This Saturday afternoon---actually, pretty much this Saturday at noon---the Georgia Bulldogs will host the Kentucky Wildcats on Senior Day with the opportunity to win the Eastern Division and claim a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Though Kentucky ruined Senior Day on the Wildcats’ last trip to Sanford Stadium, this Blue and White club stinks, which is why you should enjoy examining the historical and statistical minutiae as I bring you not a dollop of data, nor an increment of insight, but, rather, Too Much Information:
All right, let’s get this out of the way, right off the bat: Kentucky has lost four of its first six SEC games by 28 or more points. Which, um, yeah, wow.
It takes a total team effort to be that bad, so we might as well start with the defense of the Wildcats, or, as I like to call them, the Wil_cats, because they have no D. When facing SEC competition, Kentucky ranks 11th in the league against the pass (217.2 yards per game allowed), 11th against the run (234.0 yards per game allowed), 11th in total defense (451.2 yards per game allowed), and 12th in scoring defense (36.0 points per game allowed).
It’s not easy to be that awesomely bad, but the offense [sic] manages to keep pace. Against conference competition, Kentucky ranks 11th in the SEC in scoring offense (12.3 points per game), 11th in rushing offense (94.5 yards per game), 11th in passing offense (149.8 yards per game), and 12th in total offense (244.3 yards per game).
How do the Blue and White manage to be so bad on offense? Their formula for failure includes keeping the sticks at a standstill, preserving ball insecurity, and running a "little play" offense. I am not being facetious: Kentucky ranks tenth in the conference in turnover margin (-2), 12th in third-down conversions (29.2%), 12th in first downs (15.0 per game), and 12th in long scrimmage plays.
Regarding the latter category, the Wildcats have had only 93 plays gain ten or more yards. Vanderbilt, which ranks 11th in the league in long scrimmage plays, has 120. The Blue and White have had only 23 plays go for 20 or more yards, and only a dozen pick up 30 or more yards. The Georgia defense, meanwhile, has given up just 25 plays of 20 yards or more, the third-fewest in the SEC.
Georgia leads the all-time series with Kentucky, 50-12-2, with 25 of those wins coming between the hedges. The Wildcats, who won on their last trip to Athens, have never emerged victorious from consecutive engagements in the Classic City. Joker Phillips has never won a conference road game as a head coach.
The Bulldogs have never lost to Kentucky in Sanford Stadium in a season in which the Red and Black beat both Florida and Auburn. Georgia is 7-0 against the Bluegrass State Bobcats in home games during autumns in which the ‘Dawgs defeated both orange-and-blue-clad rivals. In fact, the only time the Classic City Canines lost to Kentucky in a fall in which the Athenians overcame the Gators and the Plainsmen was in 1947, when Georgia fell, 26-0, in Lexington.
The Bulldogs come into their tilt with the Wildcats riding an eight-game winning streak. The Blue and White have never snapped a Red and Black winning streak of longer than two games.
Kentucky ranks squarely in the bottom half of the SEC, checking in at 11th in the latest SEC Power Poll. In that balloting, the Wildcats trail the Florida Gators, Vanderbilt Commodores, Mississippi St. Bulldogs, and Tennessee Volunteers from seventh through tenth, and rank ahead of the 12th-ranked Mississippi Rebels. The Bulldogs beat the other five bottom-dwellers by margins of four, five, 14, eight, and 14 points, respectively. While it would take a lot for the ‘Dawgs to lose to the ‘Cats, the Red and Black are capable of letting the Blue and White keep this much closer than it ought to be.
Georgia is ranked fourth nationally in total defense. Kentucky is ranked 118th nationally in total offense. Todd Grantham’s goal should be a shutout. No, I don’t mean holding the Wildcats to zero points; I mean holding the Wildcats to zero yards.
I have nothing whatsoever against Kentucky. I bear neither their team nor their coaches nor their fans any ill will of any sort. Glenn Logan, the proprietor of A Sea of Blue, is a respected colleague, and I got along very well with him when I finally met him face to face at the SB Nation blogger conference in Las Vegas last summer. As far as I’m concerned, the Wildcats and their boosters are good people.
Having said that, I want Georgia to beat Kentucky so badly, it makes Ashley Judd cry, and not just on the inside. I don’t mean shedding a single tear of sorrow, like the Indian in the litter commercial, either; I mean sobbing uncontrollably like a toddler who’s just dropped a lollipop down a sewer grate.
It isn’t as though a lopsided win over the Wildcats would be aberrational for the Mark Richt era. Aside from two-score victories over Kentucky in 2001 and 2010, Georgia has had a recent four-year run of struggling with the Blue and White, which was preceded by another four-season stretch of absolute domination. The period from 2006 to 2009 featured a four-point loss, an 11-point win, a four-point win, and a seven-point loss. Before that, however, the ‘Dawgs throttled the ‘Cats from 2002 to 2005, by scores of 52-24, 30-10, 62-17, and 45-13. After the last two weekends, during which the Bulldogs have outscored the opposition by a combined 84-10 margin before halftime, I’m expecting a similarly lopsided score this Saturday.
My Prediction: Georgia 49, Kentucky 14.