The 5th ranked Georgia Bulldogs will visit Kroger Field after a bye week. UK’s latest performance had much of the BBN frustrated after a concerning loss to Missouri. The season and schedule roll on with games against the nation’s second, fifth, and tenth ranked teams looming. Let’s take a look at how the Wildcats can pull off the upset.
Re-establish and stick to the run. Kentucky had 22 rushes that resulted in 98 yards against Missouri. That’s low numbers for the traditionally strong rushing attack. RB Chris Rodriguez is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns. He only had 9 carries in the Cats’ most recent outing. That number has to increase in order to have a chance to win. Kentucky is averaging 184-rush yards per game, 4.7 yards per carry. A heavy dose of ground and pound may be just what the Cats need to get back on track. Georgia leads the SEC in Rushing Defense by allowing a mere 65 yards on the ground.
Win the turnover margin. The Cats have a +3 turnover margin compared to a +1 for the Dogs. Can’t cough it up or throw picks against this Georgia defense that is considered one of the best units in college football.
Exceed the season average in the passing game. Kentucky is averaging 124 pass yards per game. To have a shot at an upset, the UK quarterbacks will need to surpass that number. UGA is allowing 253 yards per game. Georgia is ranked 2nd in the SEC with 13 QB sacks and will present a consistent and explosive pass rush. Getting behind the chains and consistently in 3rd and 10+ situations could prove to be catastrophic.
Move the chains. I hate to continue referencing the Missouri game, but it is the Wildcats’ latest sample. UK recorded just eight first downs and ran 36 offensive plays. Drive continuing plays have to surface. The Cats are averaging 16.6 1st downs per game and converting 46% on 3rd down. 45 first downs have been the result of a run play, 32 by pass, and 6 by penalty. How the Cats move the chains depends on the down and distance. As mentioned earlier, 3rd and long will not be a friendly scenario. Early down success will be a priority.
Those linebackers man. OLB Azeez Ojulari is a havoc-producing machine for Kirby Smart. The redshirt sophomore has totaled 15 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 QB sacks, and 13 QB hurries. In other words, he’s a nightmare matchup. Inside linebacker Monty Rice is the team’s leading tackler with 24 and has also registered 2 tackles for loss as well as a QB sack. Nakobe Dean is equally as active after racking up 20 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 QB sack, and 7 QB hurries. ILB Quay Walker has contributed 19 tackles and 4 QB hurries. OLB Nolan Smith has 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 QB sacks, and 4 QB hurries. UGA will rotate 15 plus players in its front seven. The five LBs listed above combine for 11 tackles for loss, 7 QB sacks, and 28 QB hurries. Lots of havoc.
The Dawg D is absolutely loaded with talent. Its linebackers are all future pros and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The Cats will have their hands full but must be aware of blitzing LBs. Blitz pickup will be very important for the offensive line, quarterbacks, and running backs. Pre-snap communication and execution are critical against the onslaught that UK will face on Saturday night.
Stop the chains. Georgia averages 22 1st downs per game. It’s moved the chains 44 times through the air, 38 on the ground, and 6 by penalty. Getting off the field will be paramount for Brad White’s unit. It didn’t do so vs. Mizzou. The Tigers converted 10/20 on 3rd down and 4/5 on fourth.
Hands up! Alabama knocked down several of Stetson Bennett IV’s passes at the line of scrimmage. Kentucky’s defensive line will need to do more of the same. Defensive linemen must get their hands up if a pass rush does not culminate deep in the pocket. Tipped passes could lead to interceptions. UK’s defense has proven to be opportunistic.
Eyes on numbers 10 and 1. #10 WR Kearis Jackson is Georgia’s slot receiver and dangerous in the passing game. Jackson is averaging 15 yards per catch and has 21 receptions for 323-yards. #1 George Pickens is 6’3, 200-pounds and can fly. He is the Dawg’s home-run hitter on the outside and is canny at 50/50 balls.
Hold the Dawgs to 150 rush yards. UGA is averaging 165 per game. RB Zamir White is the team’s leading rusher with 266 yards averaging 4.2 per carry. James Cook is equally as threatening and is a weapon in the passing game. UK is surrendering 129 yards per game, 3.5 yards per carry.
Don’t kick to Kenny McIntosh. The sophomore is leading the SEC with a 36.3 yards per kickoff return.
Max’s best day. In what could be a field position game, Max Duffy will need to rip off some boomers to lengthen the field for Georgia.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Georgia is a highly talented team that is coming off a bye week following a loss to Alabama. The Dawgs are elite defensively and feature a ton of future NFL players. Stetson Bennett IV completes 57% of his passes and will lean on a traditional running game. Kentucky matches up well schematically. However, Georgia has the advantage athletically.
How will the Cats bounce back after a poor showing against Missouri? We’ll see. I think UK will be motivated after an embarrassing performance in Columbia. Will it be enough to pull off the upset? Again, we’ll see.