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Kentucky Football

Week Eight Adversary -- No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs

October 18, 2019
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Kentucky got back in the win column against Arkansas with a 24-20 win at home with Lynn Bowden at quarterback. Now, the Wildcats will be forced to turn around and travel to Athens to play an elite Georgia Bulldog football team that is coming off of their first loss of the season. A home loss to a South Carolina team that was putting their coach on the hot seat two weeks ago, which makes it awfully hard to get to the College Football Playoff and maybe even the SEC Championship. That bar set for the Bulldogs is slipping out of reach, but they get Kentucky to come to town for a potential bounce back game.

First things first, Georgia is one of the few football programs that is just on a different level right now, and I think last week was likely a fluke and will prove to be so. However, that could be determined this week because Georgia hasn’t looked as powerful to start the season as usual, and Kentucky could give them problems. How? Well, it will have to be with Bowden at quarterback because I believe the Wildcats have no shot with Sawyer Smith at quarterback on his first game back from injury.

Bowden has a hot hand right now and I think you stick with it at least at the start, which I will get more into later. However, Georgia knows they are better than what last week showed, and they will come out aggressive against the Wildcats, which could possibly lead to mistakes. Kentucky will have to play a smart football game if they want to have any shot at winning on the road. That is exactly how South Carolina won. 

When you look at the stats at the end of the game, they are very lopsided. Georgia outgained South Carolina 468-to-297 in total yards, had the football for roughly 12 more minutes, five less penalties, and converted four more third downs. However, the Bulldogs turned the ball over four times, one for a score, which gave the defense confidence and threw Jake Fromm off his mark. Kentucky will play a similar defense to South Carolina in man-to-man, and we will see how physical and aggressive they play in that scheme against some receivers that got beat in more ways than one last week.

The Wildcats will need to bring great energy to pull off the incredible upset as 25-point road underdogs. South Carolina proved last week it could be done and I think Kentucky could find success with Bowden at quarterback. That is the only way Kentucky can win this football game.

Kentucky Offense vs Georgia Defense

Kirby Smart has another amazing defense. The Bulldogs allowed the most points they have in a game all season against the Gamecocks, which was 20. Georgia is a smart, athletic, and physical defense that has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season. They allow a measley 12 points per game for opponents and force teams to pass unwillingly, which is why Lynn Bowden is the only shot Kentucky has to beat the Bulldogs.

Here is how Georgia’s defense matches up with rest of the SEC through seven weeks of play...

Scoring D: 1st, 12 points per game, 8 touchdowns, 6 field goals

Rushing D: 1st, 73 yards per game, 0 touchdowns, 2.68 yards per rush

Passing D: 6th, 208 yards per game, 6 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, (59% completion percentage)

Total D: 2nd, 281 yards per game

This defense plays smarts and limits the run, which is why opponents have struggled to find success against them offensively. Bowden provided a spark and creativity in the ground game that could help the Wildcats move the football against teh best run defense in the conference, and throwing Sawyer Smith off of his injury could be a potential nightmare. This Georgia defense has 15 sacks, but they also have an SEC-leading 60 quarterback hurries, Ole Miss is second with 32. This is a defense that puts consistent pressure on the quarterback and Bowden has that uncanny agility to eleviate that degree of pressure.

Georgia allows below 100 yards per game on the ground and has not allowed a single rushing touchdown this season. Opponents are averaging below three yards per rush attempt, which is an absolutely horrendous number. Kentucky has missed that guy named Benny Snell, but last week against Arkansas they rushed for a season-high 330 yards on the ground, which was the first time they surpassed even 200 yards on the ground this season. It was in a much different way, and credit Bowden for that, but Eddie Gran’s offense had an edge to it with him at quarterback, and resting Smith another week could help in the long run.

But there is a pretty good chance we see Smith maybe for a drive or third down at least. The Wildcats might try to use that to their advantage on Saturday. It is a little bit different from a two-quarterback system that rarely works because Bowden will stay warm as he will return to wideout when Smith is in the game. That could be something we see in Athens that the offense has not shown this season, which could give them a huge advantage. 

We forget exactly what a healthy Smith looks like in this offense, and you can be reminded through the three quarters against Florida. However, Smith cannot commit an early turnover and get his spirits down off of the injury, he will need to be eased back in to a certain point is his return is against a top ten football team in the nation. I think the offensive staff has a perfect opportunity to ease him back in the football game, but giving the majority of the snaps at quarterback to Bowden seems like the right idea instead of putting in a guy that has not performed well on the road this season and hasn’t played a game in a couple weeks. Bowden clearly gave the offense a juice and edge on the ground, and this is a Wildcat team with really nothing to lose traveling to Athens.

Kentucky will need to play an aggressive game in all areas, but especially on the offensive side of the football, if they want to have a shot at an upset. Bowden at the helm gives the offense a certain creativity and aggressiveness that I believe is necessary for a majority of upsets. The different looks they can throw at the best run defense in the SEC with Bowden, AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and maybe even Chris Rodriguez could really throw that defense off. I think that edge on the ground could show if Bowden gets the starting nod, and I predict the Cats to score the first rushing touchdown of the season on the Bulldog defense. 

This is a front seven that limits those big run plays. The Bulldogs have allowed a conference-low 14 rushes over 10 yards, the Bulldogs also lead the SEC with just two rushes over 20 yards and one over 30 yards allowed. Kentucky has the potential to if not get at least a couple, get those four to five yard chunk runs which can keep the offense ahead of the chains. Two Freshmen quarterbacks had success against the Bulldogs for South Carolina, when Ryan Hilinski went down, Dakereon Joyner came in and found success.

Joyner didn’t do a lot through the air, completing just 6-of-12 passes for 39 yards. However, Joyner did find a little success on the ground with 28 yards on six carries, which is a small sample size, but I believe Bowden’s versatility could have success on a larger scale. Momentum will be huge in this matchup, as Kentucky really just needs to play a smart football game, and Hilinski and Joyner both did a good job of taking care of the football. I think Bowden is Kentucky’s biggest mismatch and Joyner showed a small glimpse of that. 

If you lineup slow in and out of the huddle, this Georgia team will take advantage at home. That aggressive play-style with an up-tempo pace is how you find success against this defense, and Kentucky could do that efficiently with Bowden. His ability to make people miss on the outside will be the difference, this defense has 38 tackles for loss on the season. The run game will be key and if Kentucky can find success, which I think they can with Bowden at quarterback, they will be in a bit of uncharted territory as no team has been able to run the football on the Bulldogs in 2019. 

If Kentucky gets going on the ground, that will open up the pass, which I think Bowden showed he was capable of hitting. This is a young secondary for the Bulldogs that can get beat on double moves and good route running at times. Kentucky has converted 37% of their third downs this season, which is not good, but they improved that number last week against Arkansas. Georgia allows just 31% conversions on third down for opponents, and manageable third down opportunities will be key for the Wildcats.

First and second down will be critical for the Wildcats to get into those third and manageable situations. I believe the speed option play and toss sweep plays are new additions that could continue to find success on defenses. Kentucky has to stay ahead of the chains and take care of the football against an extremely athletic defense. There is a lot of young talent across the board in red.

Freshman outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is the impact player and difference maker for this Georgia defense. You will see the physically imposing number 13 off of the edge, as he leads the team with 3.5 sacks. Bowden’s versatility and escapability inside of the pocket when it collapses is something that side of the football needs against an elite pass rush. The combinations and schemes he offers on the ground can help open up the passing game for Bowden or maybe Smith if they are confident in that type of scheme offensively. 

It will be tough for Kentucky to move the football and score points on the road against this defense, but they definitely have an intriguing and special personnel to work with.

Kentucky Defense vs Georgia Offense

In Georgia’s loss to South Carolina last week, that was the first time this season the Bulldogs threw the ball more than they ran it. I believe Georgia and Offensive Coordinator James Coley will try to get back pounding the rock against the Wildcats, as that could be a big reason the offense struggled against the Gamecocks. Quarterback Jake Fromm is an NFL prospect, but he is coming off probably the worst game of his college career. He threw the ball 51 times and completed just 28 of those, he threw a career high three interceptions, all to 6-foot-4 Gamecock corner, Israel Mukuamu, while throwing just 5.8 yards per attempt.

That man-to-man defense is similar to the look Kentucky will give defensively, and it gave Georgia some trouble. Kentucky will have to make plays on 50/50 balls in the air, which the secondary has done a fabulous job at this season. I wrote an article on how Kentucky's young secondary is improving every week, and I am very intrigued to see how they perform against this Georgia team. The Wildcats kept Fromm in check last season, as it was the running game that really set the Bulldogs apart. 

Senior wideout Lawrence Cager is a mismatch nightmare on the outside, but he will likely be out for Saturday’s game. Cager has hauled in 19 catches tied for the most reception on the team, for 245 yards and three touchdowns this season. His 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame posed to a dangerous threat. Kentucky’s secondary will have to deal with three very talented receivers, but none have that breakout ability that can make a huge difference through the air. 

I imagine Brandin Echols will mirror Georgia’s leading receiver, George Pickens. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Freshman is a natural athlete with soft hands, he has 19 catches for a team-high 283 yards and two touchdowns. Echols had to cover a similar target in Trey Knox, the Razorbacks leading receiver, and allowed him just two catches on four targets for 24 yards. Echols versus Pickens will be the best one-on-one matchup to watch on the field, in my opinion. 

The Bulldogs will be without one of their four receivers with 200+ yards on the year. Cager will be out, so we will see increased production from Dominick Blaylock and Demetris Robertson. Blaylock has 11 catches, 206 yards, and two touchdowns; Robertson has 17 catches, 204 yards, and three touchdowns. These are considered to be Georgia’s speed targets, but still don’t possess that game changing ability that say Mecole Hardman had for them at that position last fall. 

Kentucky will need to play an aggressive game on the back end in order to be in a position to win this game. This Wildcat team has allowed the fewest touchdowns through the air in the SEC, with just three, and that is also tied for first in the FBS. A relatively young group has found a way to be successful, as they have not allowed a passing touchdown or a 200+ yard performance over the past three games, which included two road games in hostile environments. Kentucky is one of just four SEC teams that have more interceptions than touchdowns allowed, and that will be key if the Wildcats can manage to limit or capitalize on Fromm’s mistakes. 

That will have to come if Kentucky can create pressure. This is an offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC with just four, but three of those came against South Carolina last week. The Gamecocks managed to find success rushing four and rushed Fromm, which lead to his poor performance. Junior left guard Justin Shaffer will be out for this matchup, and could help Kentucky create pressure. 

Coley’s offense puts together long drives with different looks in spread, pistol, and singleback, these are all different looks Brad White’s defense can get. I would stack the box and force Georgia to throw the football after Fromm just threw a season-high 51 pass attempts. College quarterbacks are not accustomed to those numbers. With that said, I imagine the Bulldogs make a big effort to run through D’Andre Swift against a Wildcat run defense that has constantly struggled. 

Swift could really give the Wildcats trouble in all phases as a running back, as he had a career day in Lexington a season ago. That could be similar on Saturday, and is the ultimate advantage Georgia has on Kentucky. If White and his defense can just limit Swift it will put them in a better position to get a win. All odds will be stacked against this group.

I think Kentucky could cover the Bulldog wideouts well, but I think Georgia has to great of a run game for Kentucky to maintain. This is an offense trying to bounce back from a bad performance against a bad run defense at home, which heavily favors Georgia. Here are there numbers on the season.

Scoring O: 4th, 38.5 points per game, 28 touchdowns, 12 field goals

Rushing O: 1st, 237 yards per game, 15 touchdowns

Passing O: 6th, 267 yards per game, 11 touchdowns, 4 interceptions (70.7%)

Total O: 3rd, 504 yards per game (One of three SEC teams)

Georgia is one of just three SEC teams averaging over 500 total yards, and yes, the other two are LSU and Alabama. Kentucky will have to play aggressive and force Fromm to beat them through the air. Stacking the box will be their best effort to stop the run, but they will need to do all they can against Swift, who is a Kylin Hill-level talent at running back, can beat you multiple ways on inside and outside runs as well as a receiver out of the backfield. Kentucky’s young defense will be tested greatly against a mighty offense on the road, and turnovers are the one thing that can change the entire landscape of the football game and persuade the outcome.

This Georgia offense is converting 46% of their third down attempts on the year, and Kentucky is dead last defensively, allowing opponents to complete a conference-high 44% of their third down attempts. Coley can put together long drives and they almost always finish when inside the red zone. The Bulldogs have got points on 27 of 28 trips to the red zone. They have a 75% touchdown rate, which is tremendous.

Kentucky’s defense will have a tall task to deal with the versatile running back of Swift. However, this defense could change the entire game if they can force a turnover on the road. Brad White’s defense will face its toughest test yet, and they will try to still hold the Bulldogs under 30 points, which is a mark they haven’t let any team hit this season. The biggest difference in this football game will be the turnover margin and the time of posession.

Impact Dawgs

D’Andre Swift, Running Back

This is the SEC’s best run offense against the worst run defense, and it could get ugly fast. Swift is a Kylin Hill-level talent at running back, and Hill managed to destroy Kentucky’s defense. Georgia’s first loss just so happened to be the first game of the season they threw the football more than they ran it. I think Swift has a great chance to dominate this football game similarly to how he did a year ago in Lexington.

Jake Fromm, Quarterback

Fromm must bounce back off of the worst game of his career. He was the main reason the Bulldogs are no longer undefeated, and he must take care of the football this weekend. He will need to stay calm in the pocket under pressure and limit the turnover. If he plays a safe football game, it should be a fairly easy win for Georgia. 

Azeez Ojulari, Outside Linebacker

Ojulari is a special talent off of the edge. The Freshman has 3.5 sacks this season, which leads the team. He is a natural athlete thatn has the size and speed to give Kentucky’s tackles some trouble. Georgia leads the SEC with 60 quarterback hurries, and Ojulari leads the team with 12, he also has 23 tackles; you will see number 13 a lot on Saturday.

Impact Cats

Lynn Bowden, Athlete

Bowden is the definition of an athlete. He has shown the ability to play a full game as quarterback and we know what he can do as a wideout and return man. He is the only way Kentucky can beat Georgia. His presence at quarterback can really keep a defense guessing and open up opportuinties for other weapons.

AJ Rose, Running Back

Rose is a great combination beside Bowden and he will have to contribute as well for the run game to cause problems. Rose and Smoke are two different backs that give a defense different looks and unique abilities in this offense. If Bowden gets the running game going with his running backs against the best run defense in the conference, Kentucky will be in position to win this football game. 

Brandin Echols, Corner

Echols has emerged as the number one corner. He kept Arkansas’ leading receiver in check and has a tall task ahead against Freshman George Pickens, the talented former five-star recruit. Echols has made multiple plays on the outside and the secondary could possibly continue their recent performances against the Bulldogs wide receiving corps.

One Strength

Georgia

  • Run Offense

Like I said, it is the number one run offense in the SEC against the worst run defense in the league. Georgia should have a simple and easy gameplan following their first loss of the season. Fromm threw it 51 times last week, and they would probably like to keep that number under 30 this week. The Bulldogs will pound the rock with Swift.

Kentucky

  • QB1 Lynn Bowden

The Lynn Bowden experiment offered a great deal for Kentucky’s struggling offense. It revamped the run game and was a classic Eddie Gran performance getting the ground game going. That should be a similar formula against Georgia. If you are serious about the upset, there is no better way than to get the run game going with Bowden and the backs again, as it could provide a true edge in this game.

One Weakness

Georgia

  • Aggressive Tendencies

Georgia could come out and do a little too much in this one early because of the loss. It was a double overtime game as well, and I think Fromm could maybe commit an early turnover in some form or fashion could be understandable. Kentucky could be able to take advantage of that if Georgia does try too much.

Kentucky

  • Run Defense

Kentucky has shown small steps towards improvement, but still not enough to stop what Georgia has the potential to do. This is a team that will be tested greatly by D’Andre Swift, and he could gash a front seven that has been downright bad against the run this season. Kentucky will have to play close to the line of scrimmage to limit those big play runs. 

B3 Key Matchups

– Ground Games
– UK Secondary vs Fromm
– Game of Pressures

The ground game is so important for this inparticular game. I believe both teams will enter with run heavy gameplans, which technically means, whichever team has the most success on the ground will win the football game. It is hard to run on this Georgia defense, but Kentucky has the perfect personnel to do so with Bowden at quarterback and a trio of different running backs. 

Kentucky’s secondary has been improving every week, especially over the last three. Yardage as well as completion percentage has had a steady decline for opponents over the previous three games for the Wildcats. They have not allowed a 200+ yard performance through the air or a single touchdown pass, and they have one interception as well. If the defense makes any difference in this game on Saturday, it will likely have to do with the back end of the defense.

This is a game of the trenches and a game of the pressures. Which line will get the push back and create pressure on the quarterback? Georgia has allowed the fewest sacks in the conference, but is coming off of a terrible perfomance; Kentucky will need to get pressure with four guys to be successful. The Bulldogs have the same amount of sacks as the Wildcats with 15, they also have 38 tackles for loss and a conference-leading 60 quarterback hurries, and only the dynamic ability of Bowden at quarterback could limit that pressure or at least contain it with Bowden.

Prediction

I think Lynn Bowden gives the offense a spark on the ground that will make this game interesting longer than people expect. However, there are too many critical areas that just aren’t filler with consistent production for Mark Stoops’ football team right now, and that will be the difference. Georgia is an elite football team that made too many mistakes to overcome in their first loss of the season. I think the offense for Kentucky impresses and it is interesting early, but Georgia pulls away by running wild behind D’Andre Swift...

Georgia 34 Kentucky 14

 

 
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