Thoughts on Georgia-Kentucky

Earlier this week, the debate in my head had been between the charmed season the ‘Cats have led — again, that’s not meant as a knock; good teams take advantage of breaks — and the reality that against their four common opponents this year, Georgia has outperformed Kentucky in every one.  That had me thinking the 9.5-point spread was just a little high; the Dawgs by eight or nine seemed about right.

I’m starting to question that assessment now.  Ironically, what’s got me started rethinking that is this write-up by a Kentucky beat writer, comparing the two teams’ position groups.  He concludes that Kentucky wins by the narrowest of margins, 17-16.

That score, though, gave me one of those “hey, wait a minute” moments, in this case because Kentucky just went the entire month of October without scoring more than fourteen points in a game (and one of those went to overtime).  UK is going to have more offensive success against Georgia than it did against Vandy or Missouri?  Okay, if you insist, but tell me why.

Now, the 16 points he attributes to Georgia is an interesting number, because, of course, it’s the exact number Georgia scored in its loss to LSU.  You can certainly make the argument that Kentucky’s defense is enjoying a similar year to LSU’s, but there was another factor in play in Baton Rouge that I question will be there in Lexington tomorrow.

Against Georgia, LSU ran a stunning 81 plays on offense.  That’s a huge number for a team that wasn’t playing catch up in the second half.  Kentucky, by comparison, has generated more than 70 plays only once in conference play, last week against Missouri, when it was in scramble mode in the entire second half.  For the most part, that’s not the way UK’s offense is built.

That LSU game is the only game this season in which Georgia’s offense has failed to tally at least 30 points.  Again, if you want to insist that Kentucky is going to hold Georgia’s offense 20 points under its season average in conference play, fine, but tell me how.

No snark or smugness intended here.  I have too much respect for what Kentucky’s done this season for that, but I have similar respect for the statistical story that’s been told.  Barring a barrage of turnovers, I have a hard time getting to a 17-16 result.

Ian Boyd’s game summary at Football Outsiders tells much the same tale.  Advanced stats don’t indicate a close, low-scoring game.  In particular, while we’ve questioned Georgia’s defensive play at times this year, there’s a huge gap between Georgia’s defensive performance and Kentucky’s offensive performance.  Kentucky simply isn’t that good; more significantly, it’s decidedly one-dimensional.  If there’s one thing you can say about Mel Tucker’s defense, it’s that when they can force an opponent to be one-dimensional, they know what to do.

As Ian puts it,

… They don’t want to rely on heroics in the passing game to beat Georgia, as the Bulldogs have been playing excellent football in their secondary this season. Where Georgia has been vulnerable is in their run defense, where they are replacing star Roquan Smith with some younger talent that hasn’t always found the ball consistently. They’ve also had to replace 2017 nose tackle John Atkins, so the middle of their defense has been vulnerable against the run game. The only problem for Kentucky is that the Bulldogs will likely get their safeties heavily involved and make Terry Wilson prove he can beat man coverage.

It may be even more lopsided, in that Kentucky’s receiving corps has been close to being a one-man band this season.  Lynn Bowden, Jr. has more than a third of their total catches and yardage.  I know Georgia prefers to deploy its corners to sides of the field rather than specific receivers, but it’s sure got to be tempting to put Baker on Bowden in order to take away some of that production and really make problems for Wilson.

As far as the other match up goes, that, of course, is a closer call.  But — and you knew there’d be a but, right? — there is a catch.

Georgia has had injury issues along their offensive line, but they are still mauling opponents up front in their inside zone run game, with running backs Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift combining for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns thus far on the year. A typical Georgia inside zone play sees massive movement across the front, particularly where center Lamont Gaillard is helping to double-team some poor soul into the turf. Beyond that, the Georgia passing game has also been effective with quarterback Jake Fromm continuing to excel throwing back-shoulder fades to big targets outside while also improving over 2017 in throwing in the seams. This will be a stiff challenge for Kentucky as Georgia is built to simply overpower teams — it’s not enough to always be in the right spot.

That, again, was what was so big about LSU controlling the ball as well as it did.  Not only did the Tigers wear down Georgia’s defense, but as the lead expanded, it left the Dawgs in a position where they couldn’t stay in their comfort zone on offense and do the same thing.  Kentucky isn’t particularly explosive on offense and it isn’t built to run 80+ plays in a game, so how does it avoid its defense (and, remember, the ‘Cats lack the depth that Georgia enjoys) being ground down over four quarters?

I’m at a point now where I’m starting to have trouble seeing this game settled in Georgia’s favor for less than two touchdowns.  At least that’s where my head is.  My heart may still be a little uneasy with that.  Either way, though, barring the usual caveats about turnovers, I am puzzled to figure out Kentucky’s path to victory.  Is being destiny’s team enough?


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

56 responses to “Thoughts on Georgia-Kentucky

  1. ChiliDawg

    I think we win but I haven’t seen our run defense do enough to convince me they can even stop a one-dimensional offense. If Kentucky manages to put together some drives, slow the game down, it could be a low scoring game. If we break a couple of scores early and force them to play from behind it’s going to get out of hand.


    • Derek

      I have the exact opposite take. Don’t chase points early. It’s the only thing that risks victory. They have to be a tired team in the middle of the third. Even if they have a lead then, they’ll crack.

      The only way to lose is to try and chunk it around, not get the payoff and then you’re trying to finish off a fresh, motivated team with a crowd behind them. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Put that aphorism to work. Ground and pound.

      RTDB early and often. Use our depth and talent and size advantages.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Russ

        Yeah, I agree. If we don’t panic with the playcalling, we should grind out a 10 point win. Stack the box to shut down Snell, make Wilson pass, and we RTDB.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Interesting that the majority of Kentucky sportswriters picked Georgia to win…some close others by a considerable margin. Now, we know that those guys don’t play the game but they have a good idea of what their team can do. IF, Georgia plays a focused, disciplined game, they take it by more than two TDs…IF! Go Dawgs, GATA!!

          Liked by 1 person

      • 81Dog

        I agree. We are much better suited to a war of attrition with depth and talent superior to theirs. Why blow it by reaching for gambles early? We let LSU get a head of steam early by blowing up an unnecessary trick play. Do what we do, and watch them crack in the second half, seems to me.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Puffdawg

      I may be misreading, but I don’t see anywhere that Chili advocated trick plays or throwing the ball around. Just said if we bust a couple long ones early. I think the original statement is spot on.


  2. I said on Monday and I’ll say it again. This is Georgia and Kentucky on the hardwood … just reversed. Dawgs roll especially given Kirby knows the stakes.


    • Greg

      same thoughts….Dawgs beginning to hit on all cylinders, especially if they just leave the starting lineup alone and stop all the rotating BS. Thinks we win by 21+.


  3. Jim

    If we show up with our heads on straight, can give Jake a pocket to work from, and Chaney doesn’t do something dumb, we’ll win and probably comfortably.

    That is a lot of “ifs” for a team that has yet to play a 4 quarter game. Kentucky, Snell and their edge rusher feeding off the crowd, getting some early push in their run game, making Fromm uncomfortable early could lead to an uncomfortable afternoon with the game very much in doubt.


  4. Gravidy

    Normally, I’m a pretty reliable pessimist in the mold of Munson. But for whatever reason, I’m not feeling too many pangs of worry about this game. I think the Dawgs will pull away in the second half to win fairly comfortably. The one caveat to that is I expect to be very frustrated by the run defense for at least two quarters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Derek

    Just be who we are and we’ll be fine. There are few teams, none on our regular season schedule, who could beat us if we just play 60 minutes of football and avoid getting cute/stupid. Know that 60 minutes is a long damn time for a team that can’t put up points in bunches and you’ve got 7-8 explosive weapons on your side who will eventually break free even if things don’t go like you’d like and you have to send a kicker in to end a drive. Be patient. The cream will rise. Lean on them until they crack and win going away.


  6. Sattwater Dawg

    I think the number of penalties we incur is going to be a deciding factor.

    UK’s defense is loaded with seniors. Along with playing very good football, I’ve seen a lot of ‘aggressiveness’ from them after the whistle. Not enough to draw flags themselves, but enough to drag the opponent into it. If they are able to goad our very young team into stupid penalties, and the resulting sloppy play that comes with it, it could be the deciding factor.

    Also, Lexington or not, we need to be ready for the crowd. This is the biggest home game ever for them, and I think their fans are going to be ready. Our last 2 regular season losses have occurred in incredibly hostile stadiums. I don’t think this will be anything like prior years, where their season was already over.

    Keys to the win:

    Play smart, keep emotions in check, keep chopping

    Put up points early – no first quarter 3 and outs so we can get the crowd out of the game


  7. John Denver is full of shit...

    Dawgs by 31.


  8. Kirby pointed out that our guys have found Kentucky to be a team that plays very physical. That is a concern against our youth IMO.


  9. Corch Irvin Meyers New WR Corch

    It should be a comfortable win. Honestly, an Auburn team with nothing to lose and a lot more talent than Kentucky scares me more.

    Kentucky is the latest South Carolina and the latest Mizzou and the latest Florida. Various people in the interwebs media got up their own butts about what kind of tests those games were gonna be for the Dawgs, and how they could even beat the Dawgs, and for the most part, those games were all over by the end of the third quarter.

    The only thing that ever worries me is Chaney doing Chaney things. Even last week in which Holyfield ran well in the first quarter on 7 carries, he didn’t get another carry until the third quarter. So it’s stuff like that, or calling for yet another godforsaken short yardage jet sweep from a tight formation or going goal line formation instead of spreading a defense out from inside the 2.

    If Chaney doesn’t do Chaney things, we win comfortably. If Chaney does Chaney things, the game is much closer than it needs to be. The bend-don’t-break defense won’t break often here. We’ll give up a ton of yards between the 20’s, but inside the red zone, we’ll clamp it down.

    34-17, Dawgs.


    • Derek

      I get those but it’s the Kirby things that scare me: onside kick vs. USC, fake FG at LSU. We don’t need none of that. Accepting FGs and playing the long game vs. UF paid off and it would have paid off at LSU. I would have liked to have seen #1 in their down at the goal line last week.

      I just wish he played more like he knew he had the better team. I’d prefer risk taking with #1, than tricks. At least getting #1 reps might give us a better shot on 12/1. What do special teams trick plays do other than fuck you up when you’ve got the much better team?


      • Corch Irvin Meyers New WR Corch

        At the end of the day, you hope Kirby learns from his mistakes. This is why Saban is the GOAT. He’s not infallible, but he LEARNS from his mistakes. If or when Kirby begins to repeat mistakes he’s made, then we have a Richt-type situation to monitor closely in the future. Until that point, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.


        • Derek

          Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anywhere near fed up. 98% of what I see is great. I just want to rid ourselves of that particular tactic.

          I also think we could have afforded to get #1 a lot more consequential snaps so far.

          I appreciate that winning the east is the thing and we’re on the doorstep, but as far as the big bully in T-town, my impression is that the gap has just grown while we’ve been trying to qualify for that game.


          • Corch Irvin Meyers New WR Corch

            That gap only appears to have grown because of what we lost from last year’s team, which included a transcendent, all-time great CFB player on defense. Like, CFB HOF worthy player. Don’t forget that. Also don’t forget that the Dawgs currently have the youngest lineup and roster in the SEC.

            This was never going to be our year. Expectations for winning the East and a great bowl like the Sugar or Fiesta were about as high as I was thinking, and we’re still in line for all of that.

            While I didn’t imagine Bama ever having a QB as all-time great as Tua, next year still points to our true ascent, and the year after that even more so. These are a bunch of young pups. They will get better. And behind them will be more great players. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is Kirby’s Death Star. We were always going to take a step back this year because of the 2016 “gap.”


            • Derek

              I hoped it could be. I still have hope. Always do. We’ve won games we had no business winning before. It’s been quite awhile since we’ve “shocked the world.”

              Ill be there on 12/1 to see.


            • sniffer

              Those are my thoughts, too, Coach. This is a bridge season to me. Next year has greater expectations. Get to ATL and a good bowl game and I’m satisfied. Anything more is house money.


          • Didn’t Saban win a Natty in part due to an unexpected onside kick against Clemson? Trick plays have a place, though I’ll admit the fake FG at LSU was ill timed. You gotta keep them guessing and make them spend time preparing for things that you might do. I’ll take a little unpredictability in our head coach any day vs. a guy never takes a chance.


            • Otto

              They have their place but LSU was not timed well. If UGA is down in the 3rd I can see it or possibly late in the 2nd at the soonest. I also think the distance was a bit optimistic for a kicker against a fast LSU team.

              Derek is surprisingly on point on this. Play the long game, take what should be sure points force them to Win rather giving them anything.


            • Derek

              True, but that was deep in the game where it was clear they had no answer for Deshaun and needed to steal a possession. The difference between genius and stupid is in the subtleties.


    • willypmd

      I don’t understand the Chaney hate.

      We have the 6th most efficient offense in the country according to S&P all while dealing with injuries to 2/3 of our best offensive lineman.

      Averaging nearly 40 points per game with the only real blemish being a game on the road against a top 10 team where your QB played the worst game of his career.

      If Cleveland and Thomas had stayed healthy and we weren’t starting another true freshman on the OL, I’d say we are just slightly below what i expected on the year.

      As it were, I’m pretty dang satisfied with offensive production


      • Corch Irvin Meyers New WR Corch

        Did you see Kirby screaming at him in the headset after the terrible goal-line play calls? THAT’S the reason for the Chaney-hate. He does stupid shit like that all the time.

        Also, I absolutely NAILED my prediction!


  10. Jack Burton

    2nd half domination. Stay committed to running the ball and allowing that to set up the passing game. Dawgs win the 2nd half 24-3. Dawgs on top 37-13


  11. AusDawg85

    We didn’t get behind enough vs. LSU to get out of our style like we did. For whatever reason, we insisted on trying to get Fromm to find his rhythm when it just wasn’t there that day.

    Dawgs will score 24+. Kentucky can’t score more than 24+ and that’s only if we let one or two big plays break for them like at LSU. The D will swarm Snell, and Dawgs should cover easily. I expect it to get chippy and rough the first few series as the Cats are playing for the biggest game of their lives to date. Expect to see the stadium emptying in the 4th just like last week.


    • Joe Schmoe

      Disagree. The problem as that Chaney didn’t call any easy throws to get Fromm into his rhythm (quick slants, screens) AND that we abandoned the run way to early. Chaney was calling plays like Fromm was really feeling it which obviously wasn’t the case.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Walter Geiger

    were I chili cheese, i would come out running hurry up with an empty backfield, sending wideouts on deeper routes and the look for nauta and whomever is in the slot on shorter, crossing routes and running backs on short routes and screens. make their defense run like hell and limit their substitutions. after a heavy dose of that, then i would go smash mouth. but wdik


  13. Only way UK wins is if UGA turns it over 2+ times. Those are hard to predict, obviously, which is why I think UGA wins by 10 or so.


  14. ASEF

    Georgia’s defense is vastly superior to their offense. Georgia’s offense and their defense is about a wash statistically.

    So, Kirby is definitely going to play field position man-ball. Which means the game will remain within a margin of error longer than fans might like. That’s the downside to field position man-ball.

    The defense could and should create a lot of points in this game.


  15. The other Doug

    On offense…

    Run the ball early and often like we did against Florida. It’s ok if the score is 10-7 at the half. Just keep running the ball with a few passes sprinkled in. Once they get tired and/or commit more players to stopping the run, then we go pass heavy. Basically what we did against Florida.

    On defense….

    Play man coverage, and commit to the stopping (slowing?) the run. My biggest fear is the QB picking up a couple of advantageous 1st downs with his legs.

    Finally, don’t turn the ball over. We were -4 in turn over margin against LSU and +3 against UF. That’s huge.


  16. Jt10mc (the other one)

    I would submit to you that our OL put it together. This is the 5th game they will start as a unit this season. They are beginning to solidify. Moreover Florida in the second half had 40 yards rushing from the RB position and it wasn’t because they were in pass mode. That didn’t happen until 8 minutes left in the game.
    Our defense started to get stops on the ground game. I noticed Davis was double teamed a lot as he was owning the center.

    I think the team as a whole came together. We shall see tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Whiskeydawg

    Dawgs 38 – 17 and we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about. Now, back to the punch bowl – this stuff is good.


  18. SouthernYank

    UGA 31
    UK 17


  19. Bulldog Joe

    Don’t pass up the opportunity to get points.

    Rodrigo will be key in this one, just like our last trip there.


  20. DoubleDawg1318

    Dawgs 27-13 over UK. It will be similar to the 2017 USCe game where the score is technically close but Kentucky never really threatens to close the margin. Snell will get his between the 20’s and we will firm up in the redzone.


  21. doofusdawg

    Writer is dreaming if he thinks we score only one touchdown, 31-20 dawgs and I’m giving us no chance to stop the run.


  22. Russ

    Reading all the talk from Kentucky and I think they are too high right now. Not sure how they will handle getting down/behind. Of course, they are the older team so you’d think they could handle it, but it just sounds like they are trying to convince themselves they belong. If we can get up on them and keep pressure on them, i think they will crumble.


  23. Dovetailing on the charmed season train of thought, special teams, more often than not, help teams get to that charmed season. This season, UK’s special teams aren’t doing that.

    Camarda’s LSU game was an outlier, so hitting his average is all UGA needs. I don’t expect much from Mecole on punt return because UK has been good in that area this season. However, UK is only forcing a touchback on 47% of kickoffs, so odds are Mecole gets at least one chance there.

    Finally, the UK kicker is terrible, so IF the game comes down to three points or less, having Hot Rod in our back pocket is a huge advantage.


  24. Castleberry

    I hope you all are right. Dawgs roll…., but

    My heart and mind are telling me 27-21 Dawgs. I heard the same prediction on CBC podcast and it really sank in. To answer the Senator’s “Why” question, I’ll point back at the LSU game. Those guys were playing with nothing to lose and found success on 4th down. That got them up early, wore out our D, and caused our coaches to panic.

    Stoops and company are in a similar spot. Why not be aggressive and take some 4th down shots? If we don’t jump out to an early lead I can see a similar game. I still think we get it done, but it’s a grinder where we score early in the 4th and lock it down.


    • LSU is better on offense than Kentucky.


      • William (the other one)

        True, but that does not allay fears. We have a tendency to give up rushing yards, and KY thrives on that. They will pound and use their mobile QB to make up the difference. We will struggle because we can crowd the box, but do you think we have a LB capable of shadowing their QB? Asking for a friend….


        • Castleberry

          I think we will manage it, but they will also bust loose and get some big plays or scores. I sure hope I’m wrong. I do think we win, but I’m bracing for a bumpy ride. FWIW, I was certain we would roll LSU and maybe channeling my inner-Munson to avoid the same level of disappointment again.


  25. W Cobb Dawg

    Earlier this season Kirby talked about the ability to ‘go big’ on the DL. I expect we go with an extra DL or LB instead of the 5 DBs we used during much of last week’s game. Wouldn’t bother me to see a bigger safety like Reese getting more playing time in a game like this.


  26. Milledge Hall

    Cut Yo Ass Loose!!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Shewdawg

    “Barring a barrage of turnovers…” THIS.