Most meaningful Georgia-Kentucky game ever?

Jarvis Jones might have a big day against Kentucky. (Associated Press)

Jarvis Jones might have a big day against Kentucky. (Associated Press)

Back in the day, when Georgia’s conference schedule always ended with Auburn, that meant when the Dogs won the SEC or the division they usually clinched it in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, which always seemed so fitting.

That’s not the way it works any more, though, and with South Carolina winning last week even Georgia’s superlative performance against the Tigers wasn’t enough to make it official. They have to do that this week in the somewhat less celebrated series (you can’t even really call it a rivalry) against the Kentucky Wildcats.

At least the high stakes nature of the game — beat Kentucky, win the SEC East — should keep Mark Richt’s Dogs from letting the whopping 30.5 point spread assigned to the game by the oddsmakers go to their heads in a post-Auburn letdown.

Back in the Top 15 no matter what poll you use, Georgia faces a team that ranks at or near the bottom of the conference in most offensive and defensive categories. In fact, the Cats are 118th out of 120 major college teams in total offense.

But playing the Wildcats usually isn’t as easy as it ought to be and they’ve won twice in the past five games, including the last time they visited Sanford Stadium, when Georgia suffered a complete second-half meltdown and went from leading 20-6 at halftime to a 34-27 loss thanks to four turnovers.

That’s actually about the only way I can see this year’s Dogs, who are a much better team than the 2009 version, losing to Kentucky: turning the ball over. Fortunately, since giving away the South Carolina game in that fashion earlier this season Georgia has improved remarkably in that aspect of the game.

And Kentucky (4-6, 1-5 SEC), which will be battling just to stay in contention to become bowl eligible, no longer has playmakers Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mark Hartline. Their low-yielding offense is led by a freshman who replaced the original injured starter three games ago and they aren’t that good at protecting the quarterback, so Jarvis Jones may have a big day for the Dogs. And while the Cats’ defense has the SEC’s two leading tacklers, it’s pretty banged up and will be missing a couple of starters against Georgia.

Still, the memories of the last time the Cats were Between the Hedges remain painful.

I watched that awful 2009 game in one of the skyboxes with veteran Blawg commenter Cuz and his two daughters as part of their prize for winning an AJC ultimate fan photo contest. It was an interesting experience, but one neither of us is looking to relive.

Thankfully, as Cuz outlined to me this week, there are a lot of differences between then and now. Like Joe Cox vs. Aaron Murray. Willie Martinez vs. Todd Grantham. The Dogs being 6-4 and no chance of going to Atlanta vs. 8-2 and with the division title on the line. No mascot on the sidelines at that game vs. good ole Russ this time.

And, as Cuz said, other differences include “fan confidence, confidence in Richt, heck I even heard one or two nice comments about Bobo.”

One of the unfortunate comparisons is that Cuz’s daughter Baylie, who won the contest that put us in the skybox that night, won’t be at this year’s game. She’s heading to Minnesota for major surgery and I hope you all will join me in sending our prayers and thoughts along with her.

To try and get a fix on what folks in Kentucky are thinking about this game, I first asked Mark Provano, a big Dogs fan who lives in Louisville. His response: “I think most of the [Kentucky] fans have moved on to hoops. … The party line from the football staff is that they have to win their last two games to become bowl-eligible. I think they surely realize that’s a tall order, but on the other hand they can’t very well say they’re throwing in the towel. In addition to not being very good, they’re a little banged up right now. At least a couple of defensive starters are questionable for Saturday, and of course they’re playing a backup true freshman QB (who may actually be better than the regular starter; hard to tell). Still, they’ve played us fairly tough in recent years (including their last trip to Athens, painful to recall) so I think there’s some genuine hope they could pull an upset. And Joker Phillips surely knows he needs an upset or two to keep his job beyond next year, or even until next year. But, from my perspective, most UK fans are concerned about whether [basketball star] Terrence Jones has recovered from his auto accident.”

Then I put it to my favorite Atlanta Kentucky fan, Herb Steely, who could give Vince Dooley lessons in poor-mouthing. Herb’s take: “The game on Saturday will be an absolute disaster for the guys wearing Blue. I think my Cats will be lucky to stay within six touchdowns of your Dogs. We’re pathetic and that’s putting it mildly. I think Georgia is really becoming a powerhouse. I’m predicting they will beat LSU in the title game.”

