The time is upon us.
It will finally be revealed: what are our UK football 'Cats made of?
And what a first test they have in front of them; Alabama, fresh off of a 41-30 flogging of previously #3 ranked Georgia, in Athens no less, seem to be coming together and thriving under second year coach Nick Saban. The Tide stand at 5-0 and #2 in the nation. To buttress their case as the nations best, the Tide boasts impressive victories over #9 Clemson, Arkansas, and the aforementioned Georgia; Saban has his men believing and achieving.
This has been coming on for some time now; even last year when ''Bama posted a 7-6 record, they were in every game they played, losing by no more than seven points, and giving eventual National Champion LSU everything the Tigers could handle.
This year they seemed to have conquered their close-loss demons and are now burying their opponents early and often. The "32 Million-Dollar Man" is certainly earning his greenbacks.
For Kentucky, test number one of eight begins Saturday afternoon, here are some of the characters Big Blue will be facing in Tuscaloosa:
Quarterback John Parker Wilson: 6'2", 211 lb senior -- This year Wilson is 69 for 110 ( 62.7% ) for 747 yards. He has thrown six touchdown passes and only one interception. Last year Wilson threw for 2,846 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Hoover, Alabama native has started 31 straight games for the Tide. He is the Alabama career leader in passing yards ( 6,398 ), touchdowns thrown ( 43 ) and total offense.
Running back Glen Coffee: 6'1", 198 lb junior -- Coffee averages 98 yards rushing per game, he's scored four touchdowns, and averages 7.0 yards per rush. He has also caught three passes for 12 yards. In '07 Coffee rushed for 545 yards on 129 carries, and scored four touchdowns; he caught 26 passes for 233 yards. Last year Coffee played in nine games, starting three.
Running back Roy Upchurch: 6'0", 201 lb junior -- Upchurch averages 39.8 yards per game ( 6.2 yards per carry ), and has scored two touchdowns. He also has seven receptions for 97 yards. In '07 Upchurch was third on the team in rushing, and he also served on the special teams.
Fullback Mark Ingram: 5'10", 215 lb freshman -- Ingram averages 56.0 yards per game ( 5.6 yards per carry ), and has scored five touchdowns. The true freshman also has three receptions for 12 yards. Ingram was rated a 4-star a prospect by Rivals, and was rated the 17th best athlete in the nation by Rivals. He is a nine-time All-State track star ( ran a 10.69 100, and 21.9 200 ). He is the son of former NFL wide receiver Mark Ingram.
Wide receiver Julio Jones: 6'4", 210 lb freshman -- Jones has 16 catches for 226 yards ( 14.1 yards per catch ), and four touchdowns. The Parade and USA Today All-America was the #1 overall rated player in the nation by Sports Illustrated. He was rated the #2 college prospect by ESPN, and the #4 overall prospect by Rivals. In the final three years of his illustrious high school career Jones made 194 catches for 3,292 yards ( 16.9 yards per catch ), with 50 touchdowns. He was also the Gatorade 2007 Track & Field Athlete of the Year in Alabama. Trevard Lindley, time to unveil your Neon Deon skills.
Wide receiver Mike McCoy: 6'2", 195 lb junior -- McCoy has made seven catches for 97 yards this year. He has started all five games. Last year he started nine of thirteen games while catching 28 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown.
Wide receiver Earl Alexander: 6'4", 216 lb sophomore -- Alexander has made five catches for 88 yards ( 17.6 yards per catch = dangerous ).
Tight end Nick Walker: 6'5", 248 lb senior -- Walker has made 13 catches for 113 yards ( 8.7 yards per catch ), and two touchdowns. In '07 he started all 13 games, and made 23 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He has 30 career starts.
