Georgia is on the brink of its first SEC East title since 2005.
The Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 SEC) can punch their ticket to the SEC title game in Atlanta with a win Saturday at home against struggling Kentucky.
"We're excited about the possibility of winning the SEC Eastern Division championship," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "That's the goal: Win the game, and if we win that game, we're in. We know what's at stake."
Kentucky (4-6, 1-5 SEC) is coming off a 38-8 loss to Vanderbilt and has lost six of its last eight games. But Richt said the Bulldogs can't afford to take Kentucky lightly, noting the Wildcats have several players from the state of Georgia returning to play in their home state.
"I think our guys are going to continue to stay focused throughout the week," Richt said. "I can't imagine them going backwards now. We're in a good place right now. I just hope we continue to prepare well and play well."
Georgia is coming off a 45-7 rout last week against rival Auburn. The Bulldogs excelled in all phases, gaining 528 yards of offense while limited Auburn to just 195 yards.
"We are very confident right now," Georgia defensive back Sanders Commings said. "We know what we are capable of doing and we know what we are supposed to do. Coming off of last week's game against Auburn, we see what can happen when every part of the team plays like they are capable of, and we are team that is tough to beat."
After 30-point loss to Vandy, powerful Georgia up next for reeling Wildcats
Kentucky looks to turn the page on one of its worst drubbings ever, a 30-point loss to Vanderbilt.
The Commodores have been one of the few Southeast Conference teams that the Wildcats have regularly beaten in recent years, and losing 38-8 reopened criticism of second-year coach Joker Phillips. Kentucky (4-6) is just 1-5 in SEC play entering Saturday's game at Georgia, which leads the SEC East. Phillips maintains the Wildcats can compete in the league considered the toughest in the nation.
"Tough league, no doubt about that," Phillips said. "But we've proven it before. We've been in some really close games before. We can compete in this league.
"We're not where we used to be the last couple years, but we're striving to get back to that level. Still some things out there (this season). I'm sure the people that you're around would probably say different. But we as coaches, we as players, we're competitors, and we say there are still some things out there left for us to play for."
Phillips is attempting to sell his players that there is still an opportunity to reach a bowl game. The Wildcats would have to pull off a stunning upset of the Bulldogs this Saturday for that to remain a possibility.
Georgia has won eight straight games and needs a victory to clinch a spot in the SEC championship game.
Kentucky's five SEC losses have been by an average of 31.8 points. The Wildcats' lone conference win is over Mississippi, a school that has already announced that coach Houston Nutt won't return.
It would rate as a major upset if Kentucky were to beat the Bulldogs in Athens.
"We just have to keep moving forward and try to get better as a team," linebacker Avery Williamson said. "We can't keep worrying about the past."
GEORGIA NOTES, QUOTES
--Georgia coach Mark Richt has been pleased with the addition of first-year offensive line coach Will Friend. "Some line coaches only see their picture," Richt said. "They don't really see the big picture. Will sees the big picture. I think some line coaches want to do nothing but hammer the run no matter what. It's kind of a macho thing. I think Will knows it takes a little bit of everything to be good up front. You can't just run the power every down and win. He understands those things. He's done a good job."
--C Ben Jones was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week for the second straight week.
--TE Orson Charles (32 catches, 395 yards and five TDs) was named one of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end.
SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads 50-12, with two ties (last meeting, 2010, Georgia 44-31)
KENTUCKY NOTES, QUOTES
--QB Maxwell Smith was sacked four times against Vanderbilt, and the Wildcats have allowed 30 sacks in 10 games. Only eight other schools have allowed more.
The offensive line was supposed to be one of the strengths of the Wildcats but early-season injuries hindered the line early, and the transition to Smith at quarterback hasn't been easy as the freshman learns on the fly.
"A couple of times we didn't get the ball out of our hands," Phillips said. "A couple times, we didn't direct the protection. But our line did a good job of holding up."
--Kentucky's punt-return woes have continued since Gene McCaskill replaced Randall Burden. McCaskill has just eight yards on two returns after Burden had just 26 yards on 17 returns. The Wildcats have just 34 punt-return yards, and their 2.0-yard average is fifth lowest in the nation.
--Injured QB Morgan Newton sought a second opinion on his ankle and shoulder injuries from a doctor in Indianapolis late last week. Coach Joker Phillips said the family's decision to seek another evaluation was done with the school's blessing, and that the diagnosis for both injuries were similar.
SCOUTING THE GEORGIA OFFENSE: Georgia is third in the SEC in scoring offense (35.8 ppg). The balanced Bulldogs are third in the SEC in pass offense (250.3 ypg) and fourth in rushing offense (188.4 ypg). Georgia also is third in the SEC in third-down conversions, with a 45.4-percent success rate.
SCOUTING THE KENTUCKY DEFENSE: LB Danny Trevathan had just seven tackles against Vanderbilt, his second-lowest total of the season. Trevathan leads the SEC with 118 tackles and has four interceptions and three forced fumbles. S Winston Guy (102 stops) topped the 100-tackle mark for the second straight season and will be limited against Georgia due to a shoulder injury. Guy has a team-best 12 tackles for losses. The defensive line was pushed around by Vanderbilt, and DTs Donte Rumph (unavailable due to ankle injury) and Mister Cobble (shoulder) are ailing.