But in true Wildcat fashion Herb adds, “Now basketball is a different story. We’re a very young team that should be playing well by tournament time. I look for Florida, Alabama and Mississippi State to be tough. And you guys will be much improved and in the hunt.”

Thanks, Herb. I don’t know about the “much improved” part with Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie gone on to the mothballed NBA, but I hope you’re right about everything. Especially about Saturday’s game.

BULLDOG BITES:

Herschel Walker is profiled in Playboy magazine. (Playboy)

Herschel Walker is profiled in Playboy magazine. (Playboy)

Herschel Walker is profiled in the December issue of Playboy, on newsstands now, and the article is available in full online (and is safe for viewing at work). Written by my old UGA classmate, fellow Red & Black staffer and former AJC colleague Steve Oney, it’s a fascinating look at No. 34, from his current career in MMA to his years in pro football, his emotional battles and his career as a businessman. I like this passage, which shows Herschel’s sense of humor: “’Somebody told me we’re the largest minority-owned chicken company in the United States,’ he says, adding after a deadpan pause, ‘I don’t know if that means anything, as we may be the only minority-owned chicken company in the United States.’” Check it out. … If it’s Saturday, Scott Woerner must be somewhere in Athens signing copies of the “1980 Dawgs” DVD set. Sure enough, for the third straight week the Georgia defensive great will be meeting fans, this time back at the Red Zone store in downtown Athens, 155 E. Clayton St., from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. before the Kentucky game and for two hours starting right after the game.

Go Dogs!

Got a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

249 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

November 18th, 2011
10:40 am

DIT

November 18th, 2011
10:46 am

Hard to say which was the best, but the game from 2 years ago I will never forget. I thought for sure going into the tek game that next week we were going to get beat. Luckily that did not happen.

TONY

November 18th, 2011
10:47 am

Hope the Dawgs come out on fire and do not stop until the final seconds tick off on the clock.

CPJ- - Josh Nesbitt for Heisman

November 18th, 2011
10:48 am

Josh Nesbitt for Heisman..or Reggie “I thought it was 3rd down” Ball

Tater Tot

November 18th, 2011
10:50 am

5th…..Go Dawgs !!!

WDE

November 18th, 2011
10:50 am

Cuz best wishes for your daughter and your family! Nice article Bill Go Dogs !

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
10:53 am

We’ll win this game. No worries. I know people want to always look at the “other” side and see ways that Kentucky can win this game…but it’s just not going to happen. Georgia has fought tooth and nail, won 8 straight games, and go to this very moment they’ve been wanting all off-season, all season, etc. This is what you work for as a football player from January till now…this is what you want, a chance at a title…and they’re gonna go get it.

The Dawgfather

November 18th, 2011
10:54 am

Time to let the BIG DAWG eat!!

Frank Lane

November 18th, 2011
10:54 am

Nothing to do with this post, but the head basketball coach at Syracuse is making a fool out of himself, claiming that all the abuse allegations are “lies.”

One, there is actually NO way that he could know that they did not happen since they don’t/didn’t involve him.

Two, philosophically one can never prove that something did not happen, only that something did. He is making himself seem an unlearned idiot. You cannot prove a negative. It has reduced my opinion of him significantly.

He can say that he hopes that the allegations are not true. He can say he would be surprised if they were true. He can say that he doubts that they are true. HE CANNOT SAY THAT THE ALLEGATIONS ARE LIES. He can say that there is no corroboration. He cannot say that there won’t ever be.

Think about it. You can feel very strongly that you wife has never cheated on you. BUT YOU CANNOT KNOW. You can however if caught in the act say accurately that you wife cheated on you. You can prove a positive but not a negative or absence of action.

DIT

November 18th, 2011
10:54 am

I think that the 2nd & 3rd stringers get a lot of playing time tomorrow.
UGA 48 UK 10

Destin Dawg

November 18th, 2011
10:54 am

Junk Yard Dawgs are back under Grantham…. go Dawgs.. beat Kentucky !

G-Dawg

November 18th, 2011
10:54 am

Hunker Down!!

G-Dawg

November 18th, 2011
10:55 am

Hope to see some Boo and Hudson this game!