Punt and kick-off returner Javier Arenas: 5'9", 198 lb junior -- Arenas has returned 14 punts for 251 yards ( 17.9 yards per return - 2nd in the SEC ) and one touchdown this year. He has returned six kick-offs for an average of 25.8 yards. He has four return touchdowns for his career. In '07 Arenas was 2nd in the SEC and 12th nationally in punt return average at 15.4 yards per return. He returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown versus Colorado in the Independence Bowl last year, and he also had a 61 yard punt return touchdown versus LSU. He of course is a former track star in the 200 and 400 meters. I think it wise that Masthay and Tydlacka kick away from this guy ... far, far away.
Defensive backs Justin Woodall: 6'2", 220 lb junior, and Rashad Johnson: 6'0", 186 lb senior -- These two are the leading defensive backs in the SEC. In the "Pass Break-ups" category Woodall has recorded four and Johnson has seven. Woodall also has three interceptions. Together they pose a very serious challenge to UK's ultra-young receiving corps.
Offensive tackle Andre Smith: 6'4", 330 lb junior -- Smith is considered one of the top pro prospects in the SEC. He is charged with protecting Wilson, and opening holes for the stable of ''Bama runners; jobs he executes very well. It is time to find out if UK's vaunted D-line is equal to all of the pre-conference hype. My advice -- Go back for that second bowl of Flutie Flakes, because getting to the quarterback is one of the keys to a UK victory.
A tiny bit of Tide stats
- 'Bama outscores their opponents, on average; 37.0 - 13.4.
- 'Bama has out-rushed their opponents 1,076 yards to 270. The Tide average 5.2 yards per rush, while giving up only 2.3 yards per rush.
- 'Bama has 13 rushing touchdowns, but has given up only one.
- 'Bama gives up 205.4 yards passing per game ( 'Bama averages 161.6 yards per game ).
- 'Bama holds their opponents, on average, to only 259.4 yards of total offense.
- 'Bama opponents are averaging 18.4 yards per punt return ( I see an opportunity ). Opponents are also averaging 23.2 yards per kick-off return.
- 'Bama has nine sacks for a loss of 81 yards.
- 'Bama has converted 49% of their third downs, while giving up only 28% of third down tries.
- 'Bama has only scored a touchdown in 58% of their red zone visits ( 14-24 ), but conversely, they have allowed their opponents only eight red zone appearances.
- 'Bama has outscored their opponents 74-0 in the first quarter ( that's an average score of 15-0 going into the second quarter ).
- 'Bama kicker Leah Tiffin has recorded only one touch-back in 32 kick-offs.
Some interesting statistics from each Alabama game
Clemson; a 34-10 'Bama victim:
- Alabama held the Tigers to only 11 first downs.
- Alabama held Clemson to zero net rushing yards on 14 attempts.
- Alabama CONTROLLED the clock -- Time of possession: 'Bama 41:13 - Clemson 18:47. I don't think I've ever seen that much of a discrepancy in ball control.
Tulane; only lost 20-6:
- 'Bama scored only one offensive touchdown versus Tulane ( they scored on a punt return and an interception return ).
- 'Bama only had 172 total yards.
- Tulane dominated time of possession: 36:35 to 23:25.
- Tulane quarterback Kevin Moore was 28 of 49 for 225 yards.
- 'Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson was sacked four times.
- Tulane's place-kicker missed field goals of 23 and 41 yards.
- Tulane had a golden opportunity to really make the Tide sweat when they recovered a 'Bama fumble on Alabama's 23 yard line, but all they could muster was a missed field goal.
Western Kentucky; lost to 'Bama by an eerily familiar score of 41-7:
- 'Bama held WKU to only nine first downs ( UK held them to eight ).
- 'Bama ran for 281 yards ( 5.7 yards per rush ) versus WKU ( UK ran for 216 yards, also 5.7 yards per rush ).
- 'Bama held WKU to 158 total yards ( UK held WKU to 157 total yards ).
- 'Bama amassed 557 total yards ( UK had 398 ).
- 'Bama recorded zero punts versus Western ( UK punted four times ).
- Western running back Bobby Rainey rushed four times for 11 yards versus Alabama ( he went for 104 yards on 8 carries versus UK ). I bet 'Bama didn't try to tackle him at the shoulders, a problem in basic tackling execution UK had in attempting to stop Rainey.
- 'Bama dominated the clock: 37:21 to 22:39.
Arkansas; Petrino was drilled 49-14:
- 'Bama rushed for 328 yards and four touchdowns.
- 'Bama intercepted Razorback quarterbacks Casey Dick three times, and Tyler Wilson once.
- Casey Dick was 24 of 46 for 217 yards.
- 'Bama running back Glen Coffee had 10 carries for 162 yards. He also had an 87 yard touchdown run.
- 'Bama returned two interceptions for touchdowns ( Arenas and Woodall ).
- 'Bama scored touchdowns on four of their first five possessions.
- Arkansas running back MIchael Smith rushed 19 times for 98 yards ( 4.8 yards per carry ).
- 'Bama only converted on 5 of 17 third down attempts.
- 'Bama once again controlled the clock -- 34:46 to 25:14.
Georgia; brought back to earth 41-30:
- 'Bama lead at half 31-0.
- 'Bama scored on all five of their first half possessions.
- John Parker Wilson was a hyper-efficient 13 of 16 for 205 yards and one touchdown.
- 'Bama rushed for four touchdowns.
- 'Bama held Knowshon Moreno to only 34 yards on nine carries ( behind from the get-go, UGA was forced to the air ).
- 'Bama freshman Julio Jones caught five balls for 94 yards ( 18.8 yards per catch ) and a touchdown.
- Twenty-one of 'Bama's points came off of drives of only 48, 33, and 47 yards. They most definitely won the field position battle.
- Moreno's two yard rushing touchdown broke an Alabama string of 22 straight quarters without allowing a rushing touchdown.
- Georgia's Prince Miller returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown.
- Georgia freshman receiver A.J. Green caught six passes for 88 yards and one touchdown.
- 'Bama ran the ball on 45 of 61 total offensive plays.
- 'Bama won the battle of time of possession, again -- 35:46 to 24:14.
- 'Bama out-gained Georgia by only 10 yards.
UK vs. Alabama: An SEC Statistical Comparison
- 'Bama leads the SEC in scoring with 37.0 points per game -- UK is fifth with 31.5 points per game.
- UK is #1 in scoring defense, giving up only 5.5 points per game -- 'Bama is fifth, giving up 13.4 points per game.
- UK is second in total defense, giving up 227.2 yards per game -- 'Bama in sixth, giving up 259.4 yards per game.
- 'Bama is fourth in total offense with 376.8 yards per game -- UK is sixth with 352.0 yards per game.
- 'Bama is first in rush defense, allowing only 54.0 yards per game -- UK is fifth, allowing 73.2 yards per game.
- UK is fifth in pass defense, allowing only 154.0 yards per game -- 'Bama is ninth, allowing 205.4 yards per game.
- 'Bama is #1 in rush offense, with 215.2 yards per game -- UK is fifth with 169.5 yards per game.
- UK is eighth in pass offense with 182.5 yards per game -- 'Bama is eleventh with 161.6 yards per game.
- UK is #1 in kick-off return average at 38.5 yards -- 'Bama is tenth averaging 18.8 yards per return.
- 'Bama is third in the SEC with seven interceptions -- UK is fifth with five picks.
- 'Bama leads the SEC in third down conversions at 49.2% -- UK is ninth at 36.7%.
- Both teams have recorded nine sacks.
- UK leads the SEC in sacks allowed with only two.
- UK leads the SEC in allowing only 11.2 first downs per game.
- UK's Tim Masthay leads the SEC in punting average at 45.7 yards per punt.
Former Elizabethtown star Brandon Deaderick ( 6'4", 287 lbs ) is a starting defensive lineman for the Tide. He is a former teammate of UK O-lineman Zipp Duncan.
So there you have it. Some of the information is as scary as Heather Locklear driving down a crowded roadway, but there does exist a few areas of weakness that Kentucky can take advantage of, especially if they harbor any hopes of pulling off the season-making upset.
We'll have more game analysis and commentary over the next few days.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!