JOE COX: A Shot At One of the Big Dogs Awaits Kentucky On Saturday
If UK’s recent trio of games with Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt provided a chance to see where Kentucky stood with some of the SEC’s weaker foes, Saturday’s game at Athens, Georgia, provides a view of the other end of the spectrum. Heading into last week, Georgia held the top spot in the CFP rankings, but after a 40-17 loss to Auburn, Georgia has somewhat returned to Earth.
The Bulldogs have already wrapped up the SEC East division title, and Kentucky is reduced to playing for second place on Saturday. That said, second place would still be a statement, and a good outcome against Georgia would demonstrate that UK's solid SEC performance of the past two seasons is no fluke.
Kentucky is a three-touchdown underdog, and their work is cut out for them.
Who Georgia Is
The Bulldogs didn’t get to the top of the CFP standings without impressing. Start in the backfield, where Georgia’s tandem of Nick Chubb (894 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) and Sony Michel (731 yards, 9 TDs) are perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the sport. UGA gains 5.5 yards per carry on the season, and has rushed for 27 touchdowns, while allowing just five scoring runs.
True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm had an off game against Auburn, but has been very solid (61% completions, 1,643 yards, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions) on the season. His top targets are Terry Godwin and Javon Wims, each of whom has almost 500 receiving yards for the season.
Georgia is second only to Alabama is scoring defense, yardage allowed, and rushing defense. The Bulldogs are third in pass efficiency defense. Linebacker Roquan Smith (82 tackles) is an All-SEC candidate, as is pass rusher Lorenzo Carter and cornerback Dominick Sanders.
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who made the game winning field goal last year in Lexington, has been solid, as has the rest of UGA’s special teams unit.
Where Kentucky Is
Kentucky’s offense was sharp last week against Vanderbilt, as Stephen Johnson was efficient and both Benny Snell and Siheim King gashed the Vanderbilt run defense. This game likely hinges on Kentucky’s ability to run the ball at least well enough to keep Georgia’s talented offense from enjoying a huge time of possession advantage. Georgia is second to Mississippi State in time of possession, and if Kentucky isn’t efficient in their own scoring opportunities, this one could look like UK’s 45-7 loss to State.
That said, Kentucky has grown more secure in their identity, and Georgia figures to be a little down coming into this game. If the defense can force turnovers like it did last week against Vanderbilt, this game could get really interesting. But Georgia looks more disciplined.
Georgia 41, Kentucky 21
Other SEC Predictions
There aren’t many competitive games on tap for this weekend in the SEC.
Here’s who looks good from this seat:
Alabama 52, Mercer 7
Mississippi State 42, Arkansas 17
Auburn 49, UL-Monroe 21
Florida 24, UAB 21
South Carolina 31, Wofford 20
Texas A&M 38, Ole Miss 34
LSU 42, Tennessee 13
Missouri 45, Vanderbilt 27
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written five books. His most recent, Almost Perfect (a study of baseball pitchers’ near-miss attempts at perfect games) is available on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at email@example.com.