Here is what I’m NOT worried about come Saturday afternoon’s kickoff:
1) The hype. I’ve seen it stated in local Kentucky journalism that the game is “this week’s highly anticipated showdown between the SEC East rivals.” (kyforward.com). Did I miss something? Kentucky is a very solid football team as we’ll explore below, and certainly capable of winning Saturday, but when did they become a football rival of UGA? Did they change their color scheme to orange? I mean, I know it’s not completely one-sided, but still.
Maybe it’s the recency bias. Bama holds a 52-25-5 record versus LSU, and have won the last 7. They certainly call that a rivalry, and the biggest game of the college football season to date. Georgia holds a 57-12-2 ledger versus the Felines from Frankfort, winning 8 straight. So maybe we’re rivals after all. Does that mean we’re rivals in basketball too? Okay, moving along.
2) Lynn Bowden. He’s the top Wildcat pass-catcher, at 57 yards per game. I think a certain #18 in white, with a red helmet, will take care of Mr. Bowden.
3) The UGA rushing defense. Whatever data points would lead one to focus one’s concern on such a thing? Are teams running on UGA? Yes. Are they running it with frequency? Yes. But are they having success? Gosh yes. Throwing Tennessee out of the equation (not only because they’re an outlier, but because I like to throw them out of anything), the rushing defense the last few games are thus:
38 rushes for 158 yards
37 rushes for 172 yards (4 TDs)
29 rushes for 138 yards (1 TD)
51 rushes for 275 yards (3 TDs)
37 rushes for 170 yards (1 TD)
Only 1 of those teams would be considered a good passing team, and that’s the one that scored 4 times on the ground. So all the facts are pointing to a very good rushing team going up against a UGA defense that is operating at sieve-like levels. I just have a feeling that the right players will be in the right place, and will remember how to tackle at the right time. Call me crazy, I’m just not worried.
Your Georgia Bulldogs are now #6 in the CFP rankings, still in control of our destiny, and want to book a hotel in Norcross for early December. Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about this Saturday in the Commonwealth with backing vocals by Gary Danielson:
1) Allen is Coming. Senior Wildcat backer Josh Allen is as good as they come. At 6-5 and 258 lbs, Allen is one of the best outside linebackers in the country, and will be a first rounder come the 2019 NFL draft. He’s been the SEC Defensive Player of the Week multiple times, was the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week, and is currently a Bednarik and Butkus Award semifinalist.
Why? He has 35 solo tackles and 56 total (1&2 for UK). He has 10 sacks, which leads the SEC and is 3rd nationally in Tackles For Loss. Six of his ten sacks have come in the fourth quarter – ending comebacks which the Lexingtonians used to provide to opponents frequently. He’s also broken up 5 passes, so he gets out in coverage in addition to speed rushes to the quarterback. He is a wrecking crew. Andrew Thomas, Isaiah Wilson, and even Kendall Baker better be ready, because Josh Allen is certainly coming.
2) The Kentucky Wildcat Defense. I know, I had to check my spelling on that one. But they are for real this year. And not just Josh Allen mentioned above. The Kentuckians are #1 in the nation in scoring defense. Granted, their competition to date hasn’t exactly been Mayfield-esque, but #1 is still #1. They are #10 in total defense, thanks in large part to their 22 sacks.
It is a senior-laden bunch. Of their top 6 tacklers, 3 are DBs, 3 are LBs (as one would expect), but all are seniors other than Junior LB Kash Daniel. The top tackler Darius West (by a smidge over Josh Allen) is also a senior and happens to lead the ‘Cats in picks to boot. They are giving up about 108 yds a game on the ground, and about 186 through the air. I will say the numbers are inching up as they progress through the SEC schedule, but holding Mizzou to 14 points, and Texas A&M to 14 in regulation is still pretty stout.
3) Captain Obvious. Sorry, but you can’t talk Kentucky Wildcat football without addressing their All-SEC All-American. Yep, Benny Snell, Jr. What else would one say about the leading rusher in the conference? And it’s not so much a case of just stopping Snell. As was seen in the Missouri game, he is effective as a decoy. Thanks to #SECrefs (amiright?), UK gets a free untimed down on the 2 yard line. Snell is obviously going to get the ball, in this crucial situation where you’ve got just one chance and must go with the high percentage play and best chance of success. Nope, and UK wins it.
The Senior running back already holds several Wildcat records, and that isn’t too bad considering he’s chasing prolific offensive players like Randall Cobb, Andre’ Woodson, Tim Couch, and (my fave) Jared Lorenzen. He led the SEC last year in carries, yards, and rushing TDs, and is only the third SEC player to rush for 1,000 yards and 13 TDs in his first two seasons (joining a certain Knowshon and a certain Goal Line Stalker). He carries over a 5 yard average, and that is pretty good considering 2 of his last 3 outings are less than 70 yards (Missouri and A&M). In between that he hung 169 and a score on Vandy.
What worries you about
the annual Kentucky game SEC East Championship? Leave them in the comments below. And as always…