Each Friday during the season, we spotlight the best game of the weekend. This week, it’s No. 11 Kentucky (6-0) at No. 1 Georgia (6-0) in a de facto SEC East title game. It’s also Georgia’s homecoming.
The contest kicks off at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS; Brad Nessler will handle the play-by-play and Gary Danielson is the analyst.
Here are five things to know about the Georgia-Kentucky game, plus the predicted final score from the On3 national staff.
1. Georgia’s defense
Georgia’s defense is the best in the nation and that has been written about ad nauseum. Still, the unit is why the Bulldogs are a prohibitive favorite (it’s a 23-point spread) in this game, and the numbers are beyond impressive this deep into the season. Georgia has given up 33 points, one passing TD and one rushing TD, and is allowing 203.5 yards per game and 3.6 per play. The Bulldogs lead the nation in all but the rushing TD category (they are second there; San Diego State has allowed zero). NT Jordan Davis is an immovable object in the middle and he is ably complemented up front by a plethora of large and talented men, among them Jalen Carter, Devonte Wyatt, Travon Walker and Travon Walthour. There’s also a good group of linebackers, headed by Nakobe Dean. Opponents simply have not been able to run on Georgia, and throwing the ball hasn’t led to much success, either. That feeds into the next category.
2. Kentucky’s rushing attack
Yes, Kentucky’s pass offense is better this season than it was the past four or five seasons. But the past four or five seasons is an extremely low bar: UK threw for a combined 4,913 yards in the past three seasons; SEC foes Alabama and Florida threw for 4,656 and 4,543, respectively, in 2020 alone. While Nebraska transfer Wan’Dale Robinson is a legitimate weapon on the outside, the Wildcats still don’t have a high-powered passing attack and count heavily upon their running game. In Chris Rodriguez Jr. — who grew up about 70 miles from Athens, in McDonough, Ga. — UK has a legit lead back, one who is comfortable between the tackles and also has a burst. Rodriguez, who remains underrated nationally, leads the SEC in rushing, but Florida kept him under 100 yards in UK’s win over the Gators (the Wildcats managed just 224 total yards against Florida). Keep an eye on Rodriguez’s rushing total: He must have a big game if UK is to pull the huge upset. Kentucky isn’t beating Georgia if it has to throw.
3. Georgia’s quarterback situation
Truthfully, the only thing Kirby Smart should tell a Bulldogs quarterback before the player trots onto the field is this: “Hey, just don’t screw things up.” As long as Stetson Bennett (he seems likely to start) doesn’t cough up the ball three or four times, the Bulldogs seem destined to win Saturday. Bennett doesn’t need to be a hero; he just can’t be the goat (not the uppercase “GOAT,” the lowercase version). Bennett has done that nicely this season; he’s completing 69.4 percent of his passes, for 746 yards, eight TDs and two interceptions (one in a 27-point win over South Carolina, the other in a 62-point evisceration of Vanderbilt). He spends most of his time handing off, as Georgia has run the ball on 63.2 percent of its offensive snaps this season. The running game hasn’t been as dominant as expected: The Bulldogs are ninth in the league (not the nation; the league) in average yards per rush at 4.68. Again, though, as long as a running back doesn’t screw things up with a fumble, the Bulldogs should be fine.
4. The SEC East race
The winner takes command in the East. These are the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the SEC, and while this season has been chaotic, a win in this one and each team would have to like its chances of getting to the SEC Championship Game with a perfect record. Both teams are off next week. Kentucky then finishes out the regular season with games against Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, New Mexico State and Louisville; Georgia finishes against Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Charleston and Georgia Tech. UK never has played in the SEC Championship Game and last won the league in 1976, a shared title with Georgia. About that shared title: On the field in 1976, when the SEC had 10 teams and schools played six league games, UK was 4-2 in the conference, one game behind Georgia. But in May 1978, the NCAA ordered Mississippi State to forfeit all wins from 1975, ’76 and ’77 because it had used an ineligible player; thus, UK was awarded a forfeit win over Mississippi State for the ’76 season and that improved its SEC mark to 5-1. Yep, the Wildcats won a share of the 1976 title in May 1978.
5. Recent history
The teams meet annually, and Georgia has won 11 in a row — the longest winning streak in series history. The Bulldogs also are 19-2 against UK this century and lead the series 60-12-2 overall. But UK snapped some bad history against Florida two weeks ago, beating the Gators in Lexington for the first time since 1986. By the way, the last time UK beat Florida and Georgia in the same season? It was 1977. That UK team was led by QB Derrick Ramsey and DE Art Still and finished 10-1, but it was on NCAA probation and thus ineligible to win the league title.
Mike Huguenin: Georgia 24-10
Ivan Maisel: Georgia 24-3
Charles Power: Georgia 31-13
Matt Zenitz: Georgia 27-10