Kentucky played Vanderbilt pretty well in Nashville last week, but ultimately came up short in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate. This week the Wildcats will turn their attention to a banged up Georgia team that limps into this matchup on the heels of a painful last second loss to Auburn. Since the original posting, Kentucky has had multiple players suspended. This post has been updated in BLUE italics for additions and
RED Strikethrough for corrections.
When Kentucky has the ball:
The passing game has really never even gotten a chance to get going this season and it would be unlikely to surface against Georgia. Quarterback Jalen Whitlow had the roughest game in his young career against Vanderbilt completing only 14 of 28 attempts for a pedestrian 120 yards and throwing a career high four interceptions. The Georgia Bulldogs are typically much more susceptible to being beaten through the air than on the ground, so this does not necessarily bode well for Kentucky’s offense although the Bulldogs CAN be taken advantage of on the ground. Georgia has a young defense that, while athletic, can be prone to mistakes and missed assignments that Kentucky will need to play technically sound football to exploit. The three headed ground attack of
Raymond Sanders, Jojo Kemp, and Jalen Whitlow will likely be heavily relied upon in the event that the passing game does not develop early for the Wildcats. Without Sanders, Kentucky will likely rely on Dyshawn Mobley to help Whitlow and Kemp on the ground.
When Georgia has the ball:
The Bulldogs have suffered a laundry list of injuries this season and one could argue that the offense has suffered the most from these. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is closing out a prolific career as a four-year starter in Athens and should be ready to taken on an often porous Kentucky secondary. The Wildcats are expected to be without starting cornerback Nate Willis for this game and starting Safety Eric Dixon will miss the first half (after a controversial ejection for targeting last week) and this could allow Murray to go after the young and thin Kentucky secondary. Sophomore running back Todd Gurley has returned from injury and should be the team’s workhorse on the ground. Kentucky’s defense played surprisingly well against Vanderbilt and will hope to cascade that effort over into this week’s game.
Players to know for Georgia:
11 – Aaron Murray – QB
Standing at a generous 6’1, Murray has never had prototypical size for an SEC quarterback, but then again he’s never needed it either. As the unquestioned leader of the Georgia offense, Murray has thrown for 2,892 yards and 22 touchdowns this season despite numerous injuries to some of his offensive weapons. If Murray gets into an early rhythm against Kentucky, it could set up for a long game.
#17 – Rantavious Wooten – WR
Wooten is a do-it-all receiver for the Bulldogs that is versatile enough to split out wide or play in the slot. He currently leads his team in receiving touchdowns with 5 and has been consistently healthy enough to play in all ten games this year, which is actually an accomplishment. Kentucky has struggled against top-flight receivers this season and slowing down Wooten should be a top priority for the defense.
#51 – Ramik Wilson – LB
If Murray is the leader of the offense, there’s little doubt who the leader of the defense is. Wilson has been the team’s most effective and consistent player this season and he has been an absolute stat sheet stuffer. He has 110 total tackles this season, 9 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. More importantly, he is a technically sound player that reads offenses well and rarely falls for misdirection or trick plays,
Potential breakout players:
#18 – Glen Faulkner– DB
Starting safety Eric Dixon will be suspended for the first half of the Georgia game and this should provide Faulkner with the opportunity to see a significant increase in snaps. A former Army All-American, Faulkner played well lat week against Vanderbilt in some of the first meaningful minutes in his young career.
#9 – Demarco Robinson– WR Though he has had some bright spots in his time at Kentucky, Robinson has never really had a breakout game. Against his home-state team, Robinson should be one of Jalen Whitlow’s top options at receiver in addition to his duties as the team’s punt returner. The chance to play against the team that didn’t recruit him could be a prime opportunity for Robinson to show them what they missed out on. Robinson has been suspended and will not play in this game.
#13 – Jeff Badet – WR
The suspension of Demarco Robinson should allow Jeff Badet to see an expanded role in the Georgia game. He has been a reliable receiver with good hands and the athleticism to make plays in space. With Robinson suspended, Alex Montgomery injured, Ryan Timmons dinged up, and A.J. Legree and Daryl Collins being relegated to backup or situational roles, Badet should see a significant increase in targets this week and should be the team’s #2 receiver behind Javess Blue.
#94 – Za’Darius Smith– DE
After starting the season strong, Smith has taken a back seat to fellow defensive end Bud Dupree in the second half of the year. This week, the offensive line should justifiably focus additional blockers to Dupree’s side and this could leave Smith in a one-on-one with left tackle and former Kentucky commitment Kenarious Gates. With a substantial speed advantage, Smith could make the offensive coordinators life difficult.
The Georgia football team that Kentucky will play this weekend is certainly a different squad than the one that took down LSU earlier this year. Injuries or not though, solid recruiting classes have loaded the Bulldogs up at almost every position and they have managed to struggle through the rash of injuries to a 6-4 record. Despite the talent and experience gap, Kentucky has a chance in this game due to the injuries that the Bulldogs have sustained. If the Wildcats can control the tempo of the game by running the ball effectively and keeping Murray on the sidelines, then the chances go up significantly. Ultimately though, Kentucky’s passing game has just been to anemic this season and a young roster like the Wildcats have just cant afford to become one-dimensional against a team with Georgia’s talent. Murray will get his opportunities and injuries, suspensions, and a lack of depth in the Kentucky defensive backfield is just too much to overcome against a quarterback this good.
Kentucky 17 – Georgia 31