Kentucky got through the preliminary portion of its schedule unscathed. Now it's time to see what the boys in blue are really made of.
The 4-0 Wildcats will test their mettle Saturday against No. 2 Alabama (5-0) in their Southeastern Conference opener at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
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Kentucky's numbers certainly look good. The Wildcats lead the nation in scoring defense (5.5) and rank fourth in total defense (227.3). UK is also tops in the nation in kickoff returns at 38.5, a statistic boosted by Derrick Locke's 100-yard TD return against Western Kentucky.
Brooks seemed to dispute the notion that this will be his team's first real test, noting the season-opening rivalry game at Louisville. But the Cards don't pack nearly the punch that Alabama does.
Thanks to big, physical lines on both sides of the ball, the Crimson Tide lead the SEC in rushing offense and rushing defense. Alabama has outscored its opponents by nearly 24 points a game, including blowout victories over former Top 10 teams Clemson and Georgia.
"This is an opportunity to see where we stand in the SEC hierarchy and whether we'll have an impact in this league or not," Brooks said. "This is a game where we're going to find out if our defense is really improved and up to the standards of SEC defenses. Also, has our offense progressed to the point where we can move the football on a great defense? Those are questions that are out there."
The Wildcats were 28th in this week's Associated Press and USA Today polls. Brooks said that even a competitive UK loss might make a case for putting the Cats in the Top 25.
"We'll find out this week whether we should be (ranked). If we win, there's no doubt. If we go down and play well, even if we get beat, there should be an argument. If Alabama is really the No. 2 team and we play them close on the road. ... We've already established we can win games, but I'd rather have that conversation after a victory than a loss."
The anticipation for the face-off with the Tide is already high in the Wildcats camp.
"This week is going to be our best week of practice; I can already feel it," said junior defensive tackle Corey Peters. "I've already got a couple of texts from guys this morning saying how we need to get after it this week. We'll be ready."
"If we want to make a name for ourselves, we need to go out and beat these guys," said senior linebacker Johnny Williams.
Human nature suggests that the Crimson Tide may be in for a letdown following the big Georgia win, especially since they have an open date following the UK game. But it's hard to imagine Alabama Coach Nick Saban, a master button-pusher, allowing that to happen.
"It's a big challenge to overcome, being satisfied," Saban said. "When you're satisfied, you become complacent, you lose desire, you don't prepare or have the mental intensity you need to compete."
And the way his players performed in the second half gives Saban plenty of ammunition to throw at them. The Tide were outscored 30-10 after taking a 31-0 lead into halftime.
Brooks is expecting the Tide to be on their "A" game.
"Alabama has made a statement and is on a mission," Brooks said. "Coach Saban is good at keeping his team focused. The win at Georgia was a best-case scenario. He gets a great road win against one of the favorites in the SEC East and then he gets to chew his team out about how bad they played in the second half. So I think he's got their attention."
Saban said all the right things about UK in his Monday news conference, calling the Cats "maybe the best defensive team in the country."
"They've got a lot of guys back from last year's team," Saban said. "They're physical, they play with toughness, and they make good, sound adjustments in what they do. Obviously, giving up five points a game, they're hard to score on, which is what makes you a good defensive team."
UK-S. Carolina on Raycom
The UK-South Carolina game Oct. 11 has been selected for a live regional telecast by Raycom Sports, the SEC's TV network. Kickoff will be 12:30 p.m.
Williams SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week
Kentucky offensive tackle Garry Williams has been named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Williams did not allow a quarterback sack or have a penalty in UK's 41-3 win over Western Kentucky, and the UK offensive line allowed only one play for lost yardage. Williams also won the award following last year's win over Florida Atlantic.
Williams is the third Wildcat to win an SEC player of the week honor in 2008. Tackle Myron Pryor was the top defensive player for the Louisville game, and quarterback Mike Hartline won the offensive honor after the victory over Middle Tennessee.