Alabama vs. Kentucky: Keys to a Wildcats Upset Victory over Crimson Tide

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jalen Whitlow (2) looks to pass against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will head to Commonwealth Stadium for a date with the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday in an SEC throwdown that has not occurred since 2009.

While the odds are seemingly stacked in Alabama's favor, a lot has changed since 2009 for Kentucky. Most importantly, the Wildcats are experiencing a renaissance of sorts as the rebuilding process continues under head coach Mark Stoops.

The Wildcats are a few years away from being potential contenders in the conference, but the roster contains plenty of talent. Provided everything falls into place, the Wildcats have an outside shot at pulling off the upset.

Here's how.


Get Jalen Whitlow Going Early

Sep 14, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jalen Whitlow (2) runs the ball against Louisville Cardinals linebacker Preston Brown (2) at Commonwealth Stadium. Louisville defeated Kentucky 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY S
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to last week's loss to South Carolina, Stoops had utilized a two-quarterback system with Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith.

Stoops removed Smith from the equation, and Whitlow erupted as the Wildcats gave the Gamecocks all they could handle at home. During the contest, the dual-threat quarterback racked up 247 total yards and three scores.

Oct 5, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops checks the time on the scoreboard against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Whitlow has yet to encounter a defense as talented as Alabama's, but the Crimson Tide will be weaker than normal, as starting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is out serving a suspension, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports.

Whitlow has the right mixture of skills to give the Crimson Tide fits, so if he can elude what has been a disappointing pass rush, he has the talent to make plays and keep the Wildcats in it.


Force Crimson Tide to the Air

Oct 5, 2013; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron (10) drops back to pass against the Georgia State Panthers during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

It's hard to pinpoint a weakness in the armor of Nick Saban's club, but A.J. McCarron has had an interesting season that could represent a point of attack for the Wildcats.

McCarron has been solid in 2013, throwing for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns. The issue with his play is simple: He has thrown three interceptions through five games. While that may not sound like anything ridiculous, McCarron threw just three all of last season.

If the Wildcats find a way to stifle the Crimson Tide rushing attack, which features running back T.J. Yeldon (445 yards, four touchdowns), Kentucky can force Alabama to use the passing attack to win the game.

Eliminating the run will at least give the Wildcats the proverbial fighter's chance in the ring with the Crimson Tide.


Continue Riding Momentum

Yes, Kentucky has lost three in a row, but the old adage saying you learn more from a loss than a win rings true for the Wildcats.

Kentucky has faced three Top 25 opponents in its past three games but saw a drastic improvement last week against South Carolina, losing by only seven points.

In that game, Kentucky did not turn the ball over, committed just two penalties and won the time-of-possession battle. That's a marked improvement over losses to Louisville and Florida in which the Wildcats combined for four turnovers and seven penalties and lost the time-of-possession battle by a ridiculous 26 minutes.

Kentucky also converted five of 11 on third down last week, whereas it completed just one of 21 the prior two games.

There are plenty of positives to build on when the Wildcats get their shot at the Crimson Tide. If the Wildcats continue to build on each positive, Kentucky has an outside shot at a major upset.


Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling.