I think it’s safe to say nobody saw this coming.
It is for the SEC East title, but Saturday’s game in Lexington is, for Georgia, only the third-biggest of this calendar year – and maybe only the fifth-biggest, depending on where you rate LSU in Baton Rouge and Florida in Jacksonville. For Kentucky, it’s merely the biggest in this native Kentuckian’s lifetime, and I’m as old as the Appalachians.
Bradley’s stiffy is likely going to last all week, but I digress.
There’s going to be a lot of “hells, yeah, Kentucky’s got a chance” talk all week. To their credit, the ‘Cats have earned it. They’re experienced, physical and well-coached. Bennie Snell may not be the next Herschel Walker, but he’s a tough runner who’s leading the conference in rushing. On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen leads the SEC in sacks. Both players are going to be handfuls for Georgia.
Kentucky is good defensively and, just as importantly when you’re having what’s turning into a magical season, they’re getting their share of breaks. (Just go back and look at the play that set up the winning score against Missouri.) That’s not a knock; it’s what good teams do. The ‘Cats are also thin, although they’ve been fortunate on the injury front.
So, it’ll be a challenge, especially in front of what should be a crazed Lexington crowd.
That being said, Kentucky is one-dimensional on offense, although they’ve been very smart about not leaning on the passing game any more than necessary. They’re first in the SEC in scoring defense, but tied for last in scoring offense. They aren’t built to win shootouts and, somewhat surprisingly, aren’t anything special with regard to turnover margin.
Both defenses are good at limiting big plays, so there will be a premium on execution. Given Snell’s prowess, that may be a closer thing than we’d like (certainly than Mel Tucker would).
Still, if there’s something to take for comfort going in, it’s looking at how both have done against common opponents. That’s a tale of the tape that favors Georgia.
Georgia isn’t favored by that much, but the general point stands. The Dawgs will need to keep their composure against a team that will have two of the best players on the field and a crowd solidly behind it.