Big Blue fan pulls a reverse in previewing Dogs-Cats

Aaron Murray being a two-way threat for the Dogs will be a big plus. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Aaron Murray being a two-way threat for the Dogs will be a big plus. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

I think I’ve mentioned here before that my old friend Herb Steely could give lessons to Vince Dooley when it comes to building up your opponent.

Herb has spent most of his life in Atlanta but hails from the land of the bluegrass and loves the Kentucky Wildcats. Of course, nine times out of 10 his conversations in that regard will relate to basketball, not football.

Just your typical UK fan, as Randall Cobb might say.

I always like to see how the other side thinks, so I checked in with Herb this week to find out what he makes of Saturday night’s pigskin meeting between the Cats and Georgia’s Bulldogs.

“You guys are not gonna lose another game this year,” Herb declared flatly. “In my opinion, you guys have turned the corner. I’m real impressed with your team.”

Now, wait a minute. Kentucky just game off a big win over Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks, who beat the Dogs. The Cats have the SEC’s No. 2 scoring offense, the No. 2 passing quarterback in Mike Hartline plus Cobb, who’s been Mr. Everything — he catches, runs, throws and returns. The Cats have beaten Georgia two out of the past four years and came thisclose in another.

Georgia  has to keep Randall Cobb under control or it could get ugly. (Associated Press)

Georgia has to keep Randall Cobb under control or it could get ugly. (Associated Press)

“Yeah,” Herb said. “We can make a game of it if [Derrick] Locke’s able to play. [He isn't expected to, due to a shoulder injury.] But without him, I just don’t think Cobb can carry the whole load — not against Georgia. Hartline is a decent quarterback, a good short passer. But our lines are both questionable. And our first halves have been terrible.”

Bottom line, Herb says: Georgia wins.

I hope he’s right. And I wish I could be as confident about Mark Richt’s team’s chances as Herb is. But the game in Lexington looks to be much more of a challenge for the Dogs than the past two weeks were.

On paper, this appears to be a likely shootout. Kentucky is second in the SEC in scoring, averaging 35.3 points per game, but their defense has given up an average of 27 points per game, tops in the conference. In their three conference losses, Florida scored 48, Ole Miss (!) scored 42 and Auburn scored 37 in a squeaker over the Cats.

The Wildcats rank 119th out of 120 nationally in red zone defense. Still, Georgia needs to make sure that on its trips into the red zone it doesn’t have to settle for field goals too often. The good news is that the Dogs should be able to run on the Cats, who have the next-to-worst rushing defense in the SEC. And that will open things up for A.J. Green, Tavarres King and Kris Durham. Georgia’s Aaron Murray being a threat with both his arm and his feet will help, too.

Hartline, on the other hand, isn’t much of a threat to run. Fortunately for him, he’s mostly been able to stay in the pocket, and his offensive line, which Herb doesn’t think much of, has yielded the fewest number of sacks in the SEC. Also, the Cats often snap the ball to Cobb in the “WildCobb” formation, and he’s extremely dangerous, as the Dogs have seen the past two years. But with Locke out, the Cats’ running game shouldn’t be a major factor, so it’ll come down to Kentucky’s pretty profiicient passing game.

The key is going to be whether Georgia’s suspect secondary can withstand the aerial assault by the Cats, who throw more than any other team in the conference. Besides Cobb, Hartline has a big target in in 6-foot-5 Chris Matthews, who’s caught six touchdown passses.

After watching Hartline make some impressive throws in the second half against the Gamecocks last week, I’m really hoping the Dogs’ safeties finally have internalized Todd Grantham’s schemes and don’t get caught going the wrong way too often. Remember those times this year when Georgia has been burned by the wheel route? Cobb’s an expert at it.

I think it comes down to this: If Washaun Ealey is productive on the ground, Georgia doesn’t turn over the ball (like it did in last year’s horrific loss to the Cats in Athens) and the Dogs’ defense doesn’t give up too many big plays, Murray’s scrambling ability and Blair Walsh’s leg should spell the difference.

