After an embarrassing display against Arkansas, Kentucky limps back to the confines of Commonwealth stadium with a 1-6 record. The first half of the season saw the Wildcats show off an impressive offense that has since been devastated by injuries, and an inept defense that has continually struggled to figure out how to stop the opposition. Georgia is coming off their bye week and still stinging from the 35-7 thumping they took at the hands of South Carolina. The Bulldogs will likely be out for blood and unfortunately for Kentucky, the Wildcats will limp into this game with a large portion of their roster unavailable.
What you really need to know about Georgia:
The Bulldogs are a top-ten talent that picked a really bad day to have an off game when they played South Carolina. The Bulldogs have relied on a 1-2 punch of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to fuel their ground game to an average of 226 yards per game and both players will likely flirt with 1,000 yard seasons this year in their freshman seasons. Quarterback Aaron Murray has been excellent for most of the year as well and is averaging just under 250 yards a game through the air. The Georgia defense has been very good, but has had lapses in play that have allowed opponents to average 24 points per game and 373 yards of total offense. In short, the Georgia defense has been adequate, because the offense has out-gunned almost every team they’ve played.
The players you really need to know for Georgia:
#11 – Aaron Murray – QB
Murray is widely considered one of the top 2-3 quarterbacks in the SEC and he hasn’t disappointed this season. His big arm has allowed a ridiculous ten different players to average over 10 yards-per-catch this season and he can absolutely pick apart a defensive backfield.
#29 – Jarvis Jones – LB
Jones was one of the most highly sought recruits as a high school senior and he has become the heart and would of the Georgia defense in only his sophomore season. He has piled up 9.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, an interception (returned for 21 yards), 3 forced fumbles, and a whopping 15 quarterback hurries. He is a one man wrecking crew that Kentucky’s offense will have to contain if they hope to move the ball.
#6 – John Jenkins – NG
It’s rare that a nose guard can control the flow of the game, but Jenkins does. He’s a monster at 6’3 and 358 pounds and requires double and triple teams on every single play. His stat line is relatively mundane at 23 total tackles, only one tackle for a loss, and no sacks, but his ability to occupy multiple blockers is a huge factor in some of the other defensive players ability to make plays.
#4 – Keith Marshall – RB
Gurley gets most of the publicity, and he probably earns most of it, but Marshall is a beast in his own right. Gurley may get more carries, but Marshall edges him out in yards-per-carry average at 7.3 and is rarely taken down in the backfield. The 5’11, 215 pound bowling ball is as tough to take down as any true freshman in the country.
Top 3 match ups to watch:
UK’s Jalen Whitlow vs. UG’s Jarvis Jones
Whitlow probably thought he had seen the worst he would get this season when Jadeveon Clowney left town, but Jones might be just as dangerous. Whitlow will have to make sure he is accounted for on every play and the freshman quarterback will need to make sure he gets the ball out of his hands quickly.
UK’s JD Harmon vs. UG’s Marlon Brown
It’s never ideal to have a walk-on true freshman cornerback line up against a monstrous senior receiver, but that might be what Kentucky has to do against Georgia. Brown is 6’5 and is just too big of a target for Cartier Rice to defend one-on-one. Harmon is 6’2 and can physically matchup better with Brown, but will have a severe disadvantage in experience. If he can’t at least slow Brown down, he could have a career day against UK.
UK’s Matt Smith vs. UG’s John Jenkins
It’s probably not fair to expect Kentucky’s center to take on Jenkins one-on-one, but the less help he needs the better. If Smith can survive with Larry Warford and Zach West just chipping Jenkins on their way to the linebackers, Kentucky’s ground game will be much more successful. If it takes two or three men to stop Jenkins, Georgia’s linebackers will be free to make plays all night.
Potential breakout players:
#2 – Bud Dupree – LB
Dupree has been solid this season, but hasn’t really lived up to the lofty expectations he carried coming into the season. Playing against his home-state team will give him a chance to get payback for the Bulldogs overlooking him.
#4 – Raymond Sanders – RB
Sanders has had a rough season so far, but seems to always play big against Georgia. With the Kentucky passing game looking as inept as ever against Arkansas, he should get plenty of touches against the Bulldogs.
#9 – Demarco Robinson – WR
Robinson has yet to make the type of electric plays that made him the breakout star of the spring game. Luke Dupree and Sanders, Robinson could also find extra motivation as a native Georgian.
Key for a Kentucky win:
Stopping the Georgia ground game will be a tall order, but its Kentucky’s best chance at knocking off Georgia. So much of what this offense does is based on a bruising ground game that taking that aspect of their attack away disrupts their entire gameplan. Of course, this also might leave one of the youngest defensive backfields in the country vulnerable to being beat deep. Selling out to stop the run and pressure Murray might be the only shot the Wildcats really have.
Georgia 56 – Kentucky 7