No. 1 Georgia is atop the polls for the first time since the 2008 preseason.
It’s hard to believe the Bulldogs have gotten to this point with the amount of injuries they’ve dealt with since the start of fall camp, but dominant defense and a collected backup quarterback have been Georgia’s recipe for success so far this season.
UGA returns to Athens for a week-7 matchup versus No. 11 Kentucky, who is the only other remaining unbeaten SEC team.
It’s the first time two SEC East teams have met both having 6-0 records.
The Wildcats are coming off of a 42-21 stomping of LSU and have a home win over No. 10 Florida under their belt, while Georgia is riding high after a 37-0 beatdown on No. 8 Arkansas and most recently, a 34-10 win over No. 18 Auburn On the Plains.
It’s No. 1 versus No. 11 Between the Hedges. Here’s why Georgia walks away with a win:
Is Kentucky Overrated?
Oct 31, 2020; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10) runs with the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
While Kentucky has earned their No. 11 ranking up to this point, there is a reason oddsmakers have the Wildcats at a 23.5 point disadvantage for Saturday’s matchup.
Kentucky’s best win is over then No. 10 Florida, who besides taking Alabama to the wire in Gainesville, have been a hotbed of inconsistency in 2021. The next best Kentucky win is over LSU, who is on the verge of firing head coach Ed Oregon, on top of missing multiple starters on both sides of the ball.
Kentucky ranks 54th in the country in scoring offense at 31 points per game. The highlight of the unit is the run game, which ranks 23rd in the country., while Georgia ranks 4th at stopping the run.
What may be the Wildcats’ weakness is through the air, where the Wildcats rank 97th in the country with only 197 yards per game.
To beat this Georgia defense, you have to be able to make plays on 3rd down, and without a developed pass game, it will be extremely difficult to move the ball on a UGA defense that is allowing opponents to convert on 25% of 3rd down opportunities.
Not Your Average Defense
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99), outside linebacker Nolan Smith (left) and inside linebacker Quay Walker (7) take down South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty for a safety during the first half at Sanford Stadium.
Ncaa Football South Carolina At Georgia
This isn’t your grandpa’s Junkyard Dawgs. This Georgia defense is one of the best collegiate units we’ve ever seen to this point in the season.
At 4.3 points allowed per game, UGA is on pace to break the scoring defense record (7).
The question is, can Kentucky score?
It’s a valid inquiry when taking into account not only how hard it is to score versus UGA, but also how difficult it is to get in scoring position.
Average offensive drives against UGA (entering Auburn):
Start at the 25 yard line and end at the 36.
UGA is allowing teams to cross midfield 2.5 times a game.
In the SEC, the next best is Texas A&M and its average is the A&M 46, a 20-yard difference from Georgia.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis will have to play a near perfect game, particularly on 3rd down, for the Wildcats to give UGA trouble.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was able to make plays by buying time with his feet last week. That said, Nix threw his first interception of the year against the Bulldogs, who will look to take advantage of Levis, who has six this season.
WRs on the Comeback
Georgia wide receiver Jermaine Burton (7) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game between UAB and Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Sept 11, 2021. Georgia won 56-7.
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Georgia’s injury problems have been ravenous specifically at the receiver position.
Last week, UGA was missing starters Jermaine Burton, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Arian Smith, on top of being without stars Dominick Blaylock George Pickens.
Good news for Georgia – coach Kirby Smart is optimistic about Rosemy-Jacksaint and Burton being back this week. That should, at least, boost the Bulldogs’ ability to push the ball downfield against the Wildcats.
Keep in mind how UGA was able to throw the ball at will versus Auburn, thanks to freshman Ladd McConkey, who racked up 135 yards on five receptions with a score to boot.
Improving Run Game
Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) looks to hand off to running back Zamir White (3) against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.
After rushing for 156 yards per game in its first three contests, Georgia has rushed for 239 yards per game in its last three.
That increase includes the latter two, which were against two stout run defenses in Arkansas and Auburn.
The surge is not only due to the offensive line beginning to mesh after a mixup due to an injury at guard to Tate Ratledge, but also the play of Zamir White and Dalvin Cook.
White has five touchdowns in the last two games, and Cook is a threat in both the run and pass facets of the Todd Monken offense.
The Wildcats are physical up front and maintain the 28th ranked rushing defense in the country at 111 yards allowed per game. Smart says each year how the Kentucky game is one of the most physical match ups.
The Wildcats will have its hardest test to date in stopping the Georgia ground game.
Between those Hedges
Sep 11, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Fans fill Sanford Stadium during the first half of a game between the UAB Blazers and the Georgia Bulldogs. Mandatory Credit: Joshua L. Jones/Athens Banner-Herald via USA TODAY NETWORK
It’s no secret that DawgNation is hungry for a championship. This year, after a reduced capacity in 2020, Sanford Stadium is as loud as ever.
With the success of the team – particularly the dominant defense – the Dawgs are keeping the crowd in the game each play like it’s the last.
Sanford topped hit 110 decibels versus Arkansas two weeks ago, which topped Penn State’s ‘White Out’ by six decibels.
The game was at noon.
Expect this crowd to be felt at 3:30 on Saturday. The visit to Athens will be the toughest road test Kentucky has faced in over two years.
New episode of “UGA Football Live with J.C. Shelton” is out now! Former Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus joins us to talk Dawgs, Kentucky and the UGA