The last time the Kentucky Wildcats and Alabama Crimson Tide met at Kroger Field was back in 2013, the first year of the Mark Stoops era and when it was still called Commonwealth Stadium.
Playing the defending national champions with a largely inherited team, it is no surprise that Alabama won 48-7 in the one-sided contest.
In the years since that game, Stoops and Co. have vastly improved the talent level and made Kentucky Football a much more respected program within the SEC and nationally.
However, that has not equated to success against Alabama. In the two matchups since 2013 (2016 and 2020), which have both been played in Tuscaloosa, Kentucky has failed to even score a touchdown.
This Saturday, they will have the opportunity to change that.
While still more talented than Kentucky this season, Alabama is not as strong as they have been in years past, struggling with teams like Arkansas and Texas A&M. Could this be a year where Kentucky can be competitive?
It could, but it will still be a tough task. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Throw the First Punch
When Kentucky played Georgia earlier this season, the Wildcat defense allowed a quick score to the Bulldogs.
Then upon receiving the ball, Kentucky was pushing downfield effectively and efficiently to answer. But the drive ended abruptly in part due to an unforced personal foul penalty. Following that, things compounded, leading Kentucky to lose any chance of control and all momentum.
Kentucky doesn’t have an offense that can fight back from multiple scores. With a home-field advantage and a sold-out Kroger Field crowd, Kentucky’s best chance is to strike early and consistently carry that momentum.
Force Jalen Milroe to Pass
For much of the season, Alabama’s biggest weakness has been their quarterback play, with the inconsistent play of starter Jalen Milroe. However, they just outgunned the best offense in the country in LSU. “They’ve sort of found their identity,” Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said.
That identity is largely made up of running the ball, ranking top 15 in rush play percentage and bottom 15 in pass play percentage.
Fortunately, stopping the run has been a strength of Kentucky’s. On that same note, Kentucky has only played against two top-50 rushing offenses in Georgia (46th) and Tennessee (3rd), giving up their highest rushing totals of the season.
Against LSU, Alabama put up a season-high 288 rushing yards, with 155 coming from Jalen Milroe. That also allowed him to be able to pass the ball effectively, throwing for 219 yards. His versatility is his strength, but if Kentucky’s front seven can keep Milroe in the pocket, forcing him to be one-dimensional and throw, Kentucky may be able to slow down the Alabama offense for a chance of an upset.
One of the biggest sources of frustration in recent seasons has been a lack of execution and discipline, and that comes down to the coaching. Going up against arguably the greatest college football coach ever in Nick Saban, no one expects Stoops to outcoach him.
That said, Stoops and the rest of the staff are more than capable of putting Kentucky in a position to be competitive. If they can accomplish that, showing an improvement from earlier this season, maybe Kentucky can make this a game going into the fourth quarter like several lesser teams have already done vs. the Tide this season.
It also helps when you have Liam Coen, a great offensive mind who should be able to find holes in what’s been a suspect Alabama secondary this season.
Kentucky Wildcats (6-3) vs. Well 8 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-1)
Time/Date: 12:00 pm ET on November 11th, 2023
Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, KY
TV Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Joe Tessitore, Jordan Rodgers, Katie George
Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Satellite Radio: XM Channel 203, Sirius Channel 98, Internet Channel 966
replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Rosters: UK | BAMA
Stats To Know: UK | BAMA
Covers.com Weather Forecast:
- Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Alabama listed as an 11-point favorite. ESPN’s matchup predictor has Kentucky as a big underdog, giving the Wildcats just a 14.3% chance to win.
- Predictions: TeamRankings has Alabama coming away with a 28-17 win, with DRatings.com picking a similar outcome, with a 31-18 victory for the Crimson Tide. A win over Alabama would be the best win of the Stoops era, but they just have those elite playmakers that Kentucky doesn’t have many of. For that reason, along with their stout defense, I predict Alabama to win 30-14.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.