Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:
1. UGA Running Game. I’ve said this the last two games, too, but with disastrous results. Either I win with stubbornness; or my keyboard continues to mysteriously and remotely affect the outcomes of large, powerful men in a physical contest against other large, powerful men, all directed by experienced, successful, and richly-compensated men. I’m thinking I win with stubbornness.
2. Turnovers. Earlier in the season, many voiced concerns about not converting valuable turnovers into UGA points. In my opinion, the opportunity has been squandered and there are many other reasons our ledger reads 4-4. Georgia is #3 in the SEC in turnover margin (+6), and Kentucky is dead last (-14). Ball control is not a problem. Our backs have protected the ball well (with decidedly fewer runs), and our freshman QB hasn’t thrown a pick since that red zone hot potato against South Carolina.
Kentucky has lost 12 fumbles so far and thrown 8 picks. The interceptions are skewed by 3 in the Florida game alone, and by a quarterback who has since been replaced (back injury), and thus a change in offensive philosophy. So even if UK has cornered the market on stick’um, a UGA fan should not reasonably be worried about the turnover battle Saturday night.
3. Alexander Memorial Coliseum. These Kentucky fans are already harping that they have an outside chance of winning the SEC East and making it back to “Cat-lanta”. One, they need Florida to implode and two, they need to leap over Tennessee in the process. But if it happens, I’m hoping Anonymous or a Russian hacking group can replace their campus intranet with continuous loops of the SEC Storied documentary Miracle 3. That would please me.
Here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:
1. Kentucky Running Game. The Wildcats return junior Sonny “Boom” Williams, and the Monroe, Georgia native has racked up 821 yards and 3 TDs on the season, while splitting field time. His sub is an outstanding freshman named Benny Snell, who adds 661 yards so far and has hit pay dirt 8 times. Stoops & Co. have really emphasized the wildcat formation, and this duo is executing it well. After season-starting and pocket-passing QB Drew Barker went down with an injury, the Wildcats have turned into a creative run-first team including sweeps, trick plays, and that previously mentioned wildcat backfield.
I usually look for trends to define the character of our team, but this one is troubling me. UGA has the #3 rushing defense in the conference, yet I wonder if this is misleading. I consider only Tennessee and North Carolina as Georgia opponents who had an established running game with top-tier running back talent. We did hold both of those ground attacks to less than 170 yards each, mind you. I just don’t see another program on our schedule thus far that was as skilled. So now I’m worried we’re about to face a dedicated, confident, schematically complex, and sound execution rushing offense.
2. Speaking of confidence… Above I mentioned that the Kentucky faithful see a path to Atlanta, though it is as slim or slimmer than our own bowl chances. They are, however, extremely confident in the ability to go bowling this year. They’ve won 3 straight, having a winning record in the SEC in November, and I think their SB Nation site actually still has some visitors to the football section after the Autumnal Equinox.
One would counter that the cumulative win-loss record of their 2016 opponents so far is 34-29, and that includes a 6-1 Florida and an undefeated Alabama. They’ve beaten 3 teams with losing records, and 2 teams with .500 records. The two ranked teams they’ve faced have blown them out (see: UGA @ Ole Miss-style). It doesn’t take away that this team was seen in September as another lost season, and Kentucky has legitimately improved throughout the season. They are riding a winning streak and these Wildcats are poised and confident, and that is dangerous.
3. Injuries. I have devolved from statistics-based reasoning to full-on superstitious fingernail chewing. Georgia started the season with a star running back on the bench, a bigger star running back with a questionable comeback schedule, and only a few pulled hamstrings here and there. We’ve run through some very tough defenses relatively unscathed. Sure we had some dings in the Florida game, but nothing that affects the starting lineup to a large degree.
And I want to know why not? What kind of witchcraft is being practiced in the bowels of Butts-Mehre? We know we cannot have nice things, and we know the risks that arise from #PlayingWhileGeorgia. We’re traveling to a commonwealth for God’s sake, one that’s known for gambling and brown likker, for a night game on the SEC network. You tell me you aren’t worried about injuries. Please, please tell me you aren’t worried.
What are the things that worry you about the football Wildcats? Put them in the comments below, and as always…