Kentucky Wildcats Football: An early look at the Georgia game


Georgia – November 19, 2011 – Athens, GA

The Bulldogs had what most teams would consider a bad season last year. In Athens though, it was catastrophic. They finished with a 3-5 record in the SEC and a 6-7 record overall, including a bowl loss to Central Florida. Georgia will be looking to bounce back in 2011 and will have to do so without most of their rushing production from last season. Leading Rusher Washaun Ealey transferred to Jacksonville State this spring and top reserve Caleb King was deemed ineligible this summer. The Bulldogs do have the nation’s top rated running back coming in to shore up the position in Isaiah Crowell, but he is still a freshman and does come with some injury concerns. Kentucky will be coming into town right after Georgia’s home game against Auburn and week before they take on their interstate rival Georgia Tech.

Why Kentucky will win…
The Bulldogs have a roster stacked with talent, but then again they always do and that hasn’t stopped the Wildcats from knocking them off in 2006 and 2009, when the talent gap between the two teams was arguably much greater. Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton shouldn’t be shaken at all by traveling to Athens after his victory there as a true freshman and shouldn’t be the slightest bit intimidated of a Bulldog defensive backfield that was underwhelming for most of last season. The Georgia defensive front seven will be in the second year of their transformation into a 3-4 defense and might still be susceptible to a slip up here or there and Kentucky has the offensive line to exploit them. The Georgia rushing attack is likely to be lead by either a 5’7 lightly-used junior(Carlton Thomas, who UK held to 6 carries for 12 yards in ’10), a true freshman(Crowell), a redshirt freshman(6’0/225 Ken Malcome), or a converted linebacker(6’2/243 Richard Samuel). Regardless of who is carrying the ball, there will be some concerns and the Kentucky defense will surely be looking for the strip on just about every play. The Bulldog offense will also be without playmaker A.J. Green at wide receiver and will have to find a replacement for a guy that accounted for 25% of the teams total receptions, total receiving yards, and 9 of their 25 receiving touchdowns. Not so easy to do. The Bulldogs will also feature an offensive line that is susceptible to the speed rushers Kentucky will have flying off the edge. More than anything else, the Wildcats will feature at least 20 players from the Peach State that were mostly overlooked by their “home team,” and I think that that’s one of the primary reasons UK always seems to play Georgia well. Expect these guys to play with a sizable chip on their shoulders.

Kentucky will lose if…
The Cats do not execute their game plan and keep Georgia alive with turnovers. The Wildcats will not have the comforts of Commonwealth Stadium to ease them and the younger players will quickly see how hostile Sanford Stadium can be. The Bulldogs will probably have sophomore Aaron Murray under center and he is a dangerous passer. If the defense makes mistakes in coverage, Murray will light them up and the Wildcats might find themselves in an early whole they cannot get out of. Much will be made this year about the lack of depth at running back for the Bulldogs, but freshman Isaiah Crowell was one of the top running backs in the country for a reason. He has the size/speed combination to have a Marcus Lattimore impact for the offense. The Bulldog defense will be in its second year of the switch to a 3-4 formation and should be improved. Kentucky’s offensive line has to give Newton time to throw, but as the biggest strength of the entire team, that shouldn’t be an issue. The real concern is going to be the tight ends and running backs. The blitz-happy scheme the Bulldogs employ will match these guys up against defensive ends and linebackers regularly and they will have to be able to pick up the extra rushers or Newton might spend most of the game on his back. To add to everything else, the team might be playing to save Mark Richt’s job by the time Kentucky comes to town.

What I think happens…
The Cats come out slow and see Georgia score a couple of easy touchdowns early in the game. After a halftime reaming by Joker, they look better in the second half but are just not able to get any breaks. Newton has a good game and Ray Sanders sets career marks in rushing and receiving, but Georgia holds on to beat the Wildcats in a game closer than predicted.

Final Score: UGA 31 – UK 27

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