Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face the Kickin’ Kitties from Kentucky:
1) Georgia is 93rd in sacks. And 60% of them came in the last 3 games. With the talent on defense, I just have a hard time wrapping my head around this. Sure, Jalen Carter has been injured; but sacks don’t usually come from over the center. Sure Nolan Smith has been injured; but he wasn’t for 7.5 games. We’ve got hard hitting safeties and corners too, ya know.
The good news is that Kentucky’s O-line just hasn’t been good. They have a very mobile quarterback, a talented backfield, yet are still 126th nationally in sacks allowed. Basically the opposing defenses are getting Will Levis to the ground 4 times a game. That would be twice as often as the Bulldog D is getting home, so I like to think this is where the stats get padded in our favor.
2) A lot have been saying that Ladd McConkey is due to break a punt return one of these days. And Kearis Jackson seems hellbent on returning a kickoff to the house (many times ill-advised attempts). This might be the week we see some return on emotional investment.
In an age where coaches find someone on campus who can boot it through the endzone, the Wildcats are 114th in kickoff return yardage allowed. And 109th in punt return yardage allowed. If the UK offense and the UGA defense hold to form, Ladd McConkey will have his opportunities. And no offense Kearis, but I hope you only field a single kickoff.
3) Zebras. Georgia was definitely the beneficiary of officiating last Saturday, and it did affect the first half of the game. Denying the opposing offense an automatic first down on a roughing call, and keeping the ball in Bulldog hands on an obvious fumble are big plays no matter when they happen.
Just remember these are SEC refs. Their inadequacy and ineptness are not new. And if they’re that bad, they are bound to screw up so much that they occasionally forget their job is to screw UGA. And being that bad, there is no way they try to make up for it the very next game, one that is meaningless to the division or conference race. So relax everyone, there will be bad calls. And we’re just regressing to the mean (or whatever you math nerds call it).
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about facing the Fighting Kroger Bag Boys:
1) Can Stetson Bennett throw in sleeves? As macondawg pointed out yesterday, the air temps during the game will be pretty chilly. Thus the potential for different player kit to fight off the cold. And this is coming off of a suspected arm injury earlier in the season, plus getting some arm treatment on the sidelines last week in Starkville.
I don’t know if I’ve seen the Mailman in anything but schmedium jerseys and bare arms. If he does wear a underlayer, will that affect his motion and cause any issues? I mean I don’t think it will affect getting balls batted down. Maybe it can take some of the smoke out of those overthrows and hit more guys in the hands. We’ll just have to see.
2) Chris Rodriguez is no joke. He’s had some off the field issues and was suspended for the first 4 UK games of the season, but has made an immediate impact upon return. And he can be a workhorse so we will see him a lot. He will get spelled occasionally by Kavosiey Smoke, but he’s averaging over 22 attempts and over 120 yards a contest. Coach Smart even said this week that Rodriguez “seeks contact” and “cherishes contact”. I mean who doesn’t love that in a back?
He’s coming off an impressive 162 yard 2 TD performance against Vanderbilt (okay, it’s Vandy, and they lost). But he’s got over 110 yards in 4 of his last 5 outings. Georgia didn’t have much success on the ground against Mississippi State, but Rodriguez ran it 31 times for 197 yards and two visits to the end zone. Nor did Georgia really establish itself against the Missouri defensive front; yet Rodriguez pounded them for about 4 yards a carry.
3) Kentucky has had some interesting offenses over the years. Go back to the Hal Mumme era and Tim Couch was chucking it all over the yard. Then there is 2019, where thanks to injuries, the Wildcats were literally completing less than 5 passes a game. In the 2nd season with noted gastronomist Will Levis under center, they present a much more balanced attack.
Thanks to aforementioned Rodriguez, UK Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello has the opportunity to mix up the play calls. They are still a running team (removing Levis’ number which include sack yardage), attempting 32 times for about a buck-forty. Then the air attack comes out 26 times a game for 220 yards and likely a couple of touchdowns. And even though the stats aren’t gaudy, Will Levis can make all the throws, is a great athlete, does not get flustered and will stay in the pocket and take shots. Plus he can make plays with his legs.
The Schumann/Muschamp/Smart defense has been typically targeting opposing offenses, taking away the one thing they do well. So will the Bulldogs again rely on pressuring Levis and zone/quarters coverage, daring the Wildcats to win on the ground? Or will they stack the box and see if Levis can live up to the NFL-draft hype to see if he can throw them to victory? Either way, Georgia will have to be ready.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Wildcats of Kentucky. And as always…