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Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) warms up prior to the start of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
October 15th, 2021
No. 11 Kentucky will travel to Athens on Saturday afternoon to square off with No. 1 Georgia in a showdown that will likely determine the winner of the SEC Eastern division.
Kentucky is off to one of the best starts in the history of the program, and much of the credit goes to new offensive coordinator Liam Coen. The disciple of Sean McVay has made UK’s offense much more two-dimensional, although quarterback Will Levis has shown inconsistency while running it. The run game is just as physical as it’s been in years past, albeit running in a zone block scheme rather than a power scheme.
After turning the ball over 11 times in their first four games, the Wildcats have committed just one in their last two. This was a huge reason for their success in wins over Florida and LSU, and must continue if they have any hopes of beating Georgia. They will look to rely on Chris Rodriguez and Levis in the ground game, in which they rank 23rd in the nation. They also will need better play from the passing attack, in which they rank just 97th.
Kentucky ranks 122nd in plays per game but 47th in time of possession, so I expect them to continue to work the clock and shorten the game as they have in years past. They also have one of the lowest penalty numbers in the SEC, and limiting their mistakes is vital in Saturday’s game.
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald listed first team at DT for UK w/ true freshman Kahlil Saunders at No 2. With starting nose guard Marquan McCall also out due to injury (like Oxendine), Cats will be without 2 of their 3 starting defensive linemen at No 1 Georgia https://t.co/ganwrVXWl2— Mark Story (@markcstory) October 11, 2021
Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald listed first team at DT for UK w/ true freshman Kahlil Saunders at No 2. With starting nose guard Marquan McCall also out due to injury (like Oxendine), Cats will be without 2 of their 3 starting defensive linemen at No 1 Georgia https://t.co/ganwrVXWl2
Defensively, the Wildcats have yet to allow a team to rush for more than 175 yards or throw for more than 300 yards. However, they will be missing two key defensive linemen in Marquan McCall and Octavious Oxendine. Their interior defense will be heavily tested in this game against a Georgia rushing attack that has averaged 239 yards rushing over their past three games.
The Bulldogs are putting together one of the greatest defensive seasons in college football history, anchored by a defensive line that features NFL talent at every position. They are allowing just 4.3 points per game, which would beat the record by more than two points, and they are allowing just one of every four third-downs to be converted. More impressively, their opponents this season are seeing their offensive drives average just eleven yards.
Georgia's defense continues to deliver. pic.twitter.com/hyOn5E6tso— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 9, 2021
Georgia's defense continues to deliver. pic.twitter.com/hyOn5E6tso
Offenses are crossing midfield against Georgia less than three times per game on average, and they have allowed just two offensive touchdowns all season—both of which came after Georgia was already ahead by three or more scores. They rank first in the nation in yards allowed and points allowed, and rank fourth in rushing yards allowed. In other words, if you have a successful drive against this defense, you’ve achieved something significant.
Unfortunately, it requires much more than that to beat Georgia, as their offense is no slouch either. Last weekend, they fell behind 3-0 to Auburn, but then rattled off 24 straight points to put the game away. Their line may bet the best in the nation, and they’re rolling despite having two different quarterbacks this season. JT Daniels has missed the last three games, but he is expected to replace Stetson Bennett IV this weekend. Additionally, big-play receivers Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Jermaine Burton are expected to return this weekend, meaning they are getting even stronger on that side of the ball.
As improved as Kentucky is this season, we have seen what this Georgia team can do to good opponents. You need look no further than the past two weeks, where both Arkansas and Auburn rolled into the game with high hopes, just to limp out wondering what the heck just happened.
Kentucky will look to limit the number of possessions the Bulldogs have, and try to shorten the game. It is their standard game plan against Georgia, and they will be ready for it. These two teams have combined to score 38 points over their last two meetings—only three of which came from the Wildcats.
While Levis and Robinson will have moments, it is difficult to see them having time to allow deep routes to develop—much less Robinson actually finding room to get open. The Wildcats will slow Georgia down defensively, but they will be missing too many pieces to stop them.
Kentucky has 23 quarterback hurries on the year. I thought that was solid.Georgia has ... 109.— Joshua Moore ⚡️ (@JoshMooreHL) October 13, 2021
Kentucky has 23 quarterback hurries on the year. I thought that was solid.Georgia has ... 109.
Additionally, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and Stoops seem to have quite a bit of respect for each other, and if Georgia runs away with the game, I don’t see them running up the score. This makes the total the best bet to aim for.
Score prediction: Georgia 34, Kentucky 10
Our predictive engine is calling for Georgia to win outright. The total score is expected to go Under 44.5 points.
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