LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain has a
message for everyone trying to compare the third-ranked Crimson
Tide to No. 1 Florida: Get a life.
"We're not Florida, Florida's not us," McClain said. "They do
what they do and we do what we do. They're a great team and we're
just trying to make a name for ourselves."
Still, the comparisons are inviting, particularly now. A week
after the Gators rolled over Kentucky, the Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0
Southeastern Conference) get a crack at the Wildcats (2-1, 0-1).
McClain understands the urge the experts feel to try and stack
up the two teams - who would only meet in the SEC title game - but
isn't concerned about the Crimson Tide trying to match the Gators
style point for style point. Right now, simply winning and staying
in the conversation for the national championship would be enough.
"There's really no comparison in my mind," he said. "They
played them and they beat them. We're going to try to beat them."
It's something the Crimson Tide have done with stunning
regularity against the Wildcats. Alabama leads the all-time series
34-2-1 and has lost in Lexington just once since 1922.
Kentucky coach Rich Brooks just laughed when asked if the
Crimson Tide were as good as the Gators.
"They're not any worse," Brooks said. "Alabama is as good as
Florida, just in a different way. ... They have no weakness. They
could be the No. 1 team in the nation. After it's all said and
done, they might be."
Facing an opponent with a long history of dominance over his
program is nothing new to Brooks. Kentucky got rolled by Florida
last weekend for the 23rd straight time.
Now his team has to try and bounce back against a team Brooks
figures is every bit the equal of the Gators.
"Aren't I lucky?" he deadpanned when asked about the brutal
It may take more than luck for the Wildcats to hang with the
Quarterback Greg McElroy has blossomed in his first year as
starter. He's completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and hasn't
thrown an interception since halftime of the season-opener against
Virginia Tech. McElroy is playing so well coach Nick Saban didn't
immediately dismiss the prospect of launching a late Heisman Trophy
campaign on his quarterback's behalf.
McElroy and the rest of the offense have had little trouble
taking care of opponents. Alabama has put up at least 498 yards in
three of its four games and is thriving on the kind of diversity it
lacked a year ago.
Running back Mark Ingram and true freshman Trent Richardson give
Alabama arguably the best one-two backfield punch in the country.
Marquis Maze's development at receiver means opponents can't
double-team star Julio Jones.
"They do a good job of spreading the ball around so you can't
really focus on a particular guy," Brooks said. "Although if you
don't focus on Jones you are kind of crazy because he can gash you
in a hurry."
Maybe, but the Wildcats were able to hold Jones in check a year
ago, hanging tough before falling 17-14. Given the string of
stunning upsets in recent weeks that have wreaked havoc on the
polls in recent weeks, Alabama remains wary.
"We take it upon ourselves to stay focused," said Alabama
center William Vlachos. "Hopefully (getting upset) won't happen.
We've got to do what we do."
Saban has praised his team for it's ability not to get caught
looking ahead, though he admits the Crimson Tide are right where
they want to be heading into the meat of their schedule: undefeated
and in the hunt for a national title.
He's also only too aware of how one misstep can ruin the season.
"You've got to be aggressive and you've got to have an
aggressive mindset and can't think, 'I don't want to mess up, so
I'm going to play to keep from getting beat here,"' Saban said.
"Then the next thing you know the other team is more aggressive
and you're not playing your game and not doing the things that you
need to do."
Kentucky doesn't have such lofty goals. A win on Saturday would
likely qualify as their national championship moment. It won't be
easy, but after enduring "15 minutes of shame" by spotting
Florida a 31-0 lead in the first quarter, the Wildcats are eager to
"We always talk about how we need to compete," said Kentucky
defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin. "We are not showing that by
losing to the same teams over and over again. We have to change
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)