Georgia roared out of the gate by starting the season 3-0. The Dawgs have since lost 4 out of its last 5. First year head coach Kirby Smart will bring a desperate and reeling team into Commonwealth Stadium after losing to Florida in what is formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. Smart urgently needs to beat UK to silence Athens grumblings as well as to keep bowl hopes alive.
Kentucky has won 5 out of its last 6 games and is a victory over a hapless Austin Peay team away from reaching its first bowl game since 2010. Mark Stoops’ Wildcats are experiencing a newfound sense of success and are rightfully in the hunt to win the SEC East. Stoops vigorously stresses that his team wants more.
Two teams; two distinctly dissimilar trajectories. Let’s take a closer look at the 4-4 Georgia Bulldogs:
- Coordinator: Jim Chaney
- Last time Out: Struggled mightily against Florida: 8-1st downs, 19 carries, 21 rush yards, 143 pass, 52 plays-164 total yards.
- Scoring: 23.2 points per game
- Rush: 173.8 yards per game
- Pass: 199.2
- Total: 373
- QB sacks allowed: 19
- 3rd Down: 46/121, 38%
- Red Zone: 24/29, 83%, 17/29 touchdowns
True freshman QB Jacob Eason was thrown into the proverbial fire and unrealistically expected not to melt. Eason has a huge arm and upside but has been inconsistent at times. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has not guarded his prized rookie. Conversely and strangely, Eason has been the focal point of the UGA offensive attack.
Traditionally Georgia has heavily relied on its power run game. Future NFL and preseason All SEC RB’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have not been afforded the luxury of Dawg-like run lanes as its OL has been sporadic. In addition, Chubb and Michel have a lower than expected number of carries.
UGA offense is an anomaly. Offensive linemen G Greg Pyke, T Isaiah Wynn and C Brandon Kublanow combine for 86 starts. Pyke and Wynn are All SEC selections. A middling run game (8th in SEC) that features an experienced OL blocking for 2 future NFL running backs makes very little sense. First year OC Jim Chaney has been arbitrarily over-creative; expect this to change on Saturday night. Chubb and Michel could both exceed 20 carries in what is now a must-win for Kirby Smart. Kentucky’s chances for a W will increase if Jim Chaney continues to force the passing game.
Three Best Players
RB Nick Chubb: 125 carries, 606 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 5 TD, 75.8 ypg.
RB Sony Michel: 76 carries, 380 yards, 4.7 yards per carry, 1 TD, 51.4 ypg.
Guard Greg Pyke: All SEC 2014, 2015, and 2016. 31 career starts.
- Coordinator: Mel Tucker
- Last time Out: Florida accumulated 20-1st downs, 100 yards rushing, 131 passing, 231 total yards.
- Scoring: 26.1 points per game
- Rush: Allowed 109.8 yards per game
- Pass: 216.4
- Total: 326.1
- Sacks: 17
- 3rd Down: 43/114, 38%
- Red Zone: 24/26, 92%, 19/26 touchdowns
Talent, talent, and more talent construct the Dawg D. Kirby Smart’s defense features several future NFL players. If you’re a fan of high school All American games, then you’ll easily recognize a large percentage of the UGA depth chart.
Led by a pair of sophomore linebackers (Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith) Georgia has limited opponents to just 109 rush yards per game. Fellow sophomore DT Trenton Thompson is the team’s 3rd leading tackler and is one of the SEC’s most dominant run stoppers. OLB Lorenzo Carter is the QB sack leader with 4. As Mark Stoops likes to say, Georgia has a bunch of pretty football players.
Three Best Players
DT Trenton Thompson: 35 total tackles, 5 TFL, 2 QB sacks.
LB Natrez Patrick: 49 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 QB sack, 6 QB pressures.
LB Roquan Smith: 48 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 QB pressure.
— Punter Marshal Long: 44 punts, 38.4 yards per.
— Dawgs averaged 32 yards per punt against Florida a week ago. Poor punting played a significant role in losing the field position game.
— Isiah McKenzie’s ranks 5th in the history of the SEC with 4 career punt returns for touchdowns. McKenzie also returned a kickoff for a TD. 5 total return touchdowns rank him 3rd in conference history. Scary, scary, scary football player and could ominously factor on Saturday. Keep your eyes on number 16.
— McKenzie is the SEC’s 3rd leading returner in 2016: 16 returns, 134 yards, 8.4 yards per return.
What does all this mean?
Dawgs are desperate. OC Jim Chaney has gone away from team strengths by relying on a pass heavy attack with a true freshman QB. That may not be the case on Saturday. The more carries that RB’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are allowed the lesser chance UK will have to win.
The defensive Dawgs are an upper-level SEC defense and allows just 109 rush yard per game. Again, despair will come into play as Kirby Smart/Mel Tucker will throw run-blitzes at Eddie Gran and load the box in order to take the football away from Boom Williams-Benny Snell. Stephen Johnson must be productive and turnover free. Georgia leads the SEC with a +6 turnover margin. UK is last; -11.
Kentucky has been the more talented team in its five wins. While the Wildcats may be the better football team on 5 November it will certainly not be the most talented. Georgia is highly skilled and presents a considerable and genuine challenge for the Cats to reach six.
Much more Kentucky-Georgia coverage throughout the week. Make sure you download/listen to this week’s Depth Chart Podcast presented by Sutherland Chevrolet. We will discuss keys to the game.