Georgia is favored by 3 ½. That sounds about right to me.

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111 comments Add your comment

elvisaintdead

October 22nd, 2010
10:57 am

Herb Steely has obviously started drinking his bourbon early this year.

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 22nd, 2010
11:02 am

Herb isn’t very smart.

But then again, neither is Bill.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:03 am

Ealey’s back. He was over 7 yards a caryy in the last game, ripped off a beautiful 58 yard explosion run that got the team going. He’s a spark plug, when he wants it bad enough, you’re not going to stop him. Ealey’s up around 5 ypc this season, going up all the time, probably will finish the season up around 6 ypc. Pass Pro was solid in last game, watched the tape, didn’t miss a block. When Ealey gets 100, Dogs ain’t never lost.

Then again, if you put some extra people in the box or bring the safety close to the line to try and stop Ealey, then you have to deal with guys like Green, White & Durham getting deep fast.

pick your poison.

Josh Fowler

October 22nd, 2010
11:04 am

I like your points Bill. It seems like this team may have finally turned the corner. I just hope UGA realizes that Kentucky is a lot better than UT or Vandy. This should be a fun game to watch. Go Dawgs!!

elvisaintdead

October 22nd, 2010
11:04 am

“’You guys are not gonna lose another game this year,’ Herb declared flatly.”
The man has a problem. Just sayin.’

HBTD

October 22nd, 2010
11:07 am

Why not? With the exception of Auburn, who on the schedule as playing well right now? UGA has turned a corner. Let’s just up that they have a long stright road ahead of them.

HBTD

October 22nd, 2010
11:08 am

That was supposed to read “Let’s just hope that they have a long staright road ahead of them”

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:08 am

Tiki Barber overcame his fumbling struggles.

Just got to go high and tight and fall on the ball when you go down, don’t use the arm with the ball to break your fall.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:11 am

the better the Dogs control the clock, the less you face Cobb.

VillaRicaDAWG

October 22nd, 2010
11:13 am

I spend $1,000 a year on season tickets and UGA limits the availability of one of the biggest away games of the year to Comcast customers only?!!!

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:14 am

3rd down conversions will be the stat of the game. If Kentucky’s over 40%, they win, and they average over 40%. If Georgia reverts back to 3rd down struggles on defense, will be a long day.

ATL XMAN

October 22nd, 2010
11:16 am

i agree with herb. when uga stops shooting its self in the foot they win. simple the defense has played well enough and is getting better each week it plays in the 3-4. ky is a pretty good team but UGA is better by at least 2 t o3 tds. if they dont turn the ball over like last year when they played them.

aub will be the next big test for UGA. holding on to cam newton will be a feat. have to gang tackle him for sure. saw a stat last night that when you blitz Cam he is way better than when you don’t. he passes better on the run as he has the option to either run or pass when he leaves the pocket.

Hip Hop Socialist

October 22nd, 2010
11:17 am

Lets hope the Dawgs win, and Mark Richt doesn’t go back to getting soft on them only after two straight win. That’s always been the knock on Richt, that he is too soft (nice) to be a head coach. I personally think he should still be on the hot seat and two wins against low level teams shouldn’t “lower the temperature.”

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:19 am

Matthews & Cobb could very well have a big day against the Dogs secondary. Both are nightmares to cover. Hopefully, Georgia continues to play deep 1st, and doesn’t get burned deep and give up cheap plays.

Houston & Robinson and the gang might be able to get pressure on the QB and force him to unload quickly, or even better, to toss a few int’s.

HBTD

October 22nd, 2010
11:19 am

Hey, Villa Rica Dawg- I’m fairly certain that you can go watch the game someplace if you don’t get it at home. Did you UGA limit it or is it part of the SEC agreement?

OSCAR

October 22nd, 2010
11:20 am

It’s back to Sherveport…….