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
10:58 am

Cuz is one hellva man and father. Baylie has been through so much and he has been there the whole way. Good luck and God bless Baylie and Cuz.
I know Baylie and Cuz didn’t leave the game before the clock was 0:00.

Why does the BCS allow teams like Bama play the Ga. Southern’s and Ga. States of the world play a game this late in the season.

weakest schedule ever

November 18th, 2011
10:58 am

not winning this year would be abysmal

GaTruth

November 18th, 2011
10:59 am

This is a great test of how well Coach Richt is able to harness the horses and keep them focused. With the East on the line, he should be able to. The real test will come next week. Can a team who has won nine straight and facing a conference championship game, still get up for the Bumbling Bees?

Old Dawg

November 18th, 2011
10:59 am

things going up hill in Athens .. Malzahn going H.C… Spurrier retiring.. Muschamp and Weis in the swamp… future is bright for the dawgs …

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
11:01 am

Why not start Hutson Mason. If it goes bad I am sure Murray will have no problem getting enough scores to still win by 21.

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:01 am

Kentucky won’t score. They just won’t. Have you noticed that teams revert to trick plays to try and score on us? You cannot line up and physically move the ball on us. That’s so refreshing to see that. It tickles me when a team has to do that. Auburn had to do it to get their measly 7 points…and if CMR wasn’t as good a man as he is, the score would have been 70-7 or worse.

Destin Dawg

November 18th, 2011
11:03 am

Hutson Mason.. Boo Malcome.. Harton and many others should see action !! play’em all !!

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:05 am

Auburn’s defense could not stop us all day long, and their offense could not move the ball on us at all after their first score…our defense has 5 sacks…2 by Jarvis Jones!!!….I think we are headed for some great glory Georgia days!!!…we return 9 starters back on defense next season notably Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson, Abry Jones, John Jenkins, Kwame Geathers, Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, etc, etc. Our defense is going to be the best in the country next season, at least one of the best….

And on offense we have Murray back, Crowell in his 2nd season, Richard Samuel for his senior season, Zander Ogletree at FB, Mitchell, Bennett, Conley, Brown, Rome, Charles, etc, etc. We are going to be loaded next season! We’ll start the season top 10 in my opinion!

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:08 am

We lead the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss, etc.

We are 2nd in total offense…who woulda thunk it?! With Bobo calling plays? All you haters can now go away.

We are 4th in the country in total defense behind Alabama, LSU, & Michigan State.

We are 5th in rush defense.

We are dominating right now. And I don’t care about the schedule, you play who you play. I remember when the season started people said we’d lose those games….well we’ve won em. Where are the talking heads now? Hmmmm?! Thought so.

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:08 am

We lead the SEC in sacks, tackles for loss, etc.

We are 2nd in total offense…who woulda thunk it?! With Bobo calling plays? All you haters can now go away.

We are 4th in the country in total defense behind Alabama, LSU, & Michigan State.

We are 5th in rush defense.

We are dominating right now. And I don’t care about the schedule, you play who you play. I remember when the season started people said we’d lose those games….well we’ve won em. Where are the talking heads now? Hmmmm?! Thought so.

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:10 am

Oh and one more thing, we’re 2nd in the SEC in turnover margin behind only LSU with +9.

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:11 am

Jarvis Jones is 3rd in the nation with 10 sacks.

Bacarri Rambo is 2nd in the nation with 7 interceptions in 10 games.

BILLY JACK

November 18th, 2011
11:12 am

Georgia is really dialed in right now.Kentucky because the trip to the dome is on the line and tech because the olayers just hate them no matter what the records are.

Whaw!

November 18th, 2011
11:14 am

Only 2 starters on our defense are seniors. That’s Boykin, and DeAngelo Tyson.

We are a very young team. Just wait until they get more experience. I think Georgia could be talked about for a loonnnggggg time.

GeoffDawg

November 18th, 2011
11:17 am

Prayers to Cuz’s daughter.

Stay focused Dawgs and let’s hope to get the starters out early.

Dap01

November 18th, 2011
11:19 am

Just beat Tech.

Mexdawg

November 18th, 2011
11:21 am

Kick the cats.LET THE BIG DAWG EAT.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
11:22 am

J.Jenkins says he is staying? What about O.Charles? Ben Jones is going. Rambo coming back? UGA is losing punter and kicker too. It was supposed to be a great year for Special Teams but no way it will be better next year.

