ALABAMA STATE (6-2, 6-1 SWAC) Coach: Reggie Barlow Record: 40-35 in seventh season at ASU and overall Last game: Alabama State 31, Alabama A&M 7 Next game: Southern, Nov. 9 Roster
Game Information Site: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky. (67,942) TV: Comcast Sports South (Matt Stewart play-by-play, Chris Doering analysis, Kris Budden sideline) Radio: UK IMG Sports Network (Tom Leach play-by-play, Jeff Piecoro analysis; Dick Gabriel sideline); Sirius 157/XM 200 Internet:Audio | Video Favorite: Kentucky by 27.5
Series Information: Series record: First meeting At Lexington: First meeting Coaches' records: Stoops 0-0 vs. Alabama State; Barlow 0-0 vs. UK
Keys to the Game
1. Wins wanted: At game time, it will have been 56 days since Kentucky's last win, a 41-7 rout of Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 7. Since then, the Wildcats have lost to four ranked opponents and lost a winnable game at Mississippi State. In all five games, UK was a double-digit underdog. Not so on Saturday, when the Cats are both favored and expected to win big. Kentucky badly needs some positive reinforcement to build confidence heading into the season's home stretch. Alabama State, meanwhile, has something to prove. At 6-2, the Hornets aren't ranked in the FCS Coaches Top 25. A win at an SEC team likely would do the trick.
2. Familiar face: The Cats won't recognize many Hornets, but many of them know Isaiah Crowell's name. The Alabama State running back started his career at Georgia and carried twice for 11 yards against Kentucky two seasons ago. Crowell is battling an ankle injury but leads the Hornets with 833 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He's had his carries limited by the injury, but if he's healthy enough to go all-out on Saturday, he'll provide a significant challenge for a Kentucky defense that ranks 13th in the SEC against the rush, allowing 204.6 yards per game on the ground.
3. Quarterback shuffle: Kentucky's hope is that Jalen Whitlow can go the duration at quarterback, barring a blowout that lets him rest late in the game. But if Whitlow - who likely will play with shoulder and ankle pain - is sent to the sideline early, the subplot to watch is who replaces him. Maxwell Smith, who's started three games this season, has been Whitlow's backup. But he split backup reps with freshman Reese Phillips this week, and it's unclear which of them would replace Whitlow in an emergency. Barring further injury to Whitlow, the plan is to keep a redshirt on Phillips.
T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 45, Alabama State 13 Finally, a UK win. This win shouldn't come as a surprise but it comes at a great time for a UK team that's been so close over the past month. Alabama State is no pushover, but Kentucky's offense finally clicks for four quarters and its defense has no problem stopping Crowell and the Hornets.
Aaron Smith, staff writer: Kentucky 28, Alabama State 20 Despite playing an FCS team, this is no cupcake. Led by multiple Division-I transfers, Alabama State ranks 13th in the FCS in total offense. The Cats have enough talent to win, certainly, and should. But it will be closer than the typical pay-to-play game.
Justin Rowland, Football Recruiting Analyst: Kentucky 38, Alabama State 14 Kentucky will enjoy the opportunity to play the role of favorite and there are finally mismatches in their favor on both sides of the ball. It still might not always be pretty but the big plays should be in the Wildcats' favor this time, unlike some other weeks.
Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 42, Alabama State 13 Alabama State is a high-level team from a lower level, and that sort of team springs upsets with some frequency in college football. And if the Cats had been routinely crushed over the past five games, maybe that could happen here. But UK has played well enough in stretches to make you think it can put together a dominating game against an inferior opponent, and that seems like the safe bet here.