Georgia-Kentucky preview: Dogs seek first road win
(Note: Please join the conversation during the game on Mark Bradley’s live blog.)
The Georgia-Kentucky game (7:30 p.m. Saturday) at a glance:
- 1. Has Georgia’s season really turned? A season that appeared doomed when Georgia lost its first three SEC games was infused with new possibilities when South Carolina lost to Kentucky and Florida lost to Mississippi State last week. Suddenly, Georgia (3-4, 2-3 SEC) was tied with Florida for second place in the SEC East, just ½ game behind South Carolina. Winning the division remains a longshot for Georgia, especially with South Carolina holding a tiebreaker advantage, but the dream will gain steam if the Bulldogs win at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) Saturday night.
- 2. Seeking season’s first road victory. Georgia is 0-3 on the road this season and 3-5 since the start of last season -– a stark contrast to the Bulldogs’ 30-4 record on the road in Mark Richt’s first eight seasons as coach. (Note: Neutral-site games, such as the annual game against Florida in Jacksonville, are not included in “road” records.) The Bulldogs have won back-to-back SEC games at home but need to validate those victories with a breakthrough on the road at night at Kentucky.
- 3. A big test for Todd Grantham’s defense. Georgia has moved up to No. 3 in the SEC in total defense after strong performances against Tennessee and Vanderbilt the past two weeks. Kentucky, though, will pose the toughest test for the Dogs’ defense since Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. The Wildcats have myriad playmakers on offense, starting with the versatile and dangerous Randall Cobb (33 career touchdowns as a rusher, receiver and returner). Then there’s quarterback Mike Hartline, the SEC’s No. 2 passer (1,791 yards). And there’s 6-foot-5 wide receiver Chris Matthews, who leads the SEC in touchdown receptions (six). The Wildcats will be missing one offensive weapon: Tailback Derrick Locke, the SEC’s third leading rusher, won’t play because of a shoulder stinger, Kentucky says.
A Georgia win would …
- Even the Bulldogs’ overall and SEC records at 4-4 and 3-3, respectively.
- Give the Bulldogs three consecutive SEC victories for the first time since October 2008.
A Kentucky win would …
- Be the Wildcats’ third victory in five years against Georgia, which lost to Kentucky in Athens last year and in Lexington in 2006.
- Make for a happy homecoming night in Lexington. (Yes, Georgia is Kentucky’s homecoming opponent.)
Keep an eye on …
- For Kentucky: Randall Cobb is one of the more versatile players in college football -– a threat running, catching, throwing and returning the ball. The Georgia defense’s first task is to know where he is on the field. He might be at wide receiver, or he might be taking shotgun snaps from center in the Wildcat -– Kentucky calls it the “WildCobb” -– formation. In addition, he returns punts and kickoffs and is the holder for extra points and field goals. His 33 touchdowns in 2 ½ seasons at Kentucky are divided among rushing (20), receiving (11) and punt returns (2). He also has thrown five TD passes, including one on a fake field goal.
- For Georgia: Tailback Washaun Ealey had a big game (123 yards rushing, no fumbles) against Vanderbilt in his return to the starting lineup last week, and the Bulldogs need more of the same from him. Kentucky ranks next-to-last in the SEC in rushing defense, ahead of only … Vanderbilt.
The numbers game
- +4: The turnover margin so far this season for both Georgia and Kentucky, which are tied for second in the SEC in that category behind Alabama (+7).
- 13: Games since mid-season 2006 that Kentucky has come from behind in the fourth quarter to win –- an impressive indication of the Wildcats’ resilience.
- 35.3: Average points per game scored by Kentucky this season, the most by any SEC team other than Auburn.
- Series record: Georgia leads 49-12-2, including 23-7 in Lexington.
- Last meeting: Kentucky won 34-27 last season, the Wildcats’ first win in Athens since 1977, as the Bulldogs committed four second-half turnovers to squander a 20-6 halftime lead.
The bottom line
Kentucky is coming off a 31-28 victory over South Carolina, which one week earlier beat then-No. 1 Alabama 35-21 and five weeks earlier beat Georgia 17-6. Nevertheless, Georgia is favored by 3 ½.
Please join the conversation during the game on Mark Bradley’s live blog.