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drywall dawg

October 22nd, 2010
11:25 am

dogs 38 cats 28

SquirrelDawg

October 22nd, 2010
11:27 am

@VillaRicaDAWG, First of all , is that ALL you have to pay?……secondly the University of Georgia has absolutely nothing to do with what time the game is scheduled for or what network they are on, If you don’t have cable, there will be plenty of places to go to see the game or you can pay the single day rate for the ESPN gameplan packag($24.95), or get comcast….how much you pay for season tickets has nothing to do with who broadcasts the game…….

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:27 am

Your’e right HBTD but everyone would rather watch it in their house not somewhere else. It seems we can watch other SEC games but not the UGA game Saturday night

Ace

October 22nd, 2010
11:27 am

When UGA QB gets rocked by some better defenses he will slow down some. 2 wins over the worse teams in the south and the 4 losses are forgotton. 3 more years till rock bottom.

SoCal Dawg

October 22nd, 2010
11:28 am

Dawgs 41 Cats 24

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:30 am

If the Dogs get any of these 3 on offense:
1) 100 yard rushing effort from a back
2) 300 yard passing day
3) 400 yards of offense

Richt almost always wins those games.

Hopefully, Kentucky won’t be able to stop the pass & the run. If Georgia can get the phase going that Kentucky tries to take away, or just get a balanced 400 yard day, Georgia will get the W. If not, Kentucky wins.

JB

October 22nd, 2010
11:31 am

I think up and down the roster, we have better players……Doesn’t mean much……Kentucky is going in to this game THINKING they are going to win…..Are the Dawgs?……..Georgia is like a box of Chocolates, you never know what you’ll get….We could win by 2 TD’s…………or lose by 2….

Odell Sims

October 22nd, 2010
11:35 am

Turn out the lights the party is over ! Especially next week when the dawgs will have to endure its annual beatdown courtesy of the Florida Gators. This weekend will bring the koolaid drinkers back down to earth.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:37 am

Kentucky gets behind in the 1st half, and a lot of teams, when they get a nice lead, change their game plan and become more ocnservative.

When you get up on Kentucky, you have to stay with your game plan, regardless of the score.

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:37 am

Squirrel Dawg, The school does have something to do with some non SEC. We do get to watch UGA baptize Idaho State on Channel 2 this year. Most years that would be pay per view, but UGA worked out a deal with Channel 2 to show it.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:40 am

The season is still very dicey.

Georgia plays 4 more tough opponents in Kentucky, Florida, Auburn & Georgia Tech.

If Dogs go 4-0, might win the SEC.

If Dogs go 0-4, some coaches are getting fired.

embarrassing dawgs

October 22nd, 2010
11:42 am

georgia will lose to kentucky and have a 6-6 record MARK RICHT will be fire ,anew coach next year,that will win a national championship at georgia.

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:43 am

Yep, i think we have to go 3-1 to make the fans and alumni feel like we have the right coaches leading the program. We have beat Auburn I believe 4 or 5 years in a row but I dont’ think we beat them this year.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:43 am

Kentucky & Georgia are both ranked around #30 in TO margin, so I don’t think either team will self-destruct, don’t think this game will be won on TO’s.

On offense, it’s which team can run the ball better.

On defense, it’s which team can win the 3rd down conversion battle.

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:44 am

I dont’ think so embarrassing, I think UGA beats Kentucky, Florida, and GT but loses to Auburn. Next year we start Top 15 in the country

JB

October 22nd, 2010
11:45 am

Kenny, we could lose out, and I’m afraid this entire Staff would come back…….Richt will not replace Bobo unless ordered to, And I think McGarity would suggest it at year end as a problem he perceives, but he’ll let Richt make the call and live …..or die with keeping him…..
I do think we are behind offensively with some other elite teams…

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:45 am

With Mark RIcht at the helm

Gary

October 22nd, 2010
11:47 am

Kentucky has always been a tough opponent for our Dawgs, but I really think this team has turned the corner and will surprise most experts this year by beating the ‘cats big for once, similar to the beatdown they gave Vandy and Tennessee. We have many more weapons then they do and our defense is getting better every week. The secondary needs to step up and make some big plays and i think we get some key interceptions that bust the game wide open. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Go Dawgs!

