TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Not all of college football's unbeaten
teams are perceived equally.
Consider Alabama. The Crimson Tide has received national acclaim
and a No. 2 ranking as reward for its 5-0 start.
And Kentucky. The Wildcats are unbeaten? Who knew?
Those two Southeastern Conference surprises meet Saturday with
Kentucky wanting what Alabama has: Respect.
The Wildcats (4-0, 0-0 SEC) have beaten up on suspect
competition and remain among the "others receiving votes"
category of the rankings. Alabama (5-0, 2-0) has marquee wins over
Clemson and Georgia and hasn't broken much of a sweat in the
The only common ground: Both have picked on Western Kentucky.
Count Kentucky coach Rich Brooks among those wowed by the Tide's
"It's just one of the most impressive starts I've ever seen a
team have, particularly one that was fairly highly regarded at the
start of the season but not one of the top two or three teams in
the nation," Brooks said. "They have just gone out and smashmouth
kicked fanny on everybody they've played basically. They've not
only beaten people, they've destroyed them."
Kentucky has beaten the likes of Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee
and a bigger name in Louisville.
Favored by 16½ points, Alabama players watched last week's
upsets that included Mississippi over Florida and Oregon State over
Southern California. That leaves them wary.
"It just lets you know that anybody can sneak up on you and
beat you," Tide linebacker Cory Reamer said. "The SEC's a
conference that it can happen every week. You've got to be ready
every week or you'll get beaten."
While the Wildcats are just getting started in SEC play, 'Bama
is hoping not to go into an open date on a sour note just after
landing their highest ranking since 1993.
History is not on Kentucky's side. The Wildcats are 2-33-1
against the Tide and winless in 20 series games played in the state
of Alabama. They also haven't beaten a team ranked in the Top 5 on
the road since topping No. 4 Penn State 24-20 in 1977.
Then again, there was that triple-overtime win over No. 1 LSU
last season at Commonwealth Stadium.
"We're playing on the road against the No. 2 team in the
nation, probably the best team in the SEC," Kentucky defensive
tackle Corey Peters said. "It's a good opportunity for us to make
a name for ourselves."
Kentucky brings in the nation's top scoring defense, giving up
just 5.5 points per game and holding three opponents without a
Alabama has the SEC's top scoring and rushing offense at 37
points and 215 yards a game.
"They are maybe the best defensive team in the country," Tide
coach Nick Saban said. "They are physical, they play with
toughness, and they make good sound adjustments in what they do.
Obviously giving up five points a game, they are hard to score on
which makes you a good defensive team."
Kentucky's defense hasn't given up a rushing touchdown this
The Tide's running game could put that to the test. Glen Coffee,
Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch have powered a ground game that has
produced 13 TDs behind an offensive line that has been dominant.
Brooks calls it a "bloody-your-nose offense."
"Their offensive line will easily be the best offensive line
we've faced so far, and I could see how it would be the best that
we could face all year," Peters said. "They're big and they're
strong and there's no secret about what they'll do: They'll come
out and try and hit us in the mouth. But I feel confident with our
defensive line and that we'll be up for the challenge."
A big challenge facing Alabama is coping with the spotlight and
hype that accompanies such a lofty ranking. And the fact that it
can serve as a motivator for opponents, too.
"We're going to have to go out and play the game, like we would
if we were the last team in the country," Tide quarterback John
Parker Wilson said. "Kentucky is going to be ready to play, they
might be more read to play now. It's going to be a good game now
that we're ranked higher, but that's more motivation for them."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)