After a historic win over Florida, their third straight against the Gators, No. 20 Kentucky Football is 5-0 for just the fifth time in the last 72 years, with three of those coming in the last six years.
This Saturday, Kentucky has an opportunity to continue to make history, traveling to Athens to go up against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Of course, Georgia is the defending National Champion and the No. 1 team in the country. However, they haven’t looked to be the juggernaut that many thought they would be. In both of their SEC matchups this season, against Auburn and South Carolina, two teams that look objectively worse than Kentucky, the Bulldogs have been tied or down at halftime.
Can Kentucky pull the upset? They have the personnel to do so, but it’s going to be a tall task. BUT if they can, Kentucky has a chance to take the “next step” that Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow refer to by giving Kentucky a real shot at the SEC Championship and a signature program win.
Let’s see what Kentucky needs to do to give themselves the best shot at a win.
Slow Brock Bowers
When talking about Georgia in Monday’s press conference, Mark Stoops called Georgia’s top player and tight end, Brock Bowers, an “absolute freak in the most complimentary way.”
On the season, Bowers has 30 receptions for 413 total yards and three touchdowns. In comparison to the rest of the Georgia offense, he nearly doubles the next closest player in receiving yards, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, who has 226 yards. In other words, he is really good.
When looking at the game logs, it should come as no surprise that when he struggles, the Bulldogs’ offense struggles. As said earlier, Georgia has been down or tied at halftime of their first two SEC contests this season.
In the first halves of those games, Bowers has caught a combined five catches for 26 yards. However, in the second halves, he has a combined 10 receptions for 185 yards. Truly a tale of two halves.
The Kentucky defense is one of the best defensive units in the country, it will be interesting to see if and how they can limit the future top-five draft pick.
Get Some Explosive Plays
If you look at college football upsets, one key ingredient is explosive plays and Kentucky has the players to provide those and has shown that this season. Looking at the stats, Kentucky is eleventh in plays with 20+ yard gains with 33 and tied for fifth with plays more than 50+ yards, with 6.
Running back Ray Davis has provided several of those plays against the - what was - top rushing defense in the SEC in Florida. While not playing their best thus far this season, receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key have proven they are capable of big games, and you would have to think the passing game has to start clicking at some point.
It was just last year when Brown torched Georgia, and Kentucky really needs that kind of performance to have any chance of winning between the hedges.
Barion Brown last year vs Georgia:— Matt Sak BBN - #ZBigFree (@MattSakR2NG) October 5, 2023
Breakout game vs Georgia part 2 pic.twitter.com/6LyK4yz0tL
However, I believe another likely source of an explosive play is the Kentucky defense.
This season the defense has forced a defensive score in three of their five games. In the past, the Kentucky defense has a history of stepping up in primetime games, such as J.J. Weaver’s fourth-quarter interception against Florida in 2021 or Bud Dupree’s game-winning pick-six against South Carolina in 2014.
Through the first four games of this season, the Kentucky Football team went undefeated, but there was still much to be desired from their performance. While there is still room for improvement, especially in the passing game, Kentucky just beat a top-25 opponent 33-14, and it could have easily been by more.
That said, Georgia is a much tougher opponent than Florida and may be the Wildcats’ toughest opponent of the season. If Kentucky wants a shot to win, they need to come prepared on both sides of the ball and capitalize on their red-zone opportunities, which they failed to do last season. Kentucky can’t go through the kind of dry spells we saw against teams like EKU, Akron, and Vanderbilt, or the Dawgs will roll to an easy victory on Saturday.
Given this is Georgia’s first night game since 2021, it will also be a rowdy road environment. Mark Stoops and Co. must be ready to overcome adversity on and off the field.
No. 20 Kentucky Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 SEC) vs. No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Time/Date: 7:00 pm ET on Saturday, October 7th, 2023
Location: Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia
TV Channel: ESPN
Announcers: Sean McDonough, Greg McElroy, Molly McGrath
Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Satellite Radio: XM Channel 203, Sirius Channel 98, Internet Channel 966
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Odds: The DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky bet down to a small 14.5-point underdog. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a small but fair shot, giving the Wildcats a 13.9% chance to pull the upset.
Predictions: TeamRankings has Georgia coming away with a 31-17 win, while DRatings.com is going with a 37-14 victory for the Bulldogs. As much as I want to drink the Kool-Aid, I can’t. I’m predicting a close first half thanks to the Kentucky defense, but Georgia starts to pull away in the third quarter to win 27-17.