Saturday’s SEC showcase in Lexington will feature two teams going in completely different directions. Georgia is a team on the ropes, while Kentucky is a team on the rise. The Georgia Bulldogs will roll into town with a 4-4 record, 2-4 in conference play; our Kentucky Wildcats will take the field at 5-3, 4-2 in SEC play. Georgia is reeling, having lost four of their last five contests; Kentucky is raking, the winners of five of their last six battles. After the season’s first few games, no one would have predicted either of these teams would be where they are, yet two-thirds of the way through the season here we are. So what happens Saturday when the Cats and the Dogs square off?
There are four SEC teams that both Kentucky and Georgia have played so far this season – Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Missouri. So I have took a quick look into each team’s game against these four schools to try to come up with some idea of how Saturday will turn out. Georgia played those four teams with a 2-2 record, while UK went 3-1. The Bulldogs and the Wildcats each beat South Carolina and Missouri, and both lost to Florida. Vanderbilt is the swing game, with UK beating Vandy 20-13, and Georgia losing to the Commodores17-16. So advantage Cats.
The team statistics during these contests breaks down fairly evenly. Against UF/USC/VU/MU, Georgia gained 1,411 yards and gave up 1,129; Kentucky gained 1,389 and gave up 1,500. UGA scored 82 points and gave up 82 points; UK scored 79 and gave up 89. Those results are comparable with a small but clear advantage on defense to the Bulldogs.
But these stats are skewed by the Florida games. I think removing the Florida results from consideration makes sense for one big reason: the UK loss to Florida in September is no longer reflective of who this football team is. That UK team was coming off a psyche-shattering loss to Southern Miss, had a different QB, a different defensive play-caller, and no identity. The Cats are NOT the same football team that faced the Gators in the Swamp. If you remove the game that each team lost to the Gators here is how the numbers look against USC/VU/MU: Georgia scored 72 on 1,247 yards, and gave up 58 on 898 yards; UK scored 72 on 1,240 yards, and surrendered 44 on 936 yards. With nearly identical offensive stats, UK takes the edge now based on the Wildcat defense giving up 14 less combined points.
Any way you look at it, all signs point to a close game at Commonwealth on Saturday night. Vegas agrees, as the early line has the Cats a 3 point underdog to the Bulldogs. That line is set on talent/potential/name, not recent trends. While Georgia may have more talent on the roster, UK is functioning as the better team at the moment. Georgia is in a tailspin while the Cats are improving steadily. I believe that the trend is my friend, and the Cats are the team going in the right direction…plus they are at home. If UK can keep the Georgia rushing attack somewhat in check on defense and protect the football on offense, then I see the Cats getting the bowl eligibility party started early with a big W. I will take UK 24 — UGA 21. Happy Halloween, and Go Cats!