This morning, I looked at Georgia's and Kentucky's respective offenses, which are comparable in terms of point production. Due to the similarities between the two squads in this respect, the differences between the Bulldogs' and the Wildcats' defenses become all the more important. Therefore, we now turn our attention to the other side of the ball.
The problems with Georgia's defense are familiar to every denizen of Bulldog Nation. In seven games against B.C.S. conference opponents, the 'Dawgs have allowed 142 points . . . exactly the same number they have scored. The Red and Black rank seventh in the S.E.C. both in scoring defense and in pass defense, as the Classic City Canines surrender 169.1 aerial yards and 17.1 points per game.
On the other hand . . .
As the above photograph attests, however, there are some bright spots for the Bulldogs. First of all, after the Red and Black were outscored by a cumulative 71-24 margin in the second halves of their previous three outings, the Georgia defense pitched a second-half shutout against a Florida offense that ranks just above Kentucky's in scoring. Secondly, the 'Dawgs are giving up just 10.0 points per game in contests played outside the borders of the Peach State.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, U.K.'s defense is worse than Georgia's . . . so much so that I will do for the remainder of this posting what I did during last year's Kentucky statistical breakdown; namely, refer to the squad from Lexington as the Wil_cats, because they have no "D."
The Wil_cats rank 11th in the S.E.C. in pass efficiency defense, 11th in the S.E.C. in first downs allowed, 12th in the S.E.C. in third-down conversion percentage permitted, 12th in the S.E.C. in scoring defense, 12th in the S.E.C. in pass defense, 12th in the S.E.C. in rush defense, and 12th in the S.E.C. in total defense.
Kentucky surrenders 30.8 points per game overall, 28.8 points per game against conference competition, and 33.8 points per game against B.C.S. conference opponents. The 33 touchdowns given up by the Wil_cats are the most surrendered by any team in the league and the 21 touchdowns they have allowed in the red zone are the second-most in the S.E.C.
Against the pass, the Blue and White have tallied the S.E.C.'s second-fewest interceptions (7) while allowing the conference's most first downs on pass plays (89), most aerial yards per game (269.8), and second-most yards per pass (8.7).
In other words, if the second half in Jacksonville was Matthew Stafford's Flags in the Dust, Saturday in Lexington should be his The Sound and the Fury.
Opposing quarterbacks facing the Kentucky defense have completed 57.8 per cent of their passes and thrown a league-high 18 touchdown strikes . . . matching exactly the completion percentage and number of touchdown passes accounted for by the U.K. offense. Perhaps this explains why the 41 first-quarter points scored by the Blue and White offense have been offset precisely by the 41 first-quarter points permitted by the Kentucky defense.
Against the run, the Wil_cats have allowed the league's most rushing yards per game (185.9), most yards per carry (5.0), second-most rushing touchdowns (14), and third-most first downs on running plays (77). In fact, the U.K. defense has permitted exactly as many first downs on running plays as its prolific offense has gained on pass plays.
Overall, Kentucky surrenders a league-worst 455.6 yards per contest and the 6.7 yards per play gained by opposing offenses against the Blue and White are a full yard more than the number of yards per snap given up by the second-worst defensive team in the S.E.C.
The success of opposing offenses against the Wil_cats is aided by the fact that the Kentucky defense has registered the conference's fifth-lowest total of sacks (16) and third-fewest sack yards (87) while being the league's second-most penalized team (55.9 penalty yards per game).
This is not to say that the Wil_cats are entirely lacking in defensive stars, however. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is the league's second-leading tackler, trailing only Patrick Willis, and defensive tackle Myron Pryor has tallied four solo sacks this season.
Kentucky's special aptitude is for making the other guy put the ball on the ground. Pryor, Marcus McClinton, and Paul Warford have forced a combined nine fumbles, while Woodyard and Roger Williams each has a pair of fumble recoveries. All told, the Bluegrass State Felines have pounced on a conference-high 11 fumbles, while the 10 fumbles lost by the Bulldogs are the second-most in the S.E.C.
The 'Dawgs, for all their defensive inadequacies, have shown some promise, as the Red and Black have offset the seven touchdown passes they have surrendered with the eight interceptions they have snagged. The 6.1 yards per pass permitted to opposing offenses by the Bulldogs are the fourth-fewest allowed by S.E.C. squads.
Georgia ranks third in the conference in rushing defense and in total defense, giving up just 104.0 yards per game on the ground, 273.1 yards per game overall, 3.1 yards per rush, and 4.4 yards per play. Opposing offenses are attaining first-down yardage on third-down plays against the Bulldog D just 28.2 per cent of the time, the second-lowest rate in the league.
In short, I have concerns about the Georgia defense whenever I consider the fact that Kentucky has scored 44 third-quarter points and the 'Dawgs have allowed 44 third-quarter points . . . but those fears are allayed when I reflect upon the reality that the Red and Black have scored 110 second-half points and the 'Cats have surrendered 120 second-half points. Both defenses have their weaknesses, but, whereas the two offenses are fairly evenly matched, Georgia has a clear advantage on D.
To be continued. . . .