Georgia ripped Vanderbilt 30-14 last Saturday after having upset Tennessee 26-24 the previous week when running back Verron Hayes caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback David Greene with ten seconds remaining. The Wildcats are coming off a heartbreaking loss to LSU, 28-25 as the Tigers scored with 13 seconds remaining for a road victory. Kentucky has lost 13 straight conference contests with its last SEC win coming in 1999 (18-17 over Vanderbilt).
Georgia has won 42 of the 54 meetings (42-10-2) with Kentucky, including the last four and nine of the past eleven. The Bulldogs have a sterling 21-3-2 record against Kentucky in Sanford Stadium. The Wildcats have not won at Georgia since 1977. Georgia has hosted Kentucky for homecoming sixteen times, posting a 13-2-1 record against the Wildcats in those games.
Coach Mark Richt's Bulldogs managed to avoid overlooking one heavy underdog when they beat Vanderbilt. Now they have to do it again against Kentucky. And it would be a major shocker if Kentucky managed an upset and thwarted Georgia's momentum. Georgia's annual showdown with Florida looms on Oct. 27, and it has taken on more significant meaning since the Bulldogs win over Tennessee and Florida's loss at Auburn last week. Georgia is now tied with the Gators (5-1, 3-1) for second place in the SEC East. South Carolina (5-1, 4-1) leads the East and would win the head-to-head tiebreaker with Georgia by virtue of their 14-9 win in Athens on Sept. 8.
South Carolina finishes the season with Vanderbilt at home, Tennessee on the road, Florida at home, Clemson at home and Wofford in Columbia. Florida has an off week to get ready for Georgia, then plays Vanderbilt at home, South Carolina away, Florida State at home and Tennessee at home. The Bulldogs have Kentucky, Florida (in Jacksonville), Auburn at home, Ole Miss away, Georgia Tech on the road and Houston at home. Tennessee (3-1, 2-1) is still in contention for the SEC Eastern Division title, but would likely be eliminated with a loss at Alabama on Saturday, as would any team who suffers two league losses. In essence, every game is a must win now for Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Georgia has truly shined in recent weeks, and one major reason is the play of Greene, who keeps getting better with every outing. His quarterback rating of 148.8 ranks 16th in the nation and amazingly would be in the Top 10 all-time in the SEC if he maintains it. Kentucky coach Guy Morriss has picked Jared Lorenzen over Shane Boyd as the Wildcats starting quarterback against Georgia. The 6-4, 275-pound Lorenzen nearly beat the Bulldogs single-handily last season in Lexington, throwing for 528 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia nipped Kentucky 34-30 in that game.
Running back Musa Smith, Georgia's leading ground gainer, will miss the game with an injury. However, Bulldog enthusiasts hope Will Witherspoon, Georgia's top starting weakside linebacker, will see action following a two-game absence. Witherspoon is recovering from a slight tear in his MCL.
Several keys to Georgia winning its fourth consecutive game include:
*Avoid looking ahead to the Florida game.
Simply put, the Bulldogs cannot look past the Wildcats if they are to have any chance of winning the SEC Championship. If they get caught looking ahead, they could very well lose to Kentucky. And that could ruin what may be a great season.
*Containing Jared Lorenzen.
Anyone who has seen Lorenzen play knows he can pass the ball well. However, he can't effectively scramble mainly because of his weight. The Georgia secondary players must do a consistently good job covering the Wildcat receivers. If the Bulldogs can make Lorenzen scramble, Kentucky is in big trouble.
*Georgia needs to create some turnovers.
The Bulldogs are ninth in the SEC and 84th in the nation in turnover margin at minus-3, but should have a good chance to reverse that trend against Kentucky. The Wildcats are 10th in the SEC in turnover margin at minus-5 and have given the ball away 12 times. If the Bulldogs can force some turnovers, they may win by a larger margin than expected.
*Putting the Wildcats away early.
Kentucky has struggled this season. The Wildcats have been porous on offense and haven't played much better defensively. Nevertheless, the Wildcats are long overdue for an SEC win and many of the same players on their team proved last year that they have the capability to take Georgia down to the wire. The Bulldogs need to establish superiority in the first quarter, claim a big lead at intermission and have the game all but wrapped up in the third period.
PREDICTION-Unless Georgia commits a bunch of turnovers and plays poorly, the Bulldogs should handily defeat Kentucky, setting up a colossal battle next week against Florida that could determine the SEC Eastern Division champion.
Georgia 34, Kentucky 13