No. 8 Alabama looks to continue dominance of rival Kentucky
League: NCAA Football
Posted on: 08 Nov, 2023 at 07:59 AM
Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama remains in the national championship picture but badly needs to post a road win against Kentucky on Saturday in Lexington.
That's the perfect opponent for the No. 8 Crimson Tide, who have beaten the Wildcats in all seven meetings this century and stand 38-2-1 all-time against their fellow Southeastern Conference squad.
Alabama (8-1, 6-0 SEC) enters its latest matchup with Kentucky (6-3, 3-3) on a roll with seven straight victories since a September loss to then-No. 11 Texas.
After beating then-No. 14 LSU last weekend in an SEC West battle, the Crimson Tide are on track for a showdown with No. 2 Georgia in the SEC title game next month.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is thrilled with the position his team is in with three regular-season games remaining. The Crimson Tide also have momentum after back-to-back 14-point victories against then-No. 17 Tennessee and LSU.
"This team has created an opportunity where now they've got to make a choice," Saban told reporters. "We've had two big games in a row here and still got two SEC games left and another game. So you're going to have to make a choice about taking care of business ... because we can create an opportunity for ourselves and maybe win the West and maybe get in the SEC championship game and who knows what happens from there."
Much of Alabama's in-season rise can be attributed to the improvement of Jalen Milroe.
Milroe set a Crimson Tide quarterback record by rushing for four touchdowns in the win over LSU. He finished with 155 yards on the ground and also completed 15 of 23 passes for 219 yards.
The player who was benched after the loss to Texas in Week 2 and didn't play against South Florida in the team's third game is now the team's most indispensable player. Milroe has passed for 1,836 yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding nine scores on the ground.
"I'm focused on trying to get better," Milroe said. "There's some things I need to improve on. ... I'm not a finished product."
Alabama leads No. 9 Ole Miss -- a team it beat earlier this season -- by one game in the SEC West race.
Kentucky had dropped three straight games before picking up an impressive 24-3 road win over Mississippi State last weekend.
Wildcats quarterback Devin Leary missed the fourth quarter with an eye injury but coach Mark Stoops said Monday that Leary is fine.
Leary has passed for 1,905 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. And Kentucky certainly could use a big game from Leary if it wants to keep it close with the Crimson Tide.
"Alabama is a team that, you can see, is getting better and better," Stoops said. "A typical Nick Saban team that is very big, very physical, very talented and extremely well coached. They seem to be getting better and stronger as the year goes on. That will be a big challenge for us, just to match their physicality."
The Wildcats' defense tuned up for the matchup by racking up five sacks and holding the Bulldogs to 218 total yards. Linebacker D'Eryk Jackson had a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown.
On the other hand, Kentucky allowed a whopping 122 points during the three-game losing streak against then-No. 1 Georgia, Missouri and then-No. 21 Tennessee.
"I felt like we improved in certain areas," Stoops said of the Mississippi State win. "This team, we haven't put it all together yet but definitely improved."
Wildcats star running back Ray Davis is 97 yards away from a 1,000-yard season. He averages 6.1 yards per carry.
--Field Level Media