Bulldogs, Wildcats battle for SEC East
That is NOT a typo. And yes, that is in the sport of FOOTBALL, not basketball.
Believe it or not the Kentucky Wildcats have a chance to win the SEC. Go ahead and re-read that last line if you need to, but the Big Blue has been riding a defense that is tops in the country (giving up 13.0 points per game) and a grind-it-out offense to race out to a 7-1 record overall and 5-1 in SEC play. They have given up just 74 points in six conference games. Last week the Cats won a rather improbable 15-14 game over Missouri where they scored a walk-off touchdown on the final play of the game to keep their conference hopes alive.
The Bulldogs are tied with the Wildcats with an identical 5-1 mark and are coming off a rather satisfying 36-17 rout of Florida. This was a much-needed win for the Silver Britches since they were coming off a humiliating three-touchdown beatdown at LSU, so they kind of got their mojo back in Jacksonville. It will be interesting to see if their momentum from that game will carry over to this vital showdown in the Bluegrass State.
Georgia at Kentucky
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -9
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Cats pass when they need it?
Terry Wilson has become a very viable dual-threat quarterback having thrown for 988 yards with a 65 percent completion rate with another 406 yards on the ground. But the passing game can be a little inconsistent, considering Wilson completed just three passes against Vanderbilt two weeks ago. So the big question is whether or not Mr. Wilson can get some zip through the air and convert some third downs. And yes, that’s the key down, since Georgia is second in the SEC converting 47.4 percent of its third downs, while Kentucky is eighth at 40 percent. Last week against Missouri, UK went just 3-for-14 on third down. It will need to be better for any chance here.
2. Which Jake Fromm will show up?
The last two games have shown that there is an upside and a downside to the lead Bulldog operative. Against LSU - a 36-16 loss - Fromm hit on just 16 of his 34 passes, including two interceptions and was sacked four times. Against Florida, he was 17-of-24 with three TDs and without a single pick. Of course the Bulldogs won that game going away 36-17. The Bulldogs started two freshmen and two sophomores on the O-line vs. Florida, if those youngins can keep that experienced UK defense at bay (and establish the running game too), it will bode well for Georgia. But that is going to be quite the chore.
3. Josh Allen is playing with his hair on fire
Keep an eye on the Kentucky linebacker. This dude plays his best in the latter moments of every game, which is a big reason Missouri managed just 49 total yards and eight straight three-and-outs in the second half. Allen also has 14.5 tackles for a loss so far, which is tops in the SEC and third nationally. When Allen, LB Jordan Jones and FS Mike Edwards all announced they were going to turn down the NFL and return to the Wildcat defense this year, it was a big shot in the arm for this program. But Allen is the ringleader here and will be the key to stopping Elijah Holyfield, D’Andre Swift and the Bulldog running game and to keeping Fromm from feeling comfortable in the pocket.
It’s pretty shocking that Kentucky has yet to allow an opponent to score more than 20 points in a game this season. It’s also a little surprising the Wildcats have scored just six touchdowns in the last three games against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Missouri, one of which was on a punt return. So this is a Jekyll & Hyde team, so to speak.
But this is one of my favorite stats: when Benny Snell Jr. has carried the ball 16 times or more in a game the Wildcats are 18-4. When he’s carried 15 times or less, they are 3-9. So going into this game, Snell is likely to be quoting the title of Keyshawn Johnson’s autobiography from years back; give me the damn ball.
Even though Georgia has an 81 percent chance of winning this game, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, there is something sort of magical about this Kentucky football season. And yes, the Bulldogs have won 19 of the last 21 meetings, but they haven’t met a defense like this yet. So would it be crazy to call the Cats to win this one? Well, this has been one crazy season in Lexington. And it will just get a little crazier this Saturday.
Prediction: Kentucky 19, Georgia 17
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.