In my tireless efforts to bring you a thorough statistical breakdown of the Bulldogs' upcoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats, I have examined the respective combatants' numbers on offense and defense, which leaves the kicking game yet to be considered.
The Bluegrass State Felines' Keenan Burton is the S.E.C.'s second-leading kick returner, which helps explain why U.K. is the league's second-best kickoff return team, averaging 25.3 yards per return. Georgia does not trail far behind, with 21.1 yards per kick return, and the 'Cats and the 'Dawgs are two of only three Southeastern Conference squads to have brought a kickoff back for a touchdown.
How 'bout if we kick it away from this guy? (Photograph from The Kentucky Kernel.)
The Classic City Canines' Mikey Henderson is the S.E.C.'s second-leading punt returner, which helps explain why the Red and Black are the league's second-best punt return team, averaging 16.4 yards per return. The Blue and White rank first in the conference in punt returns, with 17.4 yards per return, although Kentucky has yet to return a punt for a score this season, whereas the 'Dawgs have brought back a league-leading three punts for touchdowns.
Both teams punt the ball well, with Georgia's Gordon Ely-Kelso holding a slight advantage (41.1 yards per punt) over Kentucky's Tim Masthay (39.3 yards per punt) but the Wildcats holding a slight advantage (36.2 net yards per punt) over the Bulldogs (34.6 net yards per punt).
I hope the game does not come down to a field goal, but, if it does, the Red and Black hold a distinct advantage. Georgia has split the uprights on an S.E.C.-leading 85.7 per cent of its field goal attempts and, despite having a more limited range than Brandon Coutu, Andy Bailey has connected on five of his six three-point tries.
Andy is no Boss and he's certainly no Champ, but he's a fine Bailey and it's a good thing his brother, George, rescued him when he fell through the ice while they were sledding across the frozen pond as children. (Photograph from Athens Banner-Herald.)
Kentucky, on the other hand, ranks 11th in the league in field goal percentage (55.6%). Lones Seiber made 41-yarders against Ole Miss and Mississippi State but failed to convert attempts of 44 yards against the Western Division Bulldogs and 45 yards against the Gamecocks, so it could matter a great deal whether the 'Dawgs allow the Blue and White to cross their 25 yard line.
Masthay has had a punt blocked and Seiber has had a field goal blocked.
In sum, tomorrow's combatants are about equally matched in the return game, but the Bulldogs hold a slight edge in field goal kicking, in consistency if not necessarily in range.
That just leaves us with a few odds and ends, followed by my prediction of the final score, so stay tuned. . . .