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Kentucky and Alabama

From the perspective of the Alabama fan, Saturday’s game against Kentucky is little more than a trap game. If they avoid the post-Georgia letdown, the Tide should roll — that seems to be the consensus anyway. As for Kentucky, this game represents a barometer to see where the undefeated Wildcats stand in regards to the SEC hierarchy. If Kentucky can survive Tuscaloosa without embarrassing themselves, it could be another good football season in Lexington — something UK fans should never, ever get used to.

Remember, this isn’t basketball.

But if you look a little closer, you might find some surprising elements that should be considered. First off all, if you are Kentucky fan (guilty), take some solace in the fact Bama had a slight letdown against Tulane after beating Clemson to open the season. Coming off the Georgia destruction, the Tide are certainly under a letdown warning; but it goes even further than that. Look at Nick Saban’s last two games against Kentucky when he was at LSU:

In 2001, the Tigers scored a late touchdown with only 13 seconds left in the game to come from behind and win, 29-25. The two teams hooked up again in the following season and LSU only needed the college football play of the year to get out of Kentucky with a win, thanks to the Bluegrass Miracle.

In his last two games against Kentucky — with superior LSU teams, I might add — Nick Saban has beaten the Wildcats by a total of seven points. If Saturday’s game is that close, I like Kentucky’s chances.

Alabama has talent up and down the field but a lot of it is young. Could this play a part in deciding the outcome, especially if Bama’s youth makes mistakes? John Parker Wilson has plenty of weapons to distribute the ball to, but Kentucky’s defensive front four is capable of putting the kind of pressure Bama’s quarterback hasn’t had to face in the early part of the season. A big key for the Wildcats is to hurry Wilson into making mistakes.

Speaking of defense, UK currently leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing only two touchdowns in their first four games. Of course, they haven’t played anyone of stature — although, everyone picked them to get stomped by Louisville when the exact opposite happened — and if they go down there with a “deer in headlights” look, Bama will score a lot more than two touchdowns.

Looking at this game without my blue-tinted glasses on, it’s really pretty simple: while UK’s defense does look stout, they don’t have enough offensive firepower to hang with the Tide. Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline is progressing into a nice player, but that’s probably not enough to beat the Tide, unless they help by beating themselves.

Historically speaking, Bama rolls here too. Kentucky is 2-33-1 against the Crimson Tide since they started playing against each other way back in 1917. That means in nine years short of 100, the University of Kentucky has only beaten Alabama twice. Two wins in 91 years. That has to give Wildcat fans all the confidence in the world.

For Bama fans, the hope is your team continues to play with the ruthless efficiency that comes from Nick Saban teams. For Kentucky fans, your hope is they don’t; oh, and defense too. If the defense plays like it has been against lesser competition, things could get really, really interesting for the Tide.

Until that happens, I, like everyone else, am picking Alabama by the score of 24-14 — but the Cats do beat the 16.5 spread.