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WE WANT ‘BAMA!!! Okay, maybe I’d prefer to be playing just about any other team in the country this week, but it is going to be a neat opportunity nonetheless. In a weird season why wouldn’t you want to take a shot at the best team in the country on their home field?
Kentucky will get that shot at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time this afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium against the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s squad hasn’t played since Halloween night when they shutout Mississippi State 41-0. A bye week followed by their trip to LSU getting postponed due to Coronavirus concerns has given the Crimson Tide two full weeks off to prepare for Kentucky.
Needless to say, this will be a tall task for the ‘Cats. ESPN currently gives UK a 3.2% chance of victory in their matchup predictor. For Mark Stoops in company to have any chance of shocking the college football world they will need to execute the game plan perfectly and probably get a little lucky as well.
In order for you to get prepared just like the team make sure to read Adam Luckett’s Scouting Report and Freddie Maggard’s take on How Kentucky Beats Florida. Now, let’s dive in to the 5 Things You Need to Know About the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Hesiman Trophy Candidate Quarterback
Former Kentucky commit Mac Jones (#10) has absolutely grabbed the bull by the horns as Alabama’s Quarterback this season. The Redshirt Junior is putting up some truly insane numbers with elite, elite efficiency. Jones is completing 78.5% of his passes and has connected for 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions. His 2196 passing yards comes out to a cool 366 per game and he has eclipsed 400 yards passing in four of six games.
We will touch on the weapons surrounding Mac Jones more in a minute, but just know that his precision passing can absolutely dissect a defense when he is given time. Also, since he has the luxury of playing against arguably the best offensive line in college football he generally has plenty of time to operate.
Kentucky must find a way to put some pressure on Jones and try and force a turnover to keep this one from getting ugly. If he can simply stand in the pocket and survey the field it’ll be a long day for the secondary down in Tuscaloosa.
SEC’s Second Leading Rusher
It might not seem possible that an offense with a leading candidate for the Hesiman Trophy at Quarterback could also boast the Southeastern Conference’s best Running Back, but that is the embarrassment of riches that Nick Saban has at his disposal.
Najee Harris (#22) has rushed for 714 so far this season, second only to South Carolina’s Kevin Harris. Najee Harris has a conference leading 14 touchdowns as well. Coupled with change-of-pace Running Back Brian Robinson Jr. (#4), Alabama features the most explosive backfield in the SEC averaging 5.8 and 5.6 yards per carry between the two.
Additionally, Harris has caught 20 balls out of the backfield for 183 yards. If this wasn’t such a dominant year for Quarterbacks, including the one on his own team, Harris would be a legitimate contender for the Hesiman Trophy.
Unreal Arsenal of Weapons
Not to take anything away from Mac Jones at all, but he has some extremely talented Wide Receivers and gets to play behind an elite offensive line. It is a luxury that you earn when you win the battle to be QB1 for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama lost Jaylen Waddle to a season ending injury, but they still feature two ultra-explosive wideouts that can strike from anywhere on the football field. DeVonta Smith (#6) leads the way with 759 receiving yards on 56 catches and 8 touchdowns. He has definitely become Mac Jones’ favorite target.
John Metchie III (#8) is averaging 21.5 yards per reception which leads the SEC. Over 42% of his catches turn into “big plays” (20 yards or more). When the ball is in the air in Metchie’s direction you know something exciting could happen.
The Kentucky secondary is coming off of a disappointing performance a week ago against Vanderbilt, but they have been stingy enough this season to believe they can hang in there with the explosive offensive take of Alabama. If UK can limit explosive plays and make Mac Jones and company march down the field in a more methodical manner it will go a long way towards making this game a more competitive affair.
Good, Not Great, Defense
The recipe for success at Alabama for a long time was to have an absolutely dominant defense and then just grind things out offensively to score as many points as needed to win. That has changed in recent years as Coach Saban has accepted the new style of play sweeping college football. This season, the Crimson Tide feature a very good defense with plenty of talent, but it isn’t the dominant group that you may expect.
Alabama has continued to be elite in the red zone, allowing opponents to score just 3.58 points per scoring opportunity. Kentucky will have to convert any and all scoring chances into points to have a chance at all today.
The defense is led by a pair of linebackers in Dylan Moses (#32) and Christian Harris (#8). Moses leads the team with 50 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss and an interception. Harris has 38 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss. These two ball-hawking Linebackers will look to stuff things up at the line of scrimmage whenever possible.
Alabama hasn’t necessarily sacked the opposing QB much this year as seen in the graphic, but they still do apply pressure. Terry Wilson’s running ability will play a key factor and could be an X-Factor to finding some offensive success.
The Linebacking duo of Dylan Moses and Christian Harris fly sideline to sideline, but the Secondary is the position group to single out when talking about this Alabama defense.
Patrick Surtain Jr. (#2) is likely to hear his name very early in the NFL Draft. The former five star recruit has picked off one pass this season and broken up five others. Daniel Wright (#3) plays all over the field at free safety collecting the third most unassisted tackles on the team with 22 to go with two interceptions. Lastly, you have to mention true Freshman stud Malachi Moore (#13). He has 28 tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, six pass breakouts, and a fumble recovery. Moore is all over the place and can do it all.
Kentucky obviously hasn’t produced much of an aerial attack this season despite coming off of Terry Wilson’s best game of the season against Vanderbilt. The path to success this afternoon is very, very narrow but it’ll include striking on a couple of big plays through the air if UK plans to make this a game.