NO. 11 GEORGIA AT KENTUCKY
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
Records: Georgia 5-1 (3-1 SEC), Kentucky 1-6 (0-4)
Last week: Georgia was idle, Kentucky lost 49-7 to Arkansas
What’s the Story?: With a potentially huge game against No. 2 Florida on the horizon, Georgia needs to dust itself off after an embarrassing loss its last time out against South Carolina and put away a reeling Kentucky team that enters as a four-touchdown underdog.
1. Pressuring the quarterback: Georgia simply has not done a good enough job of rushing the passer, but that will be a primary objective on Saturday against the Wildcats’ freshman starter, Jalen Whitlow. He’ll be starting for just the third time, having gone 12-for-31 for 156 yards in his first two starts.
2. Returning to form on offense: Count on Georgia working hard to re-establish the running game that faltered against South Carolina when offensive coordinator Mike Bobo opted to lean on the passing game when the Bulldogs fell behind 21-0 early. Freshmen Todd Gurley (81-575, 9 TDs) and Keith Marshall (64-465, 5 TDs) should get a steady diet of touches against Kentucky.
3. Injuries a factor: Not only as Kentucky been devastated by injuries on offense -- Whitlow is the third quarterback to start a game and three different tailbacks have also started because of injuries -- and its defense has been just as bad. The Wildcats started three freshmen in the secondary last week and should start either two or three on the back end against Georgia depending whether previously injured players can return. The Bulldogs also have a major injury question in Jarvis Jones, who had not practiced as of Wednesday since suffering a sprained ankle against South Carolina on Oct. 6.
Players to watch:
1. Jordan Jenkins: If Jones is unable to go, true freshman outside linebacker Jenkins is an obvious choice to play a larger role against Kentucky. Jenkins, who trails Jones for the team sack lead by 2.5 (5.5 to three), joked that if Jones can’t play, he wants to use the opportunity to notch a couple of sacks and steal the team lead from his mentor.
2. Bacarri Rambo: Georgia’s All-America safety let a key early opportunity slip through his hands, literally, when he allowed Damiere Byrd to wrestle a 42-yard completion away from him on South Carolina’s game-opening touchdown drive. Georgia needs to see more of the Rambo who led the SEC with eight interceptions a season ago to solve its pass-defense problems.
3. Aaron Murray: After a disappointing effort against South Carolina (11-for-31 for a career-low 109 yards and an interception), Georgia’s quarterback needs to get back on track before next weekend’s showdown against Florida. Kentucky’s defense is 11th in the SEC, allowing 232.2 passing yards per game.
1. Whitlow: The Wildcats had a reliable starting quarterback go down when Maxwell Smith suffered a torn ankle ligament a couple of weeks ago. They are still searching to find ways to keep from relying too heavily on a freshman quarterback who, while talented and athletic, is not ready for the responsibility of carrying an offense against tough SEC defenses.
2. Avery Williamson: It seems as though every season Kentucky has a tackling machine among its linebackers and this season is no different, with middle linebacker Williamson stepping into the role that outside linebacker Danny Trevathan vacated from last fall. Williamson ranks among the SEC and national leaders with 68 tackles (9.7 per game) and is one of the bright spots on a Kentucky defense that has struggled.
3. La’Rod King: King, who had a 61-yard touchdown catch for Kentucky’s only score against Arkansas, is one of the only legitimate offensive weapons on the Wildcats roster. He is seventh on Kentucky’s career receiving list with 1,569 yards and tied for fifth with 17 touchdown catches -- three of which have come against Georgia, including two the last time the teams played in Lexington.
Georgia’s defensive front vs. Kentucky’s running game
One could go in several different directions with this one -- Georgia’s receivers against Kentucky’s freshman-heavy secondary is also a matchup worth mentioning -- but if the Wildcats can’t run the ball at least a bit, they will be in big trouble. The last thing Kentucky coach Joker Phillips wants is for Georgia’s pass rushers to be able to pin their ears back and apply heavy pressure to his freshman quarterback.
By the Numbers
1. 444-88. Arkansas, which had struggled for most of the first half of this season, certainly got it together in taking a 42-0 halftime lead against Kentucky last weekend. The Razorbacks outgained the Wildcats 444 yards to 88 in the first half. When the game was called because of severe weather with 5:08 left in the third quarter, Arkansas had a 533-170 yardage advantage.
2. 13-4. Georgia is coming off its open date against Kentucky, which typically bodes well for the Bulldogs. They are 13-4 under Mark Richt following a bye week. This is the first time a Richt-led Georgia team has faced Kentucky after a bye.
3. 41.3. In the wake of the South Carolina loss, some Georgia fans seem to have forgotten that the Bulldogs are still on pace to set a single-season school record with an average of 41.3 points per game. The number to beat is 37.2 ppg, set by the 1946 Bulldogs during a 10-game season.
On Deck: All eyes within Georgia’s fan base will be on Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday afternoon, as Florida and South Carolina play for first place in the SEC East. If the Gators can pull out a victory, that would put the winner of the Georgia-Florida game the following weekend in the driver’s seat in the division race. This is one of the rare times that Bulldogs fans will admit to pulling for the Gators.