Kentucky-Alabama Odds

Lexington, KY Alabama's defense must be happy about how it's playing. That doesn't mean the unit is feeling real good.

Bet College Football Week 5

A season-ending injury to standout linebacker Dont'a Hightower has put a damper on an otherwise terrific start for the third-ranked Crimson Tide going into their SEC matchup at Kentucky on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from online sports book have made Alabama -17 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 85% of bets for this game have been placed on Alabama -17 (View College Football bet percentages).

"I don't know that you can replace a guy that does all the things that he did," Nick Saban said of Hightower, whom the Alabama coach called the team's best pass rusher.

The sophomore occasionally lined up at defensive end and also was a force against the run - he had 16 tackles and four were for a loss. Hightower tore a ligament in his left knee in last Saturday's 35-7 win over Arkansas and will require surgery.

Maybe no one took the news harder than the Crimson Tide's other inside linebacker, All-American junior Rolando McClain.

"He's not just my teammate, he's like a little brother to me," McClain said. "We've been like that since he got here. When he went out, it was like a part of me went out."

The duo of McClain and Hightower is a big reason Alabama (4-0, 1-0) ranks second nationally in total defense, allowing 202.5 yards per game, and against the run (47.3).

It's unclear who will start in Hightower's place after Saban shuffled around his linebacking corps last week, bringing Courtney Upshaw off the bench while Cory Reamer was moved inside. Either Upshaw, freshman Nico Johnson - a five-star recruit who has appeared in two games - or sophomore Chris Jordan is likely to get the start Saturday.

"I don't think we're going to miss a step because coach Saban is going to put the guy at his spot that best fits that position," said McClain, the team leader with 23 tackles. "I have confidence in the defense. One guy doesn't make a defense, and I don't think this is going to break us. I think everybody around him, around me, is just going to have to step it up."

Last week's effort surely added to the defense's confidence. Arkansas was averaging 44.5 points and 538.0 yards of offense before being held to 254 yards while Ryan Mallett, who entered as the nation's most efficient passer, finished 12 of 35 for 160 yards.

It's a scary proposition for a Kentucky offense coming off an ugly performance against another of the nation's top defenses. The Wildcats (2-1, 0-1) were held to 179 yards and went 3 of 16 on third downs in a 41-7 home loss to top-ranked Florida.

Coach Rich Brooks knows facing Alabama is every bit the challenge the Gators presented.

"They're not any worse," he said with a laugh. " Alabama is as good as Florida, just in a different way."

The Tide are not considered to be on the same level as Florida when it comes to offense, but they have been balanced and plenty effective.

While averaging 40.5 points and 490.5 yards per game, Alabama has had at least 230 yards passing in every game and rushed for at least 260 in each until getting held to 134 last week.

First-year starter Greg McElroy made up for the limited ground attack by having the best game of his career, going 17 of 24 for 291 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. For the second straight week, no Alabama player had a 100-yard rushing or receiving game.

"We're a team offense," McElroy said. " Alabama has 12 national championships and no Heisman Trophy winners. That's the mindset coming in here. This is a team game, and we're going to win as a team."

Though Alabama doesn't present the quick-strike offense Florida does, the Wildcats can't afford to get off to a start like the one they had last week. They trailed 31-0 after the first quarter, getting outgained 223-(minus 1), and didn't get a first down until midway through the second.

Mike Hartline, who had a 147.2 rating through the first two games, went 13 of 28 for 85 yards with two interceptions.

Alabama won 17-14 last year for its third consecutive victory over Kentucky since a 40-34 overtime loss in 1997. The Wildcats' only other win in the series, which they trail 2-34-1, came in 1922.

Bet College Football Week 5

Posted: 9/29/09 4:00PM ET

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