It is time once again to provide my weekly breakdown of Georgia's upcoming opponent. Saturday's game will be a fight between 'Cats and 'Dawgs as the Red and Black travel to the Bluegrass State to take on Kentucky, a team I previewed before the season began.
As Paul Westerdawg has noted, this is a big game for the Wildcats, which makes it a big game for the Bulldogs, as well. Consequently, using the format I introduced last week, I will now provide you not a bit of insight . . . not a healthy portion of data . . . but, rather, Too Much Information!
We begin on the offensive side of the ball, where this Saturday's combatants are relatively evenly matched. Kentucky and Georgia rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in scoring offense among S.E.C. squads. Both teams have tallied 27 touchdowns in 2006. U.K. averages 5.4 yards per play offensively, a little over three and a half inches more than the 5.3 yards per play gained by the 'Dawgs.
Although the Wildcats hold a slight edge in scoring, averaging 25.4 points per game to the Bulldogs' 24.9, the Classic City Canines are the better team against league competition. Georgia is scoring 21.3 points per game in conference contests, whereas U.K. is managing just 17.8 points per outing against S.E.C. competition.
The strength of the Kentucky offense is in its passing game. The Wildcats rank third in the league in aerial offense, averaging 249.1 passing yards per contest. The Blue and White have attempted the S.E.C.'s second-most forward passes (258) and have thrown the conference's highest number of touchdown passes (18).
Georgia is well behind the Bluegrass State Felines in aerial proficiency, as the Bulldogs' 183.1 passing yards per game are the fourth-fewest in the Southeastern Conference. However, the Red and Black have managed to earn exactly as many first downs on forward passes (77) as have the Wildcats.
Junior quarterback Andre Woodson is second only to Tennessee's Erik Ainge as the S.E.C.'s most prolific passer, as he connects on 58.0 per cent of his attempts and averages 240.1 yards per game through the air. Fortunately for the Georgia D, Woodson also is second only to Auburn's Brandon Cox as the S.E.C.'s least mobile signal-caller, as he has lost 91 yards on rushing attempts.
There hasn't been a less elusive Kentucky quarterback since the Hefty Lefty.
Woodson's favorite target is Keenan Burton, who leads the league in all-purpose yards and hauls in nearly five catches per game for over 75 receiving yards per contest. The Wildcats have scored 10 passing touchdowns on 28 drives into the red zone, tying them for the most such scores in the conference.
Despite having been part of a three-headed round-robin under center for much of the season, Matthew Stafford ranks 10th in the league in passing yards per game (111.1) and in total offense per game (118.9 yards). As an every-down player against Mississippi State and Florida, he has averaged 209.0 passing yards per contest in his last two outings.
Georgia and Kentucky also are comparable teams when it comes to running the ball, though this fact is to neither team's credit. The Bulldogs' 123.9 yards per game on the ground rank them ninth in the league in rushing offense, while the Wildcats' 82.8 yards per contest on running plays put them 11th in the conference standings in that category.
Only one team in the S.E.C. averages fewer yards per carry than the 2.8 tallied by the Blue and White. Only one conference squad has gained fewer first downs on running plays than the 50 managed by the Wildcats. The seven rushing touchdowns scored by U.K. inside the red zone are the second-fewest in the Southeastern Conference. No team in the league has run the ball fewer times (233), gained fewer yards on the ground (662), or scored fewer rushing touchdowns (8) than U.K.
Georgia has done a bit better at making the most of its underachieving ground game. Kregg Lumpkin averages more yards per carry (5.3) than Auburn's Kenny Irons, Brannan Southerland has scored seven touchdowns on the season, and the 'Dawgs have scored the conference's fourth-highest total of rushing touchdowns (14). Once inside the opponent's 20 yard line, the Red and Black have scored more T.D.s on running plays (13) than any team in the league except L.S.U.
Run the dang ball.
While demonstrating a proficiency seldom seen since the Hal Mumme era, the Kentucky offense has been hampered not only by its one-dimensional nature, but by its inability to sustain drives. The U.K. offensive line has surrendered the second-most sacks in the league (24) and only Ole Miss has earned fewer first downs than the 139 gained by the Wildcats.
We all know about Georgia's third-down woes this season, as the 'Dawgs have moved the chains on just 34.6 per cent of their third-down tries; Mississippi State (34.7%) and Vanderbilt (34.8%) are converting third downs at a better clip. However, the Wildcats are even worse, picking up a fresh set of downs just 34.0 per cent of the time. When forced to go for it on fourth down, U.K. gains the requisite yardage on 60.0 per cent of its attempts, a rate which trails Georgia's 70.0 per cent fourth-down conversion rate.
While the two squads' respective offenses have differing strengths, each is about equally adept at putting points on the board; Georgia has scored 20.3 points per game against B.C.S. conference competition, whereas Kentucky has averaged 19.5 points per outing when facing major conference opposition.
Given the Bulldogs' disturbing propensity for stopping themselves offensively, the fact that the two teams appear evenly matched is cause for concern. Therefore, I hope to be able to assuage some of your fears in my next installment, when I will break down the defensive units of the 'Cats and the 'Dawgs.
To be continued. . . .