JB

October 22nd, 2010
11:47 am

The problem McGarity has with trying to upgrade our coach, Richt is #3 in all Div 1 teams in wins the last 6 years…….Pretty tough to not let him try and get back to winning 10 or 11 games a year. And In the SEC, that playing some good ball.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:48 am

Against the big 4 left, Kentucky, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, if Georgia goes anything less than 3-1 on those 4 games, coaches will be fired. Auburn is the only game the coaching staff can afford to lose. If this coachign staff can’t beat Kentucky, Ga Tech & Florida in a season like this one when those teams are not that great, then coaching changes will be made.

recruiting will also take a hit, will lose some top recruits if you don’t go 3-1 in the remaining big 4.

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:48 am

I just don’t care for Bobo playcalling. I would rather Richt call them. At least then he will be accountable for the offense. Bobo seemed asleep at the wheel in those 4 losses, then again the players weren’t exactly motivated either. They played timid, especially in that Miss State game

JB

October 22nd, 2010
11:51 am

I hold bobo and AJ responsible for those early loses…..This labor thing looks for real in the NFL, AJ might be back……

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:52 am

I agree JB, Richt has earned the chance to right the ship, and I “think” he has. The game in Lexington will say a lot about that beings it’s on the road against a decent opponent. Now Booboo and all 15 of his kids, I’m sorry I just don’t think he is needed.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 22nd, 2010
11:53 am

Labor thing in the NFL or not AJ ain’t coming back. He will still make more in the NFL than risking injury in college for another year.

Dawg Man

October 22nd, 2010
11:53 am

I think it’s 50/50 AJ will be back. I have to say that run after catch last Saturday looked like a video game. My God, the guy had the angle on him and AJ just ran past him. Unbelievable

JB

October 22nd, 2010
11:54 am

Kenny, don’t hold your breath…..Richt will tell McGarity we’ve just hit a “rough patch”……
I would say 80% of fans want Bobo replaced…….Even Fulmer fired Randy Sanders a couple of years before he got fired trying to juice up the offense…..In Richt’s mind, Nothing is wrong.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
11:55 am

If the Dogs go 4-8, McGarity must require wholesale changes.

Either several assistant coaches must be fired, or McGariy will require Richt to step down.

McGarity will not put up with medicore performance, even for 1 season. McGarity requires teams to compete at a Championship level, he has not come out recently and made any comments about Richt’s long term future. That’s telling.

FOH (Friend of Herb)

October 22nd, 2010
11:56 am

Herb Steely is a Great American. But he’s never predicted Kentucky to win anything. He puts Dooley and Bear Bryant to shame when it comes to poor-mouthing. After the Cats won a national championship, the next day he said, “Bud, we’ll be lucky to be .500 next year.”

foodfight

October 22nd, 2010
11:57 am

I have never seen so many totally delusional people respond to one issue in my whole life.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
12:01 pm

If you go 4-0, in the big 4 games left, no coaching changes will be made. But if you go anything less than 3-1, people will be taking a close look at all assistant coaches, strgth/condtng, offense, defense, running backs, and of course, the head coach, everybody and anybody could be the fall guy.

Kenny

October 22nd, 2010
12:07 pm

As bad as Florida is this year, they destroyed Kentucky. If Georgia can’t even beat Kentucky this year, heads will spin.

Bubba

October 22nd, 2010
12:24 pm

foodfight

October 22nd, 2010
11:57 am

I have never seen so many totally delusional people respond to one issue in my whole life.

Don’t get around much do you?

Seabiscuit

October 22nd, 2010
12:38 pm

Dawgs shouldn’t have to worry much about crowd noise early — Keeneland’s still in season, so they’ll all be late.