Alabama Scoring Vs. UK Scoring Defense

Last week the top game in the nation was number three Georgia hosting number eight Alabama. It was also the statistical highlight of Southeastern Conference competition as Georgia was the league's top team in rushing defense and Alabama the top rushing team going into the game.

Although Alabama rushed for only 129 yards against Georgia, that was much better than the 45.8 yards per game the Bulldogs had been allowing. Most important, of course, was that the Crimson Tide had four rushing touchdowns in a 41-30 Bama win in Athens.

(A little statistical footnote is that Alabama's defense held Georgia to only 50 yards rushing, and this week the SEC rush defense leader is Bama.)

This week the statistical matchup is scoring offense vs. scoring defense, obviously the most important of statistics at the end of the game. And it is Alabama offense against Kentucky defense.

Alabama, 5-0 and ranked second in the nation, will have its first SEC home game this week when the Crimson Tide hosts Kentucky, 4-0 and playing its first league contest of the season. The game will be telecast from Bryant-Denny Stadium beginning at 2:30 p.m. CDT on CBS.

Statistical comparison ordinarily is not the predictor of outcome, but more a guide as to a team's strengths and weaknesses. The fact that Kentucky has not yet played a league game makes a statistical comparison somewhat less valid since teams typically do not play teams as strong as SEC teams in non-conference competition. Of course, Alabama played Clemson, ranked ninth in the nation at the time, as one of its non-conference opponents.

Alabama leads the SEC in scoring at 37 points per game, while Kentucky leads the league in scoring defense, allowing just 5.5 points per game. The Wildcats average 31.5 points per game, fifth in the SEC, and Bama is fifth in scoring defense, allowing 13.4 points per game.

Bama continues to be the top rushing team in the conference at 215.2 yards per game. Kentucky is very good, fourth in the SEC, allowing 73.2 yards per game. The Wildcats are fifth in rushing offense, 169.5 yards per game, and Bama is first in rushing defense, giving up just 54 yards per game.

Kentucky has a slight advantage in passing offense, eighth in the league at 182.5 yards per game to Alabama's 11th best 161.6 yards per game. Kentucky is also better at pass defense, surrendering 154 yards per game (fifth in the SEC) to Alabama's 205.4 yards per game (ninth in the league).

There is a difference in "passing" and "passing efficiency." Alabama's numbers offensively and defensively are likely skewed because the Tide has been able to run the ball and run up leads on opponents. That means Bama doesn't pass as much as it might and it means that Alabama opponents are likely to pass more than usual. In passing efficiency, Alabama is fourth in the SEC and Kentucky ninth. In pass defensive efficiency, Kentucky is first and Alabama fifth.

Alabama has the advantage in total offense, Kentucky in total defense. Bama averages 376.8 yards per game, fourth in the league, the Wildcats 352, sixth in the conference. The Cats hold opponents to 227.2 yards per game, second in the SEC, while Alaama is sixth in total defense, giving up 259.4.

Two statistical areas considered important to success are third down performance and takeaway-turnover margin.

Alabama leads the SEC in third down success on offense. Bama has converted 31 of 63 third down opportunities, 49.2 per cent. Kentucky is second in the league at preventing third down success, holding opponents to 23.7 per cent, 14 of 59. Kentucky is ninth in the SEC in converting third downs, 22-60 for 36.7 per cent. Bama is right behind the Wildcats, third in the league, in defense on third downs, holding opponents to 20-71, 28.2 per cent.

Alabama and Kentucky are essentially even in turnover margin. Alabama has played one more game and has a plus five margin in five games (three fumble recoveries and seven interceptions against three fumbles lost and two passes intercepted). Kentucky has a plus four margin in four games (four fumble recoveries and five interceptions against three lost fumbles and two two passes intercepted).

Red Zone success is considered important. On offense, Alabama is fifth in the league, scoring 21 of 24 times inside the opponents' 20-yard line (14 touchdowns and 7-8 field goals). Kentucky leads the league in Red Zone defense, opponents scoring just one of three times (a field goal). The Wildcats are seventh in the SEC in Red Zone offense, 15-18 (10 touchdowns, 5-7 field goals). Bama is seventh in Red Zone defense, allowing 6-8 scores on three touchdowns, three of four field goals.

Alabama can't expect as much self-destruction from Kentucky as was the case from Georgia last week. Alabama is the league's least penalized team, an average of 25.4 yards per game. Kentucky is fourth in the league, 38.2 yards per game. (Last week Georgia had a number of costly penalties, keeping with the Bulldogs' worst in the SEC record on penalties.)

Time of possession is not considered a reliable gauge of success. Kentucky leads the league at 33:08 and Alabama is second at 32:35.

One area of concern for Alabama, which has been weak in kickoff coverage, is that Kentucky leads the league in kickoff returns, averaging 38.5 yards per runback. (Alabama is 10th at 18.8.)

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