State Farm.jpg

JOE COX: Yes, Virginia, Kentucky Is Playing for the SEC East Title

Fiction is dead.

No one is quite sure exactly when it died. Maybe last week in Columbia, Missouri, when Kentucky rallied for a shocking scoring drive, beating the Tigers 15-14 with no time on the clock.

Maybe it dies this coming Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats take the field with the SEC Eastern division championship on the line against the Georgia Bulldogs.

No novelist could offer as many twists and turns as UK’s squad has written into college football history. Who could have imagined just Allen, a two-star recruit from New Jersey who became a star? Who thought that Kentucky would lose an All-American running back from their backyard only to snag one from the backyard of Ohio State instead? Who would have believed that the defense that had been a sieve would become a stone wall?

The most ridiculous imagination in the world still falls far short of the reality of the 2018 Kentucky Wildcats. With the art of fiction now completely out of date, can Kentucky write another chapter, one in which they beat Georgia and claim a spot in the SEC Championship game?

Looking at Georgia

Before the season, Georgia was a hefty favorite in the SEC East. The Bulldogs won the SEC title last season and played their way to a spot in the CFP title game before losing to Alabama in overtime. This year’s Georgia team has nearly been as good, currently holding the No. 6 spot in the CFP rankings.

Georgia is led by sophomore QB Jake Fromm, who took the job from incumbent starter Jacob Eason last year. This season, Fromm is completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,649 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. On the ground, UGA lost NFL stars Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but splits carries between Elijah Holyfield (559 yards, 4 TDs) and D’Andre Swift (466 yards, 5 TDs). Georgia’s top receiving threats are Riley Ridley (27 catches, 374 yards, 5 TDs) and Mecole Hardman (26 catches, 368 yards, 4 TDs).

Defensively, the Bulldogs have been somewhat disappointing against the run, allowing 4.2 yards per carry. Georgia’s back seven are talented and speedy, led by linebacker D’Andre Walker, who has five sacks this year. The Bulldogs have claimed only five interceptions.

Georgia would have a perfect season, but they stumbled badly at LSU, turning the ball over four times and losing 36-16. Last week, Georgia took down Florida 36-17, in a game where UGA forced three turnovers, two coming inside the UF 15 yard line.

Where Kentucky Stands

The Wildcats come in off a brutally ugly 15-14 win over Missouri. Kentucky’s ground game was held under 100 yards and multiple possessions on the UM end of the field ended without points. Kentucky trailed 14-3 inside six minutes remaining in the game, before a 67-yard Lynn Bowden punt return and an 81-yard drive in the final 1:20 finished the game with a win.

Despite many negatives, one positive was the rally from QB Terry Wilson, the much-maligned signal caller who made the plays to win the game down the stretch. Josh Allen was again unblockable, as Kentucky’s defense did not surrender a single first down in the second half.

Intellectually, Kentucky doesn’t have as many great athletes as the Bulldogs, and has less experience playing in big games. But football games are played on a field, not on paper. On paper, UGA wins by two scores. On the field, Saturday afternoon, I’ll go with my gut instead of my brain.

UK 21, UGA 20

Other SEC predictions

Alabama 42, LSU 10

Texas A&M 28, Auburn 24

South Carolina 37, Ole Miss 35

Florida 34, Missouri 21

Tennessee 42, Charlotte 10

Mississippi State 52, Louisiana Tech 17

Joe Cox is contributing editor for Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County, and has written seven books, with the eighth to come in 2019. His most recent, "The Immaculate Inning," was released in February 2018 and can be ordered 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

Edward Jones.jpg