Football Guy

November 18th, 2011
11:22 am

Atlanta MIddle School’s JV could beat UF this year. And of course the game is in Athens this year.
The easiest UGa, no wait, SEC, no wait, NCAA schedule EVER.

Fair and Balanced

November 18th, 2011
11:26 am

Richt deserves a lot of credit. I’m sure he never reads ajc!

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
11:29 am

After this season I would guess MANY schools will beating down the UGA door to hire BOBO as a Head Coach.

Tyler

November 18th, 2011
11:29 am

Several years,when Tennessee went to the SEC title game, instead of UGA, the game against Kentucky was also important. If I remember correctly, our game against Kentucky had an affect on us not going to the SEC title game.

Mr. Dawg

November 18th, 2011
11:30 am

I hate to be overconfident. Critics have been saying they Georgia didn’t beat anybody good so far this year. But with the exception of the Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State games I always felt going in that the Bulldogs could lose to every one they played. That said, the Dawgs’ confidence has to be very high, they are clicking on all cylinders and they know the significance of this game. Kentucky is a bad football team. I predict another blow out game that will be done at half-time.

hawaiidawg

November 18th, 2011
11:30 am

if jarvis jones and orson charles comes back next year ga will be rank top 3 only issue is oline. does anyone have idea on how young olinemens are coming along? i figure with chris b,dallas l, and kenoris g, we have the middle set but who starts at tackle? theus and long, maybe watts d? pls let me know

Dawg48

November 18th, 2011
11:33 am

Cuz praying for you & baylie!

Dawg48

November 18th, 2011
11:35 am

Hope all the dawgs have a great day! And to the seniors, last game between the hedges!
Thanks for putting in all the hard work and dedication, good luck and GATA!

bucket

November 18th, 2011
11:39 am

The loss to Kentucky two years ago at home was just awful. I don’t think that happens tomorrow because I don’t think these Dawgs are taking anything for granted!!!

LKB

November 18th, 2011
11:42 am

The same people that were predicting UGA to lose 5 games are now complaining about the schedule… What gives?

Richt`s Hammer

November 18th, 2011
11:43 am

Once we beat Kentucky. They are even worse than Vanderbilt. Wait a minute we only beat them by 5. Yikes.

We can move on to our beatdown of monumental proportions in the SEC Championship game. I am guessing at least 40. Isn`t it wonderful the SEC has a sisters of the poor division.

Then we will go play another loser team and lose.

But I will get another contract exention. Yea, life is good.

crusher dawg

November 18th, 2011
11:45 am

Let the Big Dawg Eat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bucket

November 18th, 2011
11:46 am

I have heard a rumor that all of the draft eligible players have made a pact to come back. I, of course, don’t know that to be fact. Has anyone else heard that? IMO that has killed us the last several years. We have been losing just enough guys at key positions every year to put us behind the 8 ball. Some of that needs to be addressed in recruiting and playing time to have guys ready to step in. I absolutely do not blame a guy for going pro when he has a great chance to secure his future, but if all of these guys stay one more year it could be an exciting year in 2012!

djdawg

November 18th, 2011
11:46 am

@Richt`s Hammer

I think I hear your mommie calling you. Your grilled cheese with no crust is ready!!! LOSER

GaTruth

November 18th, 2011
11:46 am

@Football Guy – do some homework. According to Sagarin, there are 15 teams in the top 30 who have easier schedules than the Dawgs.

WDE

November 18th, 2011
11:48 am

@Richt`s Hammer which team that we have already waxed this year is your team…or are you just a Bug?

Shawn

November 18th, 2011
11:48 am

Even as big underdogs I like UGA’s chances in the SECCG. They are too young to know they don’t have a chance and there is no pressure on them to win it. This will let them turn it all loose in the big game! Goooo Dawgs!

bucket

November 18th, 2011
11:49 am

@ Richt’s Hammer – posing as another team’s fan is juvenile. If the Dawgs beat Kentucky I promise you they will show up @ the Georgia Dome and we will see what happens.

WDE

November 18th, 2011
11:50 am

@Dawg48 thanks for bringing up the seniors..the Bull Dog Nation owes them a loud DGD!!! Thanks young men for your blood , sweat and effort representing the Red and Black ! Best of luck in your futures and thanks again !!