Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks has seen the film of Alabama's 41-30 destruction of Georgia in Athens on Saturday. He also watched the Crimson Tide dismantle Clemson in the season opener.
But unlike a lot of folks, he's not all that shocked at Bama's sudden re-emergence that has catapulted them to the No. 2 spot in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. The Cats travel to Tuscaloosa Saturday for a nationally televised matchup with the Tide. It will be Brooks' first look at Alabama since his first year at UK in 2003, when Mike Shula led the Tide to a 27-17 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Now Nick Saban is in his second year at Alabama and has quickly pushed the Tide back into the national title picture.
"I'm not surprised at what they've done because they have very good players," Brooks said. "Alabama is Alabama. It's a tough league, and they're always a factor."
The Wildcats won't be going into Tuscaloosa at full strength. Starting right tackle Justin Jeffries is out with a sprained knee ligament suffered in the Western Kentucky game. Brooks also isn't expecting to get the three players who suffered high ankle sprains against Middle Tennessee State back this week, either. He listed middle linebacker Micah Johnson, quarterback/wide receiver Randall Cobb and defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin as doubtful.
Brooks did say that all three players will be re-evaluated later this week.
"We'll have to see if any of them or one of them will be ready," he said.
Cobb's injury was initially diagnosed as the most severe, but Brooks said Johnson is now in the worst shape of the trio.
"He's experiencing a little more pain and is not as functional as the other two," Brooks said.
Johnson's absence would be more significant against the Crimson Tide, who rely more on their power running game than did Middle Tennessee or Western Kentucky, which operated mainly out of the spread. The Alabama ground attack means UK will use three-linebacker sets more often instead of nickel packages, which magnifies the loss of Johnson. Braxton Kelley moved from the weakside to middle linebacker against Western with Mike Schwindel starting in Kelley's old spot.
"With them being more of a traditional offense that will try and line up and bloody your nose, you need all three linebackers," Brooks said.
As for the loss of Jeffries, Brooks said redshirt freshman Billy Joe Murphy would probably start at right tackle with sophomore Brad Durham also available. Murphy started two games at left tackle while starter Garry Williams was out with a knee injury. Brooks said Jeffries would be out at least 2-3 weeks and possibly longer.
Murphy and Durham will be forced to deal with a Crimson Tide defensive line that has been dominant against the run this season, holding Clemson's high-powered tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller to 20 yards and limiting Georgia's Knowshon Moreno to 34 yards.
"I just know we're going to need both of those guys performing at a high level," Brooks said of Murphy and Durham. "We go from a guy who's experienced and talented to young talented guys who don't have the experience. (Alabama) is a tough environment for a young offensive lineman."
Brooks said of Alabama's mood after beating Georgia and rising in the polls: "There are theories on all that stuff, but that's all they are is theories. Maybe there'll be a letdown after a big win. ... There's all kind of different scenarios, but Alabama has taken care of business in every situation this year."