How Kentucky and Alabama match up for Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium:
Junior Greg McElroy has done everything Coach Nick Saban has needed him to do in his first four games as a starter. McElroy has completed 68 percent of his passes for 938 yards with seven touchdowns and only one interception. Kentucky's Mike Hartline will need to show a steadier hand this week after a jittery performance against Florida.
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The Crimson Tide boast one of the country's deepest backfields. In addition to 347 rushing yards and four scores on the ground, sophomore Mark Ingram is the team's leading receiver with 13 catches for 141 yards and three scores. Trent Richardson was one of the country's top prep backs last year and has 280 yards and four scores, while Terry Grant and Roy Upchurch are both battle-tested veterans. For Kentucky, junior Derrick Locke replaced Alfonso Smith in the starting lineup last week and is emerging as UK's go-to back. Locke leads the SEC and ranks 15th nationally in all-purpose yards. Power back Moncell Allen battled a strained knee in practice this week and might not be 100 percent.
Julio Jones is the headliner for the Tide, but the sophomore's 50-yard TD catch against Arkansas last week was his first score of the season. Alabama is still getting production from the receiving corps despite Jones' slow start. Marquis Maze is averaging 24.2 yards per catch, while Mike McCoy averages 17.2 The Tide also have a dangerous pass-catching tight end in Georgia Tech transfer Colin Peek. Kentucky's receivers struggled mightily to get anything done against Florida, and someone must emerge to take pressure off No. 1 target Randall Cobb. Sophomore Gene McCaskill probably will move into the starting lineup in place of Chris Matthews, and junior Kyrus Lanxter returns after missing two games with a pulled hamstring.
The line was supposed to be a question mark for the Tide after losing Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell to the NFL, but Alabama's revamped front five has done just fine. Junior-college transfer James Carpenter has done a nice job replacing Smith at left tackle, while junior William Vlachos has stepped in admirably for Caldwell. UK gave up three sacks and rushed for less than 3 yards per carry against Florida.
Alabama plays just three down linemen but gets solid production from each of them. End Marcell Dareus has 41/2 tackles for loss while behemoth nose guard Terrence Cody has 31/2. The Tide rank second in the SEC in sacks with 13, while Kentucky hasn't made much noise up front.
Alabama will miss sophomore Dont'a Hightower, an emerging star on the weak side who had 16 tackles and four tackles for loss before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas. Senior Cory Reamers moved from the strong side to replace Hightower, and the Tide still have one of the nation's top middle linebackers in junior Rolando McClain. McClain and Kentucky's Micah Johnson are viewed as the two premier middle linebackers in the SEC. Johnson and UK strongside linebacker Sam Maxwell are battling turf toe while Danny Trevathan continues to play with a cast on his broken wrist.
The Alabama secondary showed its mettle by shutting down Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett and the high-octane Razorbacks passing game last week. Kentucky senior cornerback Trevard Lindley has been quiet after a big season-opening game against Miami (Ohio). UK will have to play without starting cornerback Paul Warford, who's out with a quadriceps injury. Sophomore Randall Burden will take his place.
Alabama has two reliable veterans in junior placekicker Leigh Tiffin and senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald, not to mention Javier Arenas, the NCAA active leader in career punt returns, yards, touchdowns, returns per game and yards per game. Kentucky's Derrick Locke is ninth nationally in kickoff returns (34.1).