Here is what I’m NOT worried about from the visiting Gentlemen of the Commonwealth:
1) Kentucky has one of the top running back tandems in the country, with SEC leading Christopher Rodriguez, Sr. and Kavosiey Smoke (who is top 20 himself). They are putting up over 214 yards a game on the ground and at a 5.5 clip per carry. The 330+ yards they rushed for against Mizzou and LSU might not be the most startling considering the opposition, but 3 bills in the SEC is good no matter how you slice it.
Someone told me Georgia is pretty good against the run, holding opponents under their season averages. Okay, I’ll buy that.
2) The Wildcats have used that running game to control the clock and shorten the game. Even as they’ve gotten into conference play, they are trending to running the ball more often. Because of this, UK averages about 62 offensive plays a game – yet they are undefeated.
By contrast, Georgia has allowed an opponent to run more than 50 plays in 4 of its 6 games, and only 2 times above Kentucky’s average. Clemson ran 60 plays and scored… a field goal. UAB had 53 offensive snaps and did score a touchdown, just not on offense. South Carolina racked up 63 offensive plays (I think because we kicked off so much). How did that turn out? Gotcha. Auburn shockingly snapped it to Bo Nix 72 times for a grand total of (counts toes, notes lawnmower incident, uses fingers) 10 on the Jurdin Hair jumbotron. Okay, next?
3) So if Kentucky will be challenged to run the ball, and challenged to produce long scoring drives, they must rely on the pass (granting that we don’t give them defensive or special teams opportunities). In steps the now starting
Penn State quarterback Will Levis. He has been a gift of the transfer portal gods for Head Coach Mark Stoops, allowing Kentucky to actually fabricate a passing game – a big departure from the past few seasons. His coffee habit aside, the 151+ QB rating is courtesy of a 64% completion rate, 11 touchdowns thrown, and over 1,110 yards. Do you know who has comparable or better numbers, especially if you extrapolate to 6 starts? His initials are the Mailman. Methinks Levis will start pining for B1G defenses around 4:40 pm or so. Not to mention Levis has thrown 6 INTs on the season.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about the game versus the Grocery Baggers:
1) All of these things seem like the other. In 2018, Georgia and Kentucky faced off in the 2nd half of the regular season to de facto crown the SEC East Champion. Kentucky came out of the SEC cellar to rear their bluegrass head and challenge a pre-season hyped Georgia team that steadily climbed the ranks.
They had a monster defense thanks to an All-American edge rusher in Josh Allen. This season, the Wildcats sport Josh Paschall, who is an absolute beast. The 6’3” 278 lb senior has really stepped up this season, especially now that fellow DL Octavious Oxendine is injured and out for the season. (Doc Ock Ox??)
Kentucky also came into the 2018 contest with the conference’s best running back in Benny Snell, Jr. An all-arounder who set both school and conference records. And sure enough the Wildcats have finally found a replacement in junior Rodriguez, who is leading the SEC in rushing yards, yards per game, and is second in all-purpose yardage. Seems eerily familiar.
The last time all these happened, the Bulldogs took care of business early and wore down the Wildcats, essentially putting the game (and the division) away in the 3rd quarter. But isn’t the fact that the setup is so similar outright freaky? That this is the chance for payback or retribution? God forbid UK starts using the term “revenge tour”. It’s hard to repeat; I realize it’s been 3 years, but that doesn’t mean this will be easy.
2) “It’s not a quarterback controversy, it’s a competition.” Which is what I heard on sports talk radio earlier this week, referring to JT Daniels recovering from a fall practice injury and subsequently what to do with gamer-extraordinaire Stetson Bennett IV. The thinking essentially is that this is Daniels job, and everyone is grateful the “next man up” mentality has kept the Georgia offense humming along at a more than respectful rate.
No controversy, eh? Well if it’s a competition, I think JT won that handily last season, and held onto it during summer and fall camps. But we’ve seen under Kirby Smart that an injury can cause you to lose your starting job, no matter if your metrics far exceed anyone else (read: Eason, Jacob). I don’t see this as a competition, so what is it?
The question remains: do you ride the not-hot-but-pretty-dang-warm hand? Or go back to the arm, height, and eyes that have proven they can take you to the next level? To me, this is indeed a controversy.
3) Which one of these things is not like the other? We’ve seemingly always had a great tandem or 4 at running back. Georgia has a history of above average, and even hall of fame-level kickers. For a while there you could say UGA was actually Tight End U. And almost always field a strong defense. Then there’s the fact that we always seem to have some drama or questions at quarterback, at least under the current coaching regime. So nothing this season is dramatically different (other than the players) from most of the other seasons.
Therefore, all it took to make UGA the #1 team in the nation was Will Muschamp?!?!? That is... worrying.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Homecoming game between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Wildcats of Kentucky. And as always…