Alabama Football: Among frequent Crimson Tide opponents no team has less success than the Kentucky Wildcats.
Alabama football fans know more about Kentucky basketball than the Wildcats’ football program. The roundball Cats are a standard of measurement for SEC basketball success. The football history between the two programs is vastly different.
Measuring ‘frequent’ opponents as those teams Alabama football has faced 30 or more times, the Kentucky Wildcats have the least success beating the Alabama Crimson Tide. In a series that goes back to 1917, the Cats have beaten the Tide twice.
Looking at this season’s game, the outcome will be true to historical form. The Wildcats will be no match for the Crimson Tide.
Statistically, the least successful, frequent Crimson Tide opponents (in best to worst order) are Arkansas having won 23 percent of Tide games; Vanderbilt at 21 percent; Mississippi State at 16 percent; Ole Miss at 15 percent; Southern Mississippi at 11 percent and Kentucky at a measly five percent.
Talk about futility and frustration! Kentucky players and coaches come and go, but longtime Cats’ football fans have memories to endure. The two teams will meet Saturday for just the 13th time in the last 40 years. That has been 11 times too many for Kentucky fans.
In the series’ history, the Wildcats won in 1922 and not again until 1997. In the best line about the 1997 game, the New York Times wrote,
"It took Kentucky 75 years and one overtime to beat Alabama."
How did the Crimson Tide sink so low? That answer leads to a long story of failed University of Alabama administrators, in athletics and higher up in authority. Skipping to the result of the leadership failure, the byproduct was a frustrated Gene Stallings walking away and an inept Mike Dubose hired to replace him.
The New York Times could have added another succinct line about the 1997 game, ‘Alabama did it to themselves.’
The 4-7, 1997 season, coming just five seasons after an Alabama football National Championship, was hard for Crimson Tide fans to accept. Seen in retrospect, it ushered in 11 seasons of mediocre results. Two times the Crimson Tide looked to be turning a corner. One was the 1999 season when Dubose’s team won 10 games. The other was 2002 when a Dennis Franchione team matched that win total.
Four games into Mike Dubose’s tenure as head coach, the looming downfall could not be seen. The Crimson Tide was 3-1 with wins over Houston, Vandy and Southern Mississippi. The loss was to the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Crimson Tide went on to lose six of its next seven, 1997 games. The first loss was in Lexington, KY.
The Wildcats had sensational quarterback, Tim Couch. The Crimson Tide gained over 400 yards, led by the passing of Freddie Kitchens and the running of Curtis Alexander. Looking to add to a four-point lead, the Crimson Tide attempted a field goal with just under six minutes left to play. Kentucky not only blocked it, the Wildcats recovered and returned it for a touchdown. A later, made Tide filed-goal took the game to overtime.
The Crimson Tide fumbled away the first overtime possession. On the Kentucky possession, Couched passed the Wildcats to the victory. At the time, Kentucky had lost its last 12 games to ranked teams. The Crimson Tide entered the game ranked No. 20.
In the 1997 season, the Crimson Tide would also lose to Louisiana Tech, along with losses to Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. In the 1998 season, the Tide had a winning record, only made possible by a 23-22 win over East Carolina. Virginia Tech destroyed the Crimson Tide, 38-7, played in freezing rain at the Music City Bowl.