Sports

Defense should keep Cats in game

What I know: Unbeaten Kentucky visits No. 2 Alabama Saturday.

What I think: Two things, actually.

1.) The Crimson Tide will be a major step up in class, but I will be very disappointed if the Kentucky defense doesn't keep the Cats in the game till the end.

I think the current Cats "D" will prove to be the best at UK since Art Still and Co. stoned people all around the South during 1977's 10-1 season.

But that has to be proven against the best of the best — and Bama currently leads the SEC at 37 points a game.

2.) Even if the UK defense lives up to its hype, I have not seen the kind of playmakers on the Cats offense — especially among the receiving corps — to give me realistic hope that Kentucky can score enough to pose a viable upset threat in Tuscaloosa.

What I know: Vanderbilt is undefeated, leads the SEC East at 2-0 and is ranked No. 19 in the country. Mississippi upset Florida in The Swamp last Saturday.

Mississippi State has beaten Alabama in each of the last two seasons.

Kentucky has won 17 of its last 23 games.

What I think: It's obvious that the big change in Southeastern Conference football from past decades is that the gap between the bottom programs and the top ones has closed dramatically.

"The bottom half of the league has come up closer to the middle and upper half of league," Rich Brooks said recently. "That's witnessed by the upsets we've seen in recent years. It's a changin.' "

Coaches at schools traditionally at the top of the SEC football hierarchy are noticing, too, as evidenced by Florida Coach Urban Meyer's comments to ESPN.com's Chris Low this summer.

"Coach (Steve) Spurrier and I talked about that," Meyer said of the new SEC parity. "Obviously, he knew the '90s, and he said that it's never been like this. Top to bottom, you better have that chinstrap bucked up extra tight each week, and our players, I believe, understand that.

"Kentucky beat LSU last year, and it was not a fluke. They beat them. And then you go into an environment like that, and that's one of the finest environments in college football ... Lexington, Kentucky. So I believe it's going to be like (2007) again."

Given Saturday's result with Ole Miss, apparently Meyer's players hadn't gotten the message on the new reality of SEC football to quite the extent their coach thought.

What I know: Curtis Pulley would have been the UK starting quarterback Saturday in Tuscaloosa had he not been dismissed from the Kentucky team after a series of run-ins with the law this summer.

What I think: Kentucky fans will find the following item a tad wistful.

Now sharing the quarterback job at Florida A&M of the division formerly known as 1-AA, Pulley was a star as the Ramblers upset No. 23 Tennessee State Saturday in the Atlantic Football Classic.

The Hopkinsville product had a 44-yard touchdown run, threw a 26-yard TD pass and ran for 83 of his 98 yards in the first half of Florida A&M's 28-21 win.

"I thought we controlled Pulley in the second half," Tennessee State Coach James Webster said. "But he was the best player on the field in the first half — obviously."

What I know: Along with NBA champion Rajon Rondo and Ryder Cup champ J.B. Holmes, Indianapolis Colts tight end Jacob Tamme was among a trio of former UK stars who were recognized in the end zone (individually, not as a group) during Kentucky's win over Western Kentucky.

What I think: Other than Derrick Locke's kickoff return, those introductions were the best part of a listless first half in the first meeting ever between the intrastate rivals.

I asked Tamme last week if a certain Tennessee product who plays for the Colts — guy by the name of Peyton Manning — had ever said anything to Jacob about the now 23-game losing streak UK has to UT in football.

Said Tamme: "My first week here, they were giving the rookies a hard time, and he said something to me, kind of goofing around, said something like '23 in a row.' "

Tamme's reaction?

"Actually, I gave him a pretty hard look, the kind of look that said I didn't think it was funny. (After UK's four-overtime loss to UT in 2007), that was still pretty fresh to me."

Tamme says what is known in these parts as The Streak has not come up since in Indy.

"I think with the look I gave him, it won't come up again," he said. "But Peyton's a great guy. He's a Tennessee guy. I'm a Kentucky guy. Now we co-exist for the greater good."

What I know: At Rich Brooks' weekly news conference Monday, he was asked 21 questions by media members. Thirteen were about Alabama or how Kentucky matched up with the Crimson Tide.

What I think: We won't know until Saturday whether Nick Saban and the Tide players are overlooking Kentucky coming off their emotional win at Georgia.

I think we can speak now for the Alabama media, however.

After Brooks' news conference, Kentucky reporters could listen (but not ask questions) as Saban fielded inquiries at a news conference in Tuscaloosa.

There were exactly no questions — zip, zilch, zero; nil, nada, none — about Kentucky.

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