Kentucky Football: Preview of the Wildcats vs. Alabama State

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

This Saturday’s game against Alabama State should be much like the Miami game: a confidence builder. It comes at a time when the Cats need a confidence boost and hopefully a game where we can let the injured heal.

Head Coach Mark Stoops announced recently that Jalen Whitlow will start on Saturday even though he's banged up with the ankle and now a shoulder. Obviously, he wasn't pleased with Smith's performance last Thursday. Here's your depth chart for Saturday night.

Alabama State is a FCS school and should not pose much in the way of opposition. After Mississippi State and the gauntlet of top tier teams we've faced, Kentucky ranks at # 83 with the 6th toughest schedule according to Jeff Sagarin. Alabama State ranks # 186 in Sagarin's ratings, and he has them rated with the 246th toughest schedule. A cautionary warning for the Wildcats: Furman gave LSU fits for a half, so we can't take the Hornets too lightly.

Kentucky is the only FBS team the Hornets face this year. Unlike Kentucky, Alabama State has a winning record (6-2). They are averaging 37.4 points per game. They are primarily a running team, averaging 261.8 yards per game. They are, however, averaging 216.0 passing yards per game with a per catch average of 12.7 yards. Here's their numbers by quarter:

Score by quarters

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

OT

Total

ALST

84

82

34

93

6

299

Opponents

35

34

64

62

0

195

You might remember Isaiah Crowell from his freshman year at Georgia in 2011. Crowell was a 5 star player for a Georgia class that was ranked as the 5th best recruiting class in the nation by Rivals. Against Kentucky, he only had 11 yards rushing on two carries due to a high ankle sprain suffered during the game. He finished the season with 850 yards on 185 carries and scored five touchdowns on the season. He was named A/P Freshman of the Year.

The following summer, he was dismissed from the Georgia team after his arrest on a weapons charge. He then enrolled at Alabama State. I don't know why Louisville didn't snap him up. An oversight, I suppose. Anyway, Crowell is averaging 6.8 yards per carry (104.1 yards per game) and 12 touchdowns. The Hornets have another running back, Malcolm Cyrus, who is averaging 6.6 yards per carry (92.5 yards per game) and has 6 touchdowns.

Defensively, The Hornets give up only 109.8 yards per game on the ground, but give up 285.4 yards per game through the air. Kentucky should be able to exploit their weak pass defense.

The NCAA statistics show the Hornets in the FCS:

Rushing Offense: #7

Passing Offense: # 59

Total Offense: #13

Rushing Defense: #11

Pass Defense: #117

Total Defense: #70

Alabama State averages 37.4 points per game and gives up 24.4 points per game. Their Turnover Margin is a +0.8 with most of the positives coming on fumble recoveries. Overall, the Hornets play at about the same level as Eastern Kentucky.

While Stoops has been frustrated with the poor execution and failure to play smart, don't expect this game to be much of a struggle for the Wildcats. This will be an opportunity for the staff to try some things they haven't been able to through the gauntlet of ranked teams. So, get out all your tailgatin' gear, head over to Commonwealth Stadium and have some fun.

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