Kentucky, Georgia matchups to watch
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Kentucky, Georgia matchups to watch

Adam Luckettabout 2 months

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Article written by:Adam LuckettAdam Luckett

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Stetson Bennett
(Photo courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

First place in the SEC East is on the line. Come mid-afternoon on Saturday, the Georgia Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats will go at it on the grass at Sanford Stadium.

Expect a hard-hitting football game with some excellent line of scrimmage play and limited possessions.

Both Kirby Smart and Mark Stoops have built their football programs in similar ways. The divisional foes want to lean on defense and a strong rushing attack to beat opponents. Whoever does that best will likely leave Week 7 still undefeated.

However, specific matchups will determine the victor in the football game. KSR has the individual battles to know before toe meets leather on the UGA campus.

Georgia’s rushing attack vs. Kentucky’s banged up front

The most inticing matchup in the game will occur when Kentucky has the football. Seeing how Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen attempts to establish the run with Chris Rodriguez Jr. against the best defensive front in college football will be must-see television.

However, the battle on the other side of the football is more important.

For Kentucky to upset Georgia, the Wildcats have to force Stetson Bennett to throw the football. For that to happen, Kentucky must stop the run. That is easier said than done.

The Bulldogs rank 15th nationally in run play percentage (62.5%) with their four-man rotation at tailback logging 31 attempts per game. Each tailback has a success rate over 53 percent with sophomore Kendall Milton leading the way (57.8%). Meanwhile, Bennett is throwing the ball less than 20 times per game.

In four SEC games, Kentucky’s foes have collected a 51.7 percent rushing success rate on 118 non-sack attempts. That is worrisome entering a game against an efficient rushing attack and without starters Marquan McCall and Octavious Oxendine in the lineup.

However, Kentucky’s best rush defense outing came against the only other run-heavy attack faced this season. The Wildcats held Florida to a 38.5 percent rushing success rate in the upset win. Overall, Kentucky has allowed just 17 rushes to go for over 10 yards allowing them to keep gains at a minimum.

The Wildcats must have one of their best run defense performances of the season to have a true shot at knocking off Georgia. Let’s see if Mark Stoops and Brad White have a few wrinkles up their sleeves.

Explosive play battle

Georgia does a lot of great things, but this is not an offense that is super explosive. The Bulldogs were leaning on the vertical passing ability of JT Daniels to provide that and that hasn’t occurred due to injury.

UGA ranks 10th in the SEC in plays of 20 and 30-plus yards while Kentucky’s defense ranks first nationally in 20-plus yard plays allowed. If the Wildcats take that away it could be difficult for the Bulldogs to consistently score.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s offense has shown some big-play capability this season. The Wildcats rank in the top-30 nationally in plays of 30-plus yards. To score points, Will Levis will need to connect on some vertical throws down the field.

It will be very difficult for Kentucky to win the play-by-play battle against one of the most talented teams in college football. However, the margins can be closed if explosive plays are created on offense and limited on defense.

Kentucky must win this battle on Saturday.

Red zone stops

Kentucky ranks just 103rd nationally in red zone touchdown rate allowed (68.75%) but that does not tell the entire story. The Wildcats have been elite in the extended red zone and often do not allow opponents to enter the red area.

For the season, Kentucky’s defense has seen opponents cross their side of the 40 and enter field goal range 29 times. Despite those scoring opportunities, foes are averaging just 3.38 points per trip. That is elite territory. The 2018 Kentucky defense allowed 3.52 points per scoring opportunity finishing in the top-10 nationally.

Kentucky has been top-notch at eliminating scoring threats. That is important to remember for this matchup.

Georgia has produced 29 red zone possessions this year and that ranks in the top-10 nationally, but the Bulldogs ranks just 81st in touchdown rate (58.62%). Todd Monken’s offense can struggle to score when the field is shrunk.

Kentucky’s defense can have a bend but don’t break aspect to it on Saturday, but the Wildcats must get stops when they matter most.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s offense has been great at finishing drives. The Wildcats are averaging 5.69 points per scoring opportunity and are No. 7 nationally in red zone touchdown rate (78.26%). That will be needed against the top red zone defense in college football.

For Kentucky to close the gap, the Wildcats must force kicking downs when the Bulldogs get into scoring territory.

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2021-12-05