The Kentucky Wildcats are down in Athens for a showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs tonight and while there isn’t much on the line for either team, this game always promises to be a dog fight. The Wildcats are going up against, arguably, the best SEC QB in history in Aaron Murray but they’ve been bitten by the injury bug hard this year so don’t be fooled by their 6-4 record. They’ve got RB Todd Gurley back lining up behind Murray so our D-line better come to play because this is going to be a tough, tough match-up. Speaking of, let’s see how they match-up.
After throwing only one interception over Kentucky’s first nine games, Jalen Whitlow had four in UK’s loss at Vanderbilt. The sophomore from Prattville, Ala., has run for 214 yards in Kentucky’s prior three games. He is now tied for the team rushing lead (464 yards). Georgia’s Aaron Murray is already the SEC career leader in completions (903), TD passes (117), passing yards (12,983) and total offense (13,348 yards).
With a 60-yard rushing performance at Vanderbilt, senior Raymond Sanders (464) moved back ahead of true freshman Jojo Kemp (455) in the Kentucky rushing statistics. After missing three games with an ankle injury, Georgia sophomore Todd Gurley is back. In UGA’s crushing loss to Auburn, Gurley ran for 79 yards and a TD and caught 10 passes for 77 yards.
Over the past three games, Demarco Robinson has been UK’s top receiver with 12 catches, but the junior will sit out Saturday’s game after his indefinite suspension. Kentucky hopes true freshman Ryan Timmons (28 catches, two TDs) will be closer to full strength after a sprained ankle limited him to a few plays at Vanderbilt. Georgia fifth-year senior Rantavious Wooten has seen his role dramatically expanded as a result of injuries. He has 22 of his 24 receptions over the past six games. Leading receivers Chris Conley (32 catches) and Michael Bennett (31) have each missed two games due to injuries but are now back.
Kentucky senior Jordan Aumiller had a potentially crucial, late-game 45-yard reception at Vanderbilt nullified by a holding penalty. The Boyle County product has nine receptions on the season. Georgia senior Arthur Lynch has 19 catches for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Jay Rome has nine catches for 99 yards but missed the Auburn game with a foot injury.
Kentucky left tackle Darrian Miller and right guard Kevin Mitchell both left the Vandy game with injuries but are expected to play in Athens. Georgia senior left tackle Kenarious Gates once committed to UK, but switched allegiances after the home-state Bulldogs made a late scholarship offer. The 6-foot-5, 327-pound Grantville, Ga., product has started 36 career games.
With 10 tackles at Vanderbilt, senior tackle Donte Rumph had one of the most productive games by a Kentucky interior lineman in eons. Junior end Alvin “Bud” Dupree, an Irwinton, Ga., product, has 53 tackles and seven sacks for UK. In Georgia’s 3-4, senior nose guard Garrison Smith (51 tackles) is formidable. Junior end Ray Drew has six sacks.
UK senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson is third in the SEC with 88 tackles. He will play on the same field Saturday with the two players ahead of him on the league tackle list. Georgia inside linebackers Ramik Wilson, a junior, has 110 tackles and his classmate Amarlo Herrera has 91.
A four-star recruit and the jewel of Kentucky’s 2011 recruiting class, redshirt sophomore safety Glenn Faulkner is number one on the UK depth chart this week with Eric Dixon suspended for the first half after being ejected at Vandy for targeting. Georgia true freshman free safety Tray Matthews missed four games with a hamstring injury but returned to make 12 tackles against Auburn.
Kentucky special teams have wobbled the past two weeks. Place-kicker Joe Mansour had an extra-point blocked and returned for a defensive two-point conversion at Vanderbilt. For the second-straight game, Kentucky punter Landon Foster had a 13-yard punt. Georgia has surrendered a whopping four TDs (two blocked punt returns, a kickoff return and a fake field goal) on special teams. The Dawgs are 12th in the SEC in punt returns (3.5 yards), 13th in kickoff coverage and 14th in kickoff returns. In Marshall Morgan, UGA does have a top place-kicker (15-for-17 on field goals, long of 56).
Yes, I realize we are down a few players due to suspensions by head coach Mark Stoops for a “violation of team rules” but we still will be playing this game and anything can happen. Just ask Georgia about Auburn last week. That was some game, huh? I’m sure the sting of that loss will give Murray and Co. some extra motivation to come out red hot against the Wildcats but we aren’t without hope.
The wolves are howling for Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The Dawgs’ defense is ninth in the SEC in yards allowed (386.9 a game) and 11th in points allowed (30.2). Georgia has been especially vulnerable against the pass, standing 11th in passing yards surrendered (241.2 a game). Yet can a Kentucky offense that has scored 23 points combined in its last two SEC matchups find a way to take advantage of Georgia’s vulnerability?
Georgia is tied for last in the SEC in turnover margin (minus-8). Kentucky has been good in 2013 at recovering fumbles (10, second best in the league) but horrid at intercepting passes (one). Some short fields would be one way to provide the struggling Kentucky offense a boost.
Pressure Aaron Murray
It only seems like the senior Bulldogs quarterback played with Herschel Walker at Georgia. Murray is going out in style, currently ranking second in the SEC in passing yards (289.2 a game) and total offense (304.7 yards a game). To have any chance at an upset, the Kentucky pass rush needs to move Murray “off his spot” with pressure.
Is one of resignation. Year one of the Mark Stoops era has not yet produced an unexpected victory and time to do so is running thin. Kentucky also is dealing with inner turmoil, as evidenced by the suspensions Thursday of three key players. Georgia, beaten up by injuries and coming off a spirit-crushing loss on an Auburn Hail Mary, has issues of its own. Since 2006, Kentucky has beaten the Bulldogs twice and played them within single digits three other times. So UGA should not be sleeping on the Cats.