University of Kentucky at a glance:
Location: Lexington, KY
2018 record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC). Won: Central Michigan, Florida, Murray State, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Penn State. Lost: Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee.
Series Record: Georgia leads 58-12-2
Head Coach: Mark Stoops, 36-39 as a head coach, but successful stints as a defensive coach and coordinator at Miami, Arizona, and Florida State (he picked a good time to leave).
Home Stadium: Kroger Field. Capacity around 61,000. From the ukathletics.com website: “And indeed, a 107-95-4 record and a .529 winning percentage is evidence that Kroger Field is a home-field advantage for the Wildcats.” Okay, I’ll keep reading, this sounds like fun. But the game is in Athens. So much for that.
Alumnus of Note: Nobel Prize winner Thomas Hunt Morgan, NFL Hall of Famer George Blanda, some Judds, significant portions of the NBA, and Harry Dean Stanton.
School Motto: Is it basketball season yet?
Gameday: October 19. Time TBD
A Preview of Football Things:
The 2018 tilt of Georgia Bulldogs visiting the Kentucky Wildcats had the SEC East title in the balance. It really, honestly did. Thankfully, the Red and Black left Lexington victorious. Kentucky did finish strong though, winning it’s last 3 games including a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. For that alone, I was a Kentucky fan for a day.
Coach Stoops now has to deal with raised expectations. That happens when you have the first 10-win season in the last 40 years. It becomes difficult when you lose some of the most transcendent players in your program’s history.
The defensive-minded Head ‘Cat is only returning 4 starters from their 2018 defense, one that ranked 23rd in the nation in total D and 6th in the nation in scoring D. Stoops definitely has aforementioned chops on that side of the ball, but it is hard to ignore most of the 2018 success centered around Josh Allen. The havoc-wreaking defensive end/backer recorded 17 sacks and had over 20 tackles for loss, leading to the 7th overall pick in this spring’s NFL draft. Replacing that will be improbable, if nigh impossible. They also lost most of their defensive backfield and the top interceptors.
It’s a similar situation on offense. Three year stud Bennie Snell Jr. was a do everything and do it very well back for OC Eddie Gran. Snell ran it almost 300 times last season, averaging over 5 yards per carry. Surprisingly he didn’t catch it out of the backfield much, going 6 games without a reception. The “Wildcat” offense ran through Snell, and if you can succeed when everyone in the stadium knows the ball is coming to you, then you’re pretty good. UK likes it’s chances with junior Azim Rose stepping into Snell’s starting spikes.
The 2018 offense was almost a liability sometimes, even with Bennie Snell in the backfield. Ranking 103rd in total offense is a direct result of ranking 117th in passing offense. Signal caller Terry Wilson returns under center. He was fairly accurate, but he simply didn’t throw downfield much or successfully. The former Oregon transfer does have good legs and great mobility, however they will be looking to have better results through the air with Snell departed for the NFL and returning Lynn Bowden, the top Wildcat wide-out from last year.
Key starters on all sides of the ball graduated or were drafted, so Coach Stoops is faced with a monumental task of keeping up the momentum. He has continued to recruit well, and there is no question he is building something not seen since Rich Brooks. Stoops has preached patience, and it paid off. The question does remain, however, if those efforts can pay off with sustained success, or if Allen and Snell alone carried the team on their shoulders.
If forced to play the “matchup game”, Georgia clearly has the advantage. Our strengths will be a veteran quarterback who can throw an out pattern; Kentucky is replacing it’s best coverage guys. We have an immense and talented offensive line; UK just doesn’t have the stars or depth to get in the backfield nor likely stop a stable of stud running backs. The Georgia defensive backfield looks to be our best unit; Kentucky returns their best receiver but that was hardly a game-changing threat. Oh, and we have a Rodrigo.
Considering those factors, this mid-October game shouldn’t be too much for our Bulldogs to handle. Coming off a trip to the ACL graveyard of Neyland two weeks prior, a home game against the Gamecocks immediately before, and a bye week coming up after (with the Cocktail Party on the horizon), one could make the argument this will be a trap game. Me? Coach Kirby Smart is looking to eliminate the “come out flat” obstacle and Do More. I think they will Do More against UK.
Score Prediction Sure to Be Wrong: Georgia 41 - Kentucky 13.
And as always: