The Kentucky Wildcats have taken on three ranked opponents in a row and have performed admirably in every contest. One can argue that they have actually improved every game, with the culmination being coming ever so close to sending their most recent game at South Carolina into overtime.
But the Wildcats have one more ranked foe to go before taking a week off to recoup from as brutal of a stretch as any team in the country will face all season; and this test is the toughest one of all. The Alabama Crimson Tide will roll into Commonwealth Stadium for a nationally televised night game. The venue is close to being sold out; and with Keenland being open before the game, expect a raucous crowd.
We all know the tale of the tape when it comes to the Tide; they are on a nine game winning streak that includes a BCS National Championship game; they have future pros all over the field and on the bench; they have the best coach in college football; and the only team that has either defeated them or given them much trouble at all is Texas A&M. They are in the midst of a dynasty and what they have accomplished is truly great.
So, with that being said, does Kentucky stand a chance?
Saturday, October 12th: #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0) at Kentucky Wildcats (1-4, 0-2)- 7:00 PM on ESPN2
Let's start with the good: Kentucky looked impressive in the second half against the Gamecocks. Jalen Whitlow's confidence wasn't an issue for the first time this season, even if his throwing was a bit off at times. He used his legs and his arm to move the ‘Cats against the USC defense and convert in the red zone every time they were there. He was 17-24 for 178 yards and two touchdowns through the air and also led all rushers with 69 yards and a touchdown. While his individual stats were great, none stood out more than the zero turnovers committed by him or the rest of the team. Mistakes, specifically turnovers, have been killing them. Maybe those demons have been exorcised.
The defense had trouble stopping Mike Davis and the running game. They also had trouble keeping Conner Shaw in the pocket. Shaw, who has been a ‘Cat killer his entire career, had 412 total yards and three touchdowns. Dual-threat quarterbacks have been an Achilles heel for Kentucky for a while. Luckily AJ McCarron is about as immobile as they come. But Alabama has extremely talented receivers and a bruising running game. But not all is well in offense land for the Tide. There have been times this season that they have had trouble moving the ball and scoring.
The Tide was tested once on the road this season by Johnny Football and his Aggies. Maziel has been a thorn in Saban's side the past two seasons. This actually may bode well for Kentucky. Whitlow could give Bama's defense a challenge if he can effectively use both his arms and his legs. Am I likening Whitlow to a Heisman winning quarterback? Absolutely not; what I am saying is that Jalen Whitlow and the Kentucky offense can present problems for Alabama if his is used the right way and if he can keep his head in the game.
That being said, the line is going to have to have the best blocking game of the season and the specialty guys are going to have to get open, catch balls, be mistake free and not turn the ball over. That's a tall order for sure.
In the end I think the Tide wins but not by four touchdowns. Kentucky will be up to the challenge and this is a young team that is growing in confidence with every game. Mark Stoops is not a fan of moral victories but this young team needs all of the positivity it can muster. So if the ‘Cats can keep it respectable, then the rest of the season may prove to be very interesting indeed.
Alabama Crimson Tide 30-Kentucky Wildcats 20
After a disappointing loss Between the Hedges, the Tigers of LSU waltzed into Starkville, Mississippi and put an old fashioned SEC whomping on the Bulldogs to the tune of 59-26. Zach Mettenberger and the LSU offense continue to impress under the tutelage of Cam Cameron. While the defense does not resemble the defense of old, the offense can outscore just about anyone in the league outside of Georgia and maybe Texas A&M. Mettenberger is having an All SEC type of year with 1,738 yards, 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Add to that, he has the second best running back in the conference with Jeremy Hill and the best receiving tandem maybe in the country. In short: LSU can put up points but they sometimes have trouble preventing other teams in doing so.
The Florida Gators are the exact opposite: they have been stellar on defense but their offense has left much to be desired. Tyler Murphy has actually improved the offense, but they are still 92nd in scoring. The rushing hasn't been great and neither has the passing. In order for the Gators to win this game, their offense will have to keep up with LSU's. And I don't see that happening in Murphy's first trip down to a little place called Death Valley.
LSU Tigers 40-Florida Gators 24
An argument can be made that the Ducks are the best team in the country. Consider the following: they have scored 55 or more points in all five of their games; they haven't allowed a team to score more than 16 points all season; they have a legit Heisman candidate in Marcus Mariota; they rank in the top 25 in passing yards (24th), rushing yards (3rd), points for (2nd), and points against (2nd). They have been pretty much unstoppable. Not even Alabama can boast numbers like that. But they haven't faced an opponent in the top 25 and the combined record of their foes is 11-14; so one can argue they haven't faced a murder's row of competition.
The Huskies have proven to be an extremely tough team. They absolutely manhandled a good Boise State team at the beginning of the season and just went on the road to Stanford and lost a close one 31-28. Washington's defense is really good and will test the dominance of Oregon's offense. The Huskies also have a stud running back named Bishop Sankey. Many you haven't heard of him because he plays on the West Coast, but he's already gained 732 yards and has seven touchdowns. Oregon is going to have their hands full on the road in front of a large and hostile crowd.
But I do think that Oregon is the class of the Pac 12 and will prove it on Saturday night.
Oregon Ducks 31-Washington Huskies 24
Last Week: Last week I went 3 for 3 and I am now 10-5 on the season.