It will be a showdown of undefeated teams in Athens, Georgia this weekend. The Kentucky Wildcats (6-0, 4-0 SEC) remained undefeated by beating LSU at home last weekend 42-21, while the Georgia Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 SEC) went on the road and beat the Auburn Tigers 34-10. This game will ultimately decide the winner of the SEC East and who gets to make the trip to Atlanta in December. Georgia has won eleven straight against the Wildcats, but Coach Stoops will be looking to end that streak and continue his own streak of winning on Saturday.
What does this new Kentucky team look like?
Kentucky’s newly revamped offense is averaging 31 points per game, thanks to an average of over 200 rushing yards per contest. They rank 5th in the SEC in that category. New offensive coordinator Liam Coen, a former Los Angeles Rams assistant, has the Wildcats moving in a different gear than Kentucky fans are used to and they couldn’t be happier. They’re still a work-in-progress though, as they have turned the ball over 12 times and are only converting on third-down 45.1% of the time.
Georgia’s isn’t the only defense that can be stingy. The Wildcats are only allowing 305 total yards per game and just 17.5 points. They are allowing over 100 yards on the ground per contest, but the secondary has been doing its part, allowing under 200 yards. The concern if you are a Kentucky fan is the fact that Stetson Bennett will most likely have all the time he needs in the pocket, as the Wildcats have only accumulated 13 sacks on the year.
What about Georgia?
Georgia’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat without J.T. Daniels. They’ve scored 37 and 34 in their last two games without their starting QB. For the year, they average 38 points and 432.5 yards per game. They are accumulating almost 200 yards on the ground and 235 through the air. It is a very balanced attack.
The headline of the year for the Bulldogs has been their defense, and rightly so. They are only giving up 5.5 points and 203.5 total yards per game, both best in the country. They are also atop the SEC in sacks and have forced 10 turnovers. Defensive Coordinator Dan Lanning has put together one of the most havoc-wreaking defenses that we have seen in a long time. They tackle well, plug running lanes, and force opposing quarterbacks to make decisions a lot quicker than they would like. The lack of experience in the secondary has been the question mark all year, but the big boys up front are making up for mistakes by creating pressure.
Players to Watch
RB Christopher Rodriguez Jr.
768 yards (128 avg/g)
6.4 yards per carry
QB Will Levis
1134 yards (189 avg/g)
14 total TDs- 3 rushing
WR Wan’Dale Robinson
527 yards (87.8 avg/g)
14.2 yards per reception
QB Stetson Bennett
149.2 yards per game
TE Brock Bowers
15.8 yards per reception
RB James Cook
40.8 rushing yards per game
37 receiving yards per game
6.0 yards per carry
3 total TDs- 2 rushing
Keys to the Game
Offensive Line play. It’s going to have to continue to be great. They’re averaging 3.38-line yards per carry which ranks 2nd in the country according to football outsiders. They’re also only giving up a sack on passing plays 7.3% of the time. The running game is clearly the biggest factor of this game and Kentucky needs to be able to run the ball because Will Levis has shown that he cannot carry the offense by himself.
Will Levis. If this game goes how I believe it will go, the Georgia defense will look to stop the run game first, which will force Will Levis to have to make some difficult throws. The good news for Kentucky fans is that Levis has been exceptional at countering the blitz this year and he will need to do it a lot against this aggressive defensive scheme. He has thrown for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns against it and is averaging over 10 yards per pass.
Force Georgia to turn the ball over. As a team, Kentucky has only forced 4 turnovers. That will need to change if they want to pull off the upset. There were multiple dropped interceptions last week against LSU; that can’t happen against this Georgia team. They must take advantage of the mistakes that Stetson makes and put their offense in good position to score.
Wear down the Kentucky defense with the run. This Kentucky defense is giving up over 100 yards per game on the ground and Zamir White and company need to take advantage of that. The Wildcats gave up 171 rushing yards to Chattanooga, 171 to Florida, and 147 to LSU last week. The key to beating this defense is wearing them down. They will be stiff early in the game and I don’t imagine the Bulldogs will have much success on the ground early, but if they can continue to try and pound away, they should wear them down by the second half.
Stetson will need to continue to make throws. If the run game stalls early, Stetson will have to be accurate and protect the ball. He has shown these last three weeks that he can do just that.
Spread: Georgia -22.5
Kentucky’s games have gone over 44.5 points in four of six games this year.
Georgia has beaten the spread five out of six games this year.
Kentucky is 5-1 against the spread.
Kentucky has not beaten Georgia since 2009.