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October 11, 2013

Top-ranked Alabama visits Commonwealth Stadium

KENTUCKY (1-4, 0-2 SEC)
Coach: Mark Stoops
Record: 1-4 in first season at UK and overall
Last game:South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28
Next game: at Mississippi State, Oct. 24
Roster | Depth chart
No. 1 ALABAMA (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Coach: Nick Saban
Record: 67-13 in seventh season at Alabama; 158-55-1 in 18th season overall
Last game: Alabama 45, Georgia State 3
Next game: Arkansas, Oct. 19
Roster | Depth chart
Game/Series Information
Game Information
Site: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky. (67,942)
TV: ESPN2 (Mark Jones play-by-play, Brock Huard analysis, Lewis Johnson sideline)
Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius 94/XM 200
Internet: Audio | Video
Favorite: Alabama by 27.5

Series Information:
Series record: Alabama leads 35-2-1
At Lexington: Alabama leads 14-2
Coaches' records: Stoops 0-0 vs. Alabama; Saban 5-0 vs. UK

Last meeting
Alabama 38, Kentucky 20 (Oct. 3, 2009, in Lexington)
The Crimson Tide opened up a close game in the final 40 seconds of the first half, first on a touchdown pass from Colin Peek to Greg McElroy, then on Courtney Upshaw's 45-yard return of a Derrick Locke fumble. Mark Inram rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries for Alabama. Mike Hartline threw for 168 yards and a touchdown for Kentucky but was intercepted three times.

Keys to the Game
1. Winner, winner: He gets fewer headlines than fellow quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Aaron Murray, but Alabama's AJ McCarron is a sound signalcaller and a winner. He's won 93.8 percent of his college starts (30-2), the best percentage of any quarterback in Alabama history. He does it in part by not making mistakes. McCarron has completed 71.4 percent of his passes this season. Over his last four games, he's 80 of 103 for 938 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions.

2. Get defensive: Last week, Jalen Whitlow had the best game by a Kentucky quarterback this season. His reward? A start against Alabama's defense. The Crimson Tide has led the nation in scoring defense two straight years (no school has done it three times) and has allowed 10 points or fewer 44 times in the Nick Saban Era. Since allowing 42 points in a win at Texas A&M on Sept. 14, Alabama has given up nine combined points in three games. Said UK coach Mark Stoops: " They have no weakness in their defense. They don't have any weakness on their team, as you can imagine with the No. 1 team in the country."

3. Scoring options: To have any chance at staying in the game -- let alone springing a historic upset -- Kentucky has to play essentially a perfect game. How small is the margin for error against Alabama? The Tide can turn almost any miscue into points. Since Saban took over the program in 2007, Alabama has 33 combined non-offensive touchdowns: 14 on interception returns, three on fumble recoveries, five on kickoff returns, eight on punt returns and three on blocked punt returns. In those same five categories, UK has 17 scores over the same span. Since 2011, Alabama has 13 such scores. UK has two.

Staff Predictions
T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Alabama 40, Kentucky 13 he score isn't what matters on Saturday. Alabama is the best team college football has to offer, and well, UK is ways away. But if the Cats can hang tough, show the same effort they showed at South Carolina, there could be plenty of positives to take away as UK heads towards the easier half of its schedule. And although it might not show on the scoreboard, I think UK's offense will have some minor victories against the Crimson Tide.

Aaron Smith, staff writer: Alabama 31, Kentucky 6 I don't think this one gets too out of hand, going strictly by numbers. But Alabama will dominate both sides of the ball and be content to roll out of Lexington with a comfortable victory. It will be hard to measure progress, but UK will exit its historic four-game stretch with its psyche intact and a chance to make noise the rest of the way.

Justin Rowland, Football Recruiting Analyst: Alabama 38, Kentucky 13 Not a good match up for these Cats or anyone other than Johnny Football. Alabama should be able to take away the passing game and if they make you one dimensional it gets ugly. If Dupree doesn't play it makes the task of slowing down the Tide's ground attack even more difficult. And A.J. McCarron doesn't make many mistakes.

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Alabama 38, Kentucky 7 The Cats deserve credit for not letting go of the rope when South Carolina jumped ahead last week, and there's every reason to believe they'll keep tugging this week, too. But Alabama's defense is superior to the Gamecocks' even if Jadeveon Clowney is on the field for South Carolina, which he wasn't a week ago. Saban tends to take it easy on overmatched opponents, so don't expect this to spiral wildly out of control, but do expect moving the ball to be an uphill climb for Kentucky.

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