SCOUTING THE GEORGIA DEFENSE: Georgia's defense has allowed just nine touchdowns in its last eight games. The Bulldogs rank fourth in the nation in total defense (273.3 ypg) and fifth in the nation against the run (87.1 ypg). Georgia also leads the Southeastern Conference in sacks (25).
SCOUTING THE KENTUCKY OFFENSE: QB Maxwell Smith has completed 60 percent of his passes over the past three games adjusting to the speed of the college game. He has three touchdown passes against two interceptions. RB Coshik Williams (team-best 407 yards) had just 22 yards on 10 carries against Vanderbilt and could find yards tough to come by against Georgia, ranked fifth nationally in defending the run. WR La'Rod King (39 receptions) has caught five or more passes five times this season. The offensive line has never found its groove after the chemistry was affected early in the season by multiple injuries.
GEORGIA QUOTE TO NOTE: "We took a little hit after the second game of the year, but we never lost confidence in ourselves, our teammates or our coaches. We've just been chipping away." -- Georgia QB Aaron Murray, on the team's current eight-game winning streak after an 0-2 start.
KENTUCKY QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you look at last year, last few years, we've had a lot of big plays. We have not had as many big plays this year. Can only think of a couple last week. Meanwhile, we gave up more than a couple. You can't do that and win." -- Kentucky coach Joker Phillips on the lack of explosiveness
GEORGIA KEYS TO THE GAME: Georgia should contain a Kentucky offense that ranks 118th out of 120 FBS teams in total offense (273.5 ypg). A big play on defense, forcing a turnover on a sack or scoring a touchdown on an interception could take some pressure off Georgia's offense. Kentucky's defense, led by LB Danny Trevathan and S Winston Guy, has played well at times but still ranks 10th in the SEC in total defense. Sophomore QB Aaron Murray (27 TDs, eight interceptions) needs to continue his precision passing and avoid mistakes.
KENTUCKY KEYS TO THE GAME: Kentucky has to figure out a way to move the ball against Georgia's sturdy defense or it will be one long afternoon. The Bulldogs ranked fourth in total defense and 12th in scoring defense, and that will present quite a test for young passer Maxwell Smith. Kentucky has struggled to defend the run, and stopping TB Isaiah Crowell (821 yards) will be tough, but hugging the line too much could open things up for Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray (27 touchdowns).
GEORGIA PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Aaron Murray -- Murray hasn't suffered a sophomore slump, passing for 2,284 yards with 27 TDs and just eight interceptions this season. He's done a masterful job all season of spreading the ball around to different Georgia playmakers.
RB Isaiah Crowell -- Crowell returned from his one-game suspension with a bang, rushing for 132 yards and a TD against Auburn. But he needs to secure the ball better.
WR Malcolm Mitchell -- Mitchell has a team-high 523 yards receiving despite missing three games with a hamstring injury. He's also caught four TD passes.
LB Jarvis Jones -- Jones had two sacks against Auburn to increase his SEC-high sack total to 10 this season. The transfer from USC has adapted quickly to second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme.
S Bacarri Rambo -- Rambo has been the ballhawk of the Georgia defense with a team-high seven interceptions and one fumble recovery.
KENTUCKY PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Maxwell Smith -- The Wildcats will learn a lot about his composure this Saturday after he completed less than 50 percent of his passes against Vanderbilt in his first road start. The competition and atmosphere will be tougher against Georgia.
WR Matt Roark -- He had just one reception against Vanderbilt after back-to-back 100-yard performances. Roark developed a rapport with Smith when both were on the second team during practice sessions.
S Winston Guy -- How much will he have in the tank with a banged-up shoulder? Will he be able to play as physically as what will be needed against Georgia? Guy has been Kentucky's second-best player behind LB Danny Trevathan.
GEORGIA ROSTER REPORT
--CB Brandon Boykin (knee sprain) is probable for Kentucky.
--NG Kwame Geathers (ankle and knee injuries) is questionable for Kentucky.
--TE Jay Rome, a true freshman who is redshirting this season, is playing with the Georgia basketball team. The 6-foot-5 Rome played in the final 27 seconds of Georgia's season-opening basketball win against Wofford.
--Coach Mark Richt didn't rule out continuing to rotate PKs Blair Walsh and Brandon Bogotay. "We'll do what's best for Georgia," Richt said.
--Richt said he doesn't expect WR Rantavious Wooten (post-concussion syndrome) to return this season.
KENTUCKY ROSTER REPORT
--S Winston Guy (shoulder) is probable for the Georgia game after being banged up during the Vanderbilt contest.
--S Martavius Neloms (ankle) avoided a broken bone but has a high-ankle sprain that leaves him as doubtful for the Georgia game.
--OLB Ridge Wilson (shoulder) will take it easy in practice this week, and there's hope he will return after missing the Vanderbilt game.
--DT Donte Rumph (ankle) is improving and is expected to play against Georgia.
--OT Chandler Burden (thumb) should be available for Georgia after being injured during the Vanderbilt game.