Georgia clinched the SEC East and a spot in Atlanta with a win over your University of Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
Big Blue Nation’s wild dreams of the SEC Championship game and a spot in the College Football Playoff are officially dead, but it was fun while it lasted. It was really, really, really fun.
Before we get to what went wrong in the 34-17 loss to the Bulldogs, I think we should all take a moment to appreciate how we were even in the very unfamiliar position in the first place. Kentucky entered the game with a 7-1 record and a ninth-place spot in the College Football Rankings. Say that out loud to yourself. Do it. Right now. Stop reading this and say out loud, “Kentucky entered the game with a 7-1 record and a ninth-place spot in the College Football Rankings.” That’s where we were this morning, only two years removed from begging to make a bowl game, any bowl game, for the first time since 2010.
The Cats had the attention of the entire nation with the school’s best start in over four decades, but still needed to play good, clean football to upset a very good Georgia team (that almost won the national championship last year) in Lexington. Unfortunately, Georgia was better in all phases of the game, and proved to be the much better team.
WHY KENTUCKY LOST
The offense is still not getting it done.
Kentucky’s offense scored more points than it has in a month, but still couldn’t get to 20 points. As good as the defense has been all season, it’s tough to win a football game when you’re scoring in the teens every week.
The Cats did have two great drives in the third quarter, though; each going for 75 yards and a touchdown. However, every other possession was lacking execution and ball movement as UK scored only three points on its eight other drives.
A quick scan of the fan reaction points the finger toward Eddie Gran. I really hope he doesn’t search his own name on Twitter, because it’s ugly out there. If it were up to the fan base, I think he’d be out a job. The criticism is fair, too, because the offense hasn’t been good since putting up 24 points in the first half of the South Carolina game. Gran’s side of the ball scored only four touchdowns in 16 quarters of football before finding the end zone in a second half comeback effort against the Bulldogs, when it was already too late to matter.
Over the course of several ugly performances, the play-calling only changed in desperate times, and that’s why everyone is so upset with the play-caller. The offense is too one-dimensional and opposing defenses are able to load up the box and shut down Benny Snell.
Gran is not a popular man in Big Blue Nation right now.
The defense wasn’t as good as it has been.
Kentucky’s defense took a step back against Georgia, especially with its tackling. The tackling was pretty terrible throughout the entire game and there are more than a couple of culprits who shoulder the blame.
Poor Mike Edwards got juked out of his Nikes on D’Andre Swift’s 20-yard touchdown run. Swift made a great move, but it was one of many times Kentucky’s defense failed to bring down the ballcarrier when in good position to make a stop.
Mark Stoops said after the game, “You’ve got to give them credit. There’s a lot of one-on-one situations that happened out there and the speed with which they have definitely is difficult to defend. It’s one of the reasons why they have been Top-5 team the past two years.”
He also said, “We missed more tackles than I could remember.”
You can’t commit stupid penalties against great teams.
Darius West’s targeting penalty and Logan Stenberg’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty stick out as two plays that handed Georgia’s offense a chunk of yards. Bunchy Stallings’ ejection for making contact with the ref also rewarded Georgia with great field position, but I’m not so sure about that call. I need an explanation or better video of that “contact.”
Georgia’s the better team.
The two teams’ records may have been the same at kickoff, but it’s clear Georgia is the better football team. There’s a reason Georgia was picked to win the East in the preseason and is going back to the SEC title game for a second straight year: Georgia is an elite college football team. Kentucky may be in the midst of a special season, but it’s not elite. It’ll take more special seasons to jump up to that top tier.
WHAT YOU CAN BE HAPPY ABOUT
10-2 is still very much alive.
If Kentucky can bounce back and win in Knoxville next week, I think it can crawl through its last two games to finish with a 10-2 record — TEN AND TWO RECORD! — in the regular season. A two-loss resume opens up some serious bowl game opportunities and… let’s be real here… 10-2 is an insane year for the program. Hell, Las Vegas had the season win total set at 5.5 games back in August. Now we’re talking about winning 10 and going to a New Year’s Day bowl. If you can’t smile about that, you’re a miserable person.
Kentucky should beat Louisville by at least 50 points. If Bobby Petrino is still the head coach in that game, Stoops will want to murder the Cardinals.
We get to watch Josh Allen for four more games.
Josh Allen is a guy we’ll remember for years to come, and we get to witness his greatness a little longer. The same can be said of Benny Snell, who’s in a little bit of a funk by his standards, but is still one of the best to ever do it here.
Enjoy these next two months, BBN. Today’s loss sucked but 2018 is still a wild and fun ride for Kentucky football.