Bulldogs, Wildcats look to rebound from losses
Both Georgia and Kentucky come into this game after a loss. The Wildcats (2-3) fell 20-10 at Missouri last Saturday, while the Bulldogs (3-1) got railed by Alabama 41-24 two weeks ago. Of course, the big key is that Georgia is coming off a bye week, so the Dawgs might be a bit more fresh and able to refocus quicker going into this SEC East showdown in Lexington.
The Kentucky defense played well enough to win last week, but the offensive struggles just jump off the page. Meanwhile, Georgia seemed to have things going well last time out, taking a 24-20 halftime lead on the Crimson Tide, only to see that lead wither away as the Tide wore Kirby Smart's defense down in the second half.
The Bulldogs have won 10 straight in this series and I gotta be honest, it will take a minor miracle for it not to reach 11 on Saturday.
No. 5 Georgia at Kentucky
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Georgia -13
When Georgia Has The Ball
Ground and Pound. As mentioned, Kentucky's defense didn't play horribly at Missouri, holding the Tigers to 20 points and all. But Mizzou had the ball for an astounding 43 minutes and 10 seconds, wearing down the UK defenders. Tigers running back Larry Rountree III had 37 carries in that game (compared to UK running a total of 36 plays on offense). With Georgia's Stetson Bennett throwing three interceptions against Alabama, Kirby Smart might be a little gun-shy on offense, so look for the running game to make a big impression here. The Dawgs could lean on running backs Zamir White, James Cook, and freshman Kendall Milton much more on Saturday than any other game this season.
Don't try to do too much. As you know, Bennett is not going to dazzle you with out-of-this-world skills. But he's steady and smart. And really all he has to do is distribute the ball to the difference-makers like White (266 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns), Cook (82-yard reception vs. Alabama), Kearis Jackson (21 receptions, 323 yards), and George Pickens (13 receptions, 140 yards, 2 touchdowns). While we're on the subject, get Pickens the ball more as he has yet to be heavily involved with the offense.
Do some ball-hawking. Obviously, the Wildcats will need some help if they are to stay with the Bulldogs for any amount of time. Famously the Wildcats got a pair of pick-sixes in the win over Tennessee and a repeat of that would be extremely helpful. And FYI, the Bulldogs have fumbled the ball away three times and thrown four picks, so there is hope for the Bluegrass Boys in the turnover department.
When Kentucky Has The Ball.
Eddie Gran was trending on Twitter after the Missouri game... and that wasn't a good thing. The UK offensive coordinator has seen his troops become more and more punchless. The Big Blue is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground in the last three games and is dead last in the SEC in passing offense at 124.0 yards per game. As SEC Network analyst Chris Doering noted in-studio last week, "Does Kentucky know the forward pass is perfectly legal?" We could also throw in there, "Does Kentucky know its run offense has bogged down?" They've got some problems.
Do something unpredictable... anything. What is there to lose? The predictably vanilla offense might as well shake the cobwebs and throw in a few gadget plays or go up-tempo or take some deep shots right off the bat vs. Georgia.
In the last three first halves, here are the Wildcats' yardage totals:
– 122 yards vs. Mississippi State
– 75 yards vs. Tennessee
– 65 yards vs. Missouri
On top of that UK has only completed nine passes all year that have gone for 10 or more yards down the field. These Wildcats need to light a fire underneath them as they looked like they were going to see a loved one at the mausoleum last week. One thing is for certain, there will be a different look under center as head coach Mark Stoops announced on Thursday that Terry Wilson would not play due to a wrist injury he suffered in last week's loss to Missouri. That means Joey Gatewood, an Auburn transfer, will get the starting nod.
The Kentucky front line. This will be the biggest challenge of the year for the Wildcats' offensive line. The Georgia defense is tops in the country in rushing D, holding opponents to 65 yards per game. And get this, before last week's Missouri game, the Wildcats led the SEC by averaging 206.0 yards per game on the ground. So if the UK line can somehow open up some holes and get the running game going again, that will be a huge step forward. But yes, that is a big "if."
If the Wildcats could only muster 145 total yards and eight measly first downs against Missouri, imagine how that mean, nasty, aggressive Georgia defense is going to put the clamps on them?
The Junkyard Dogs are generally considered to have some of the best talent on the defensive side of the ball, and, barring any illegal transfers into the UK program that the NCAA didn't catch, should have no problem dealing with the toothless Wildcat offense.
Prediction: Georgia 28, Kentucky 9
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
— 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.