Alabama Football takes on the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday morning with a chance to lock up a spot in the SEC Championship game. According to FanDuel, early odds have the Alabama Crimson Tide favored by 10.5 points.
On Monday, Nick Saban made it clear the Wildcats are not a team to be taken lightly. Of course, Saban takes no opponent lightly. So how good is Mark Stoops’ team? Let’s look at the good and the bad from Kentucky’s 6-3 record.
With a win over Florida in week five, the Wildcats were ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll. The next week, in a trip to Athens, a bubble of enthusiasm burst for the Wildcats. They were totally outclassed by Georgia in a 51-13 loss. The Bulldogs exploded for 608 yards. The Cats produced just 183 yards, mostly through the air, as what was believed to be a solid rushing attack managed only 2.3 yards per carry against Georgia.
A week later, hosting Missouri in Lexington the Wildcats went down again in a 38-21 loss. The Tennessee Vols provided a third straight loss to the Cats, 33-27. Kentucky’s rushing attack was ineffective against Tennessee, but the Cats passed for 372 yards.
Kentucky quarterback, Devin Leary, who had been awful against Georgia and Missouri, completed almost 72% of his passes against Tennessee. Though Kentucky beat Mississippi State last week, Leary regressed with a passing accuracy of just 59.1%.
Mark Stoops was openly critical of Leary after the Georgia game describing Leary’s performance.
"Usually, I don’t say a whole lot during games to a quarterback to not get him off, but there’s no excuse to not hit some of those passes. I mean, we had some guys wide open."
Even with Leary’s strong performance against Tennessee, his Passing Efficiency Rating is 10th best among SEC quarterbacks. Kentucky fans are doubting Leary even more than Stoops. The fans cannot understand how a QB, who completed 65.7% of his passes in 2021 (playing for North Carolina State) and threw 35 touchdown passes and only five interceptions has not come close to such production at Kentucky.
Alabama Football vs. Kentucky
Is it possible Alabama could play poorly enough to lose to Kentucky? It is possible, but the Crimson Tide would have to contribute heavily to beating itself. The Wildcats are not a bad team – they are also not a particularly good one.
Statistically, Kentucky running back Ray Davis is the SEC’s No. 2 with a carry average of 6.1 yards. He is a tough runner, but his stats are inflated by the weak teams in Kentucky’s early schedule.
None of Kentucky’s six wins are impressive. The best one came against a now 5-4 Florida team. The Wildcats played their best game in the home loss to Tennessee.
On the ‘good’ side for the Wildcats, Ray Davis is also a receiving threat. If Leary can deliver, three of his receivers, Barion Brown, Tayvion Robinson, and Dane Key all average more than 11 yards per reception.
Kentucky’s rushing defense is one of the team’s strengths, but its passing defense is one of the SEC’s worst.
It is possible a somewhat flat Alabama football team, in an early, road start allows the game to be tighter than it should be.