As usual, we here at A Sea of Blue will be taking a statistical look at the Kentucky vs. Georgia game today.
Georgia started out the season unevenly, dropping it's second game to South Carolina in Athens and getting obliterated by Tennessee back on October 6th.
Since then, the Dawgs have gone on a tear, and have made a strong move in the SEC East. Unfortunately, their earlier losses have placed them in a position where they need help to get to Atlanta in the form of a UK or Vanderbilt victory over the Vols.
Georgia struggled early to find an effective offense, but the emergence of Knowshon Moreno has diversified their offense. Instead of depending on the arm of Matthew Stafford and a solid but unspectacular receiving corps, the Bulldogs now can wear opponents down on the ground and throw the ball on their terms.
Georgia's biggest win this year came against Florida in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. In that game, Georgia coach Mark Richt drew the ire of the Gators by having his team celebrate in the end zone after the first touchdown. Since that moment, Georgia has been playing impressive football.
So how do the Cats stack up to the Dawgs? Here is the tale of the tape:
|Statistic||UK||OPP||DIFF||UGA||OPP||DIFF||UK - UGA||OPP DIFF||DIFF DIFF|
|Pts / G||37.7||28.1||9.6||32.8||22.2||10.6||4.9||-5.9||-1|
|Yds / G||440.2||388||52.2||383.4||328.4||55||56.8||-59.6||-2.8|
|Rushing Yds / G||171.5||197.3||-25.8||174.3||126.9||47.4||-2.8||-70.4||-73.2|
|Passing Yds / G||268.7||190.7||78||209.1||201.5||7.6||59.6||10.8||70.4|
|Yds / Play||5.9||5.3||0.6||5.7||5||0.7||0.2||-0.3||-0.1|
|Rushing Yds / Car||4.6||4.7||0||4.6||3.6||1||0||-1.1||-1|
|Passing Yds / Att||7.2||6.1||1.1||7.3||6.8||0.5||-0.1||0.7||0.6|
|Passing Yds / Cmp||11.4||11||0.4||13.2||11||2.1||-1.8||0||-1.7|
|Passing Cmp %||63.1||55.4||7.7||55.4||61.4||-6||7.7||6||13.7|
|Punt Return Avg||8.4||3.5||4.9||13.8||5.7||8.2||-5.4||2.2||-3.3|
|Yds / 7 Pts||81.7||96.7||14.9||81.8||103.5||21.7||0.1||-6.8||-6.8|
|Plays / 7 Pts||13.9||18.4||4.5||14.3||20.5||6.3||0.4||-2.1||-1.8|
|Rushing Play %||49.9||57.5||-7.6||57||54.2||2.8||-7.1||-3.3||-10.4|
|Passing Play %||50.1||42.5||7.6||43||45.8||-2.8||7.1||3.3||10.4|
|Turnovers / G||2||1.8||-0.2||1.1||1.6||0.5||-0.9||0.2||-0.7|
|Fumbles / G||1.2||0.8||-0.4||0.4||0.8||0.4||-0.8||0||-0.8|
|Intercept / G||0.8||1||0.2||0.7||0.8||0.1||-0.1||0.2||0.1|
Georgia is capable of putting points on the board, and even though their offense is not considered as explosive as Kentucky, they are efficient. Where Kentucky scores on huge plays, Georgia plays a more deliberate, ball-control style typical of SEC teams. They have a solid line in front of Moreno and Stafford, and a much deeper bench than the Wildcats do. Georgia runs the ball better than Kentucky.
Kentucky, on the other hand, has a more explosive offense and a better passing game. It is interesting how close these two offenses appear on paper, and if you balance it all out they look very equal.
As is the case with most SEC teams we have played this year, Georgia has a superior defense, particularly against the run. Georgia gives up over 70 yards/game less than the Cats do on the ground, and they are 25th in total defense vs. 63rd for the Cats.
Georgia is a bit more vulnerable through the air, surrendering more yards that way than Kentucky does. Kentucky rates 36th in pass efficiency defense, and Georgia only checks in at 55th. What we see here is that both teams' strengths on offense are opposed by their weakness on defense. The team that can best address that weakness will likely be the winner.
Special teams and turnovers
Georgia covers kicks significantly better than Kentucky, and both teams return them about the same. Kentucky covers punt returns better than Georgia, and both teams return punts about the same.
Georgia enjoys a significant advantage in turnovers via fumble, but UK does a better job of picking off passes. Stafford has thrown an interception in each of his last 3 games, but only one in each.
Intangibles and Injuries
The intangibles benefit Georgia. They are playing for a chance to go to Atlanta, and Kentucky can't get there. The game is being played in Athens, where the Dawgs enjoy a significant home-field advantage.
Georgia is more affected by injuries, but their depth is better able to compensate than Kentucky. Kentucky should be almost 100% healthy for this game.
The only other factor affecting this game is that it is a bit of a trap game for Georgia. Georgia Tech, a bitter and hated rival, looms for the Dawgs next week. But the Dawgs owe Kentucky for beating them in Commonwealth last year, and that may well override any tendency to think about the Yellowjackets.
To beat Kentucky, Georgia must continue doing what has been working for them -- playing solid defense and moving the ball on the ground. They must avoid turnovers, because they are due to give some up. Moreno must continue to be effective, because even though Stafford is an excellent SEC quarterback, the Dawgs have struggled when the pass becomes their primary option.
Kentucky, on the other hand, must find a way to force empty possessions out of Georgia, and get first downs on offense to prevent tiring the defense out too much. If the Cats play the same game they defeated Vandy with last week, Georgia will embarrass them. Kentucky probably can't stop Moreno, but they need to force as many 3rd and 5 or longer situations as they can on the Dawgs in order to keep them honest. If Moreno is able to get 5 yards on every first down carry, it will be very tough for the Wildcats.
The Cats must also run the ball. If we can run successfully against the Georgia defense, that will open up the passing game and Georgia will not be able to defend Kentucky consistently if that happens. Sooner or later, UK's big-play receivers are going to get open, and Woodson is going to get them the ball. If Kentucky runs the ball effectively, look for repeated vertical passes over the top of the defense.
Georgia is favored by 7-1/2 or 8 points, and that seems about right. The Dawgs are deeper and more talented overall than Kentucky, and it is likely that the Cats can't overcome the combination of that and the home field advantage.
My prediction: Georgia, 41, Kentucky 35.