Alabama-Kentucky Preview


Alabama has more suspensions over the past year than losses in the last seven.

The Crimson Tide's remaining schedule this month will likely keep it that way.

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may be out again as top-ranked Alabama looks to keep capitalizing on its advantageous October schedule by continuing its dominance of Kentucky on Saturday night.

Nine members of the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) have been suspended for various off-the-field issues since beating Notre Dame 42-14 on Jan. 7 to win the BCS championship for the third time in four years.

The number of suspensions - with Clinton-Dix becoming the latest last week - is still higher than Alabama's total defeats since capping Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa with a victory over Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl.

The Tide are 66-7 since, and the absence of Clinton-Dix didn't slow them down in last weekend's 45-3 victory over winless Georgia State.

The junior was suspended indefinitely for reportedly accepting and repaying a short-term loan from assistant strength and conditioning coach Corey Harris.

If Clinton-Dix isn't back Saturday, then sophomores Landon Collins and Geno Smith would continue to get increased playing time.

"I think that our concern is that we get our players to do the right things the right way all the time," Saban said. "If players are committed and doing the right things, we won't have those issues to be dealing with. But if it's not happening that way, I think the way to get it that way is to make sure everybody knows and understands that in this world we live in, there's consequences for every choice and decision that you make."

Those consequences, however, haven't been felt on the field. Alabama has outscored opponents 101-9 in three games since a 49-42 victory at then-No. 6 Texas A&M on Sept. 14.

"We just don't worry about it," quarterback AJ McCarron said. "It's not affecting me as a person. It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with anybody else. It's whoever it's going on with. Us as a team, we can't let anything like that affect us that we have no control over."

The upcoming schedule may not offer much of a challenge for the Crimson Tide, who are 35-2-1 all-time against Kentucky (1-4, 0-2). After trying to beat the Wildcats for the fifth straight time since a 40-34 overtime loss at Lexington in 1997, Alabama hosts Arkansas and Tennessee - both winless in SEC play - over the next two weeks before a visit from No. 10 LSU on Nov. 9.

Success running the ball could be key again versus Kentucky, which surrenders an average of 196.2 rushing yards to rank only better than the Aggies' 214.8 mark in the conference. The Wildcats have given up 11 touchdowns on the ground compared to four passing.

The Crimson Tide are averaging 264.0 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns over the past four meetings, but the most recent was a 38-20 road victory Oct. 3, 2009.

Alabama showed off some impressive depth in the backfield last weekend, when six running backs split 27 carries for 174 yards. The blowout afforded the Tide the luxury of limiting starter T.J. Yeldon to six rushes for 51 yards and a touchdown.

The sophomore leads the team with 445 yards and four scores on the ground, averaging 6.2 yards per carry.

McCarron should also be rested after he completed 15 of 16 passes for 166 yards and four touchdowns in limited duty.

The Crimson Tide are rolling defensively, yielding an average of 219.7 yards - 37.3 rushing - over the past three games. That dominance may only continue against the Wildcats, who are averaging 283.3 yards - 172.3 in the air - during a three-game losing streak.

Each of those defeats have come against ranked opponents and Kentucky has lost 13 in a row such matchups, including last Saturday's 35-28 defeat at then-No. 13 South Carolina.

"Yeah, anybody in the top 10, anybody in the top 20, any of these good teams, they are so well coached, such history," first-year coach Mark Stoops said. "It will be a great challenge like I said, but something that we'll embrace.

"I just hope we continue to understand that we can win these games."