Like many other Nick Saban-coached teams before it, No. 8 Alabama is hitting its stride right as we enter the home stretch of the season. Next up is a trip Kentucky on Saturday night. It’s the first time these cross-division foes have met since 2013. A victory would secure the Crimson Tide’s 10th trip to the the SEC Championship Game in Saban’s 17 seasons. It would also keep Alabama (8-1, 6-0 SEC) in the hunt for a College Football Playoff appearance.
Standing in the way is a Wildcats team that returned to the win column last week with a 24-3 win at Mississippi State. The victory snapped a three-game slide through October. Prior to the dismal midseason stretch, the Wildcats (6-3, 3-3) rose as high as No. 20 in the AP poll following a 33-14 drubbing of Florida, which highlighted a 5-0 start.
UK took its lumps, but beating Alabama for the first time since 1997 and just the second time in the last 100 years would rectify whatever disillusionment fans may be feeling about the program’s 6-8 SEC record over the past two seasons. It’s also the Wildcats’ final home game of the season, which ups the ante as the program bids farewell to its seniors before hitting the road close the regular season at South Carolina and Louisville.
Alabama vs. Kentucky: Need to know
Second-half stars: Alabama is developing a reputation for finishing strong. The Crimson Tide outscored LSU 21-7 in the second half last week on the way to a 42-28 victory. The week prior, they lambasted Tennessee 27-0 after halftime in a 34-20 win. Alabama also dominated in the second half of its wins over quality foes Ole Miss and Texas A&M, outscoring Rebels and Aggies by a combined margin of 34-6 in the back halves of tightly contested games. A poor second half against Arkansas stands out as an exception, but Bama has been mostly lights out after the break.
Alabama’s run defense: Alabama gave up a season-worst 206 yards on the ground in last week’s win over LSU, but 163 of those yards came from Tigers’ quarterback Jayden Daniels as LSU never established the traditional running game. Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary is a pocket passer, who won’t be able replicate Daniels’ performance, and the Crimson Tide are unlikely to let UK star Re’Mahn Davis break free. No opposing running back has reached 100 yards on the ground against the Crimson Tide. Thus, the onus could be on Leary as a passer — and more importantly on his receivers — to make plays if the Wildcats are going to move the football.
Chance to rise: Alabama’s Week 2 loss against Texas is making it hard for the Crimson Tide to rise in the CFP Rankings. The Longhorns came in at No. 7 this week, one spot ahead of Alabama, and it’s difficult to envision Bama jumping Texas unless the Longhorns suffer a second loss. But looking around the national landscape, there is some upset potential above Alabama and Texas this week. No. 6 Oregon hosts USC’s potent offense, No. 2 Georgia hosts No. 9 Ole Miss, No. 5 Washington hosts No. 18 Utah, No. 3 Michigan plays at No. 10 Penn State and No. 4 Florida State hosts a 6-3 Miami squad. Even Texas could be vulnerable as it travels to take on a TCU team that should be motivated for its final Big 12 game against the Longhorns. If the Crimson Tide handle business, there’s a good chance they’ll finally be moving up.
How to watch Alabama vs. Kentucky live
Date: Saturday, Nov. 11 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Kroger Field — Lexington, Kentucky
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)
Alabama vs. Kentucky prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe is hitting his stride as the Crimson Tide enter the home stretch playing like College Football Playoff contenders. Kroger Field hasn’t provided an elite advantage for Kentucky as the Wildcats dropped key SEC East games against Missouri and Tennessee at home last month. Look for an increasingly confident Alabama squad to punch the gas in the second half and pull away from a Kentucky team that seems destined to struggle moving the ball against the Crimson Tide’s excellent run defense. Pick: Alabama -10.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 11, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned well over $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons — and find out.