Everyone knows that Kentucky has struggled this year with injuries to all kinds of important players. The result has been a difficult season. The Wildcats sit at a miserable 1-6, including a loss to non-BCS Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (kudos to my alma mater for that great win, by the way). Kentucky fans are understandably phlegmatic at best about the team's prospects in general, and downright fatalistic about Kentucky's chances against the #12 Dawgs.
While it may be fine for fans to give up on the Wildcats' chances, it most assuredly is not fine for yours truly. I am well aware of the Bulldogs' superiority in this particular sport, but history tells us that upsets can happen, and the Bulldogs, for whatever reason, do not play particularly well here in Lexington. Perhaps the beauty of the countryside distracts them, or the pretty girls, despite my earlier commentary to the contrary. Whatever it is, Georgia has not exactly handed the Wildcats their backside very often in Lexington, although there's reason to believe that could change this weekend.
Let's look at recent history in Commonwealth Stadium:
As you can see, the Wildcats have really given Georgia problems here since getting blown out huge in 2004, even when the teams weren't great and Georgia was ranked. Is that reason for hope in this particular game? Probably not, but I'm going to grasp at every straw hanging out there even if it's attached to thin air.
So let's have a look at how Kentucky stacks up against the Bulldogs:
Kentucky offense vs. Georgia defense
As you might expect, and as you'll see throughout this analysis, the Wildcats are on the short end of most every stick. Kentucky is currently taking 26 plays per touchdown (compared to 12.6 for Georgia) and 4.9 yards per play compared to 7.2 for Georgia. To say Kentucky's offense has been a disappointment is to vastly understate things, and the stats would be even worse if the first three games of the season, where Maxwell Smith was QB, were not included.
Kentucky is currently dead last in rushing in the SEC at 107 yards per game, but that stat is deceiving. The problem is that the Wildcats have not been able to move the ball through the air, so teams have merrily stacked the box and enjoyed lots of punt returns. Kentucky's leading rushers are Raymond Sanders III, who averages a respectable 5.5 yards/carry, but only 54 yards per game. Jonathan George also has a decent 4.19 yd/carry, but an even less impressive 29 yards per game.
On the other side, there is the Georgia running defense, which until now has been less than stellar, allowing 161 yards per game and ranking 68th in the nation. Now, before you get excited and think "Yay, finally a team we can run against!", realize that Georgia has had to deal with the likes of Marcus Lattimore of the South Carolina Gamecocks, which is where 230 of those yards were surrendered.
Georgia's leading tacklers are linebacker Amarlo Herrera, safety Shawn Williams and linebacker Jarvis Jones, who is doubtful for tomorrow. This gives the Wildcats at least a fighting chance to move the football, but if Kentucky can't throw it, Georgia will just do what everyone else has done and stack the box.
In the passing game, the Wildcats are not dead last, but 11th in the SEC at 199 yards per game. Again, that statistic is deceiving. Since Maxwell Smith went down with injury, Kentucky has averaged less than 150 yards per game, and unless that stat improves tomorrow, this game will be extremely one-sided. Jalen Whitlow, who will be starting for Kentucky, is managing 56 yards per game through the air with a QB rating of 80. The leading targets this year have been La'Rod King (11.3 ypc, 4 TD's), Demarco Robinson (8.8 ypc, 0 TD), and Aaron Boyd, who has suddenly fallen silent after Maxwell Smith went down with injury (9.3 ypc 1TD).
Georgia's passing defense is solid, ranked 41st in the nation and yielding just over 212 yards per contest. They aren't sexy, but they get the job done. Overall, Georgia is 51st in the country in total defense, while Kentucky's total offense is a genuinely horrible 114th.
Georgia offense vs. Kentucky defense
Georgia is third in the SEC in rushing offense at 226.5 yards per game. Their leading rushers this season are Todd Gurley (7.1 ypcarry, 9 TDs) and Keith Marshall (7.3 ypcarry, 5 TD's). Georgia has scored a total of 20 touchdowns this year running the football against Kentucky's 7.
Kentucky's rushing defense is currently 89th out of 124 teams. That is futility even worse than last year's anemic standards. Kentucky's leading tacklers are linebackers Avery Williamson (33 solo, 68 total, 9.71 tpg), Alvin Dupree (28 solo, 49 total, 7 tpg), and Miles Simpson (19 solo, 41 total, 5.86 tpg). Unfortunately, Kentucky is yielding 121 more yards per game on the ground than Georgia is.
Through the air, the Dawgs are led by Aaron Murray, the 36th leading passer in the nation. Murray has a 62.1% completion rate and averages about 248 yards per game throwing the football. If the game gets out of hand, expect Christian LeMay to relieve Murray at the quarterback spot, but he is pretty much the victory cigar for the Dawgs at this point.
Georgia's receiving corps is an excellent one, led by Michael Bennett (14.4 ypc, 4 TDs), Tavarres King (19 ypc, 3 TDs), Marlon Brown, whom you may remember as having UK on his list at one point (16.2 ypc, 3 TDs) and Arthur Lynch (24.7 ypc, 1 TD). Georgia's passing offense is currently 42nd in the nation at 256 yards per game.
Kentucky's passing defense is, somewhat surprisingly considering their incredible youth, only 70th in the nation, allowing 232 yards per game.
Overall, Georgia's scoring offense is 12th in the nation, and Kentucky's scoring defense 102nd. Yes, that's an ugly mismatch.
Via StatMilk.com, here is the ugly summary:
|Total Offense||116th||306.4 yds/gm||
|Rushing Offense||110th||106.9 yds/gm||
|Passing Offense||95th||199.6 yds/gm||
|Scoring Offense||114th||18.6 pts/gm||
|Total Defense||80th||415.6 yds/gm||
|Rushing Defense||89th||183.3 yds/gm||
|Passing Defense||70th||232.3 yds/gm||
|Scoring Defense||102nd||32.9 pts/gm||
For Kentucky, the following players/positions are out or doubtful. Players out for the year are not included.
- Patrick Towles, (QB)
- Mikie Benton, (S)
- Martavius Neloms, (S)
- Maxwell Smith, (QB)
- Glenn Faulkner, (S)
- Jarvis Jones, (LB)
- Brandon Burrows (LB)
- Serling Bailey (DE)
- Brandon Harton (RB)
Putting it all together
This looks, on paper, like another ugly game for Kentucky. Georgia is coming off a bye week and has gotten somewhat more healthy, particularly on the offensive line. They are a vastly superior team and it's hard to imagine that it won't show today.
The one good thing is that Georgia will be overlooking Kentucky in every way. They rightfully think they have nothing to fear from the Wildcats, which makes them rather more vulnerable than they would otherwise be. With that said, unless something goes radically wrong for the Dawgs today, it will not be enough.
I look for UK to finally have a decent offensive game, but it will be in a losing effort. Dawgs 40, Kentucky 17.