A week ago Kentucky got a much-needed win, snapping a three-game losing streak. On Saturday business is picking up as they face one of their toughest tests of the season. It’s a NOON kickoff on ESPN in front of what should be a rocking Kroger Field crowd. Let’s take a look at both teams and give you a score prediction as Kentucky Hosts Red Hot Alabama.
Eight Is Great
Last weekend the Wildcat football team knocked off Mississippi State 24-3. In the process, Mark Stoops ended a couple of not-so-positive streaks. It was the first win in Starkville since 2008 and the first-ever road win against the SEC West. With the league doing away with the divisions next year, it was his last chance to earn a road win.
In addition, the Cats secured their eighth straight bowl bid, extending their school record. As a point of reference, the school only played in 14 bowls from 1947 to 2015. A big reason for Kentucky’s good recent play has been quarterback Devin Leary. Over the last couple of games, he’s looked like the top quarterback in the transfer portal. Another big plus is all the receivers are healthy now.
Leary did leave the Mississippi State game in the third quarter after being hit on a pass attempt. Stoops said his vision was blurry and he couldn’t read the plays on his wrist. However, during Monday’s news conference, the UK head man said Leary “could read the plays on his wrist now.” That means he should be good to go for Saturday.
Making Huge Progress
Early in the season, Nick Saban’s club was struggling, especially on offense. Back in week two quarterback Jalen Milroe threw two interceptions in a ten-point home loss to Texas. The next week he was benched in favor of Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson. Following a 17-3 win over South Florida, Milroe was back as the starter. Since then the Crimson Tide have gone 6-0 and the offense has steadily improved.
On the season the sophomore has completed nearly 67 percent of his passes for 1,108 yards, eight touchdowns, and only three interceptions. He’s coming off his best game in a 14-point win over LSU. Milroe ran for 155 yards and four touchdowns and threw for another 219.
Jase McClellan leads the rushing attack with 632 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, Roydell Williams has run for 395 yards. When Milroe throws the ball his favorite targets are Isaiah Bond and Jermaine Burton. On the season the two have combined for 54 catches for 957 yards and eight scores.
On the other side of the ball, Kentucky must find a way to stop edge rusher Dallas Turner. So far in 2023, the junior has eight quarterback sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. As a result he’s a semifinalist for the Lombardi Award.
Now that we’ve previewed both teams let’s give you some background on the rivalry as Kentucky Hosts Red Hot Alabama.
The history of the Kentucky-Alabama series is a totally one-sided affair. Saturday marks the 42nd time the two schools have met. The Crimson Tide holds a 38-2 lead with one tie back in 1939.
Kentucky’s two victories came in 1922 and 1997. Of course, the most recent victory was a 40-34 overtime thriller that ended when Tim Couch hit Craig Yeast for the win. Last Word named it one of the school’s greatest wins.
Since that win Alabama has won seven straight including a 63-3 win in the last meeting during the COVID year of 2020. All-time Saban is 8-0 in his career against Kentucky and 5-0 while at Alabama. Conversely, Stoops is 0-3 against the Crimson Tide.
Another interesting stat is that Saban and Stoops are the two longest-tenured coaches in the SEC. The Alabama head man has been there since 2007 and Stoops since 2013.
We’ve reached that point in our preview where it’s time for a prediction as Kentucky Hosts Red Hot Alabama.
Who Wins On Saturday?
The Cats are in the midst of a brutal end to the 2023 schedule. Over the last few weeks, they’ve faced Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State and Alabama. That’s four teams ranked in the top 15 and another who they hadn’t beaten on the road in 15 years. While the passing game has been good the last couple of games the rushing game has struggled. In order to beat Alabama Kentucky needs a huge game from Ray Davis and keep Milroe off the field.
On the defensive front, the Tide have given up 37 sacks which is 124th in football. If Deone Walker and the big guys up front can get to the quarterback it gives UK their best chance to win. Alabama has been a slow starter in many games this year and a quick start is paramount for springing an upset. Look for the Wildcats to keep it close before Saban wins again.
Thanks for checking out our preview here at Last Word On College Football as Kentucky hosts red-hot Alabama. We’ll be back after the game with a complete recap.