saturday there’s one player True Blue Fans are very familiar with. Quarterback Mac Jones originally committed to Kentucky back in the summer of 2015. However after being in the UK fold for about a year he flipped his pledge and ended up in Tuscaloosa. Many were surprised when he went to Alabama when they already had Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. However as we know Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and Tua was hurt for part of 2019. All of a sudden Jones became the starter and has done great things.
So far in 2o2o Jones has completed nearly 79 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In addition his quarterback rating is a ridiculous 210. As a result he’s near the top of this year’s Heisman race. Behind him is another candidate in running back Najee Harris. On the season he ranks second in the SEC with 714 yards rushing and first with 14 touchdowns. Even though they lost Jaylen Waddle for the year due to a fractured ankle Devonta Smith has more than taken up the slack with 56 receptions and nine touchdowns. Kentucky’s usually strong defense faces a huge test on Saturday trying to stop this attack.
The overall history has not been kind to the Wildcats as Alabama leads the all-time series 37 wins to two with one tie. In addition the Crimson Tide have won the last six over Kentucky. UK’s wins came in 1922 and 1997 with the lone tie coming in 1939. From the Kentucky perspective the 40-34 win in overtime in 1997 topped our list of the best wins of the decade. The Wildcats have never beat the Tide in the state Alabama going 0-21-1 all time. Furthermore Nick Saban’s never lost to Kentucky going 4-0 while at LSU and 3-0 in Tuscaloosa.
The last time these two schools met was back in 2016 also in Tuscaloosa. Led by Hurts’ 292 yards passing and two touchdowns the Crimson Tide cruised to an easy 34-6 victory. 174 of those yards went to Calvin Ridley along with both touchdowns. Remember Kentucky wasn’t supposed to play Alabama until the 2023 season. However due to changing 2020 to an all-SEC schedule this game along with the one against Ole Miss was added.
Who Wins On Saturday?
There’s no doubt Kentucky faces a tough test on Saturday when it plays Alabama. Going into the game the Crimson Tide are a 30 point favorite over the Cats. However to use coach speak this is why you play football in the SEC, to have that opportunity to compete against the best. There’s no doubt in 2020 Alabama is the best. Currently Last Word has them as the top ranked team in the playoffs playing Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. We have Kentucky playing North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl.
Perhaps there might be some rust with the Tide as they haven’t played since beating Mississippi State 41-0 on October 31st. First came their scheduled bye week then an unscheduled week off as the LSU game couldn’t be played due to COVID-19 issues with the Tigers.
Should Stoops and the Cats pull this one off they should immediately erect his statue in front of Kroger Field. Sometimes after a tragedy teams come together and play their best ball of the season. However even against Alabama that might not be enough. Look for the Cats to hang around for a while and at least beat the point spread.
Alabama 42 Kentucky 17
We’ll have a complete recap for you after the Kentucky-Alabama game. The schedule makers did them no favors as Kentucky faces another huge test next Saturday when they travel to “The Swamp” to face the Florida Gators. In addition to previewing that game we’ll also have updated bowl projections for you as well. Do you have prediction on the game? Leave in the comment section below and thank you for checking out this and all the content here at Last Word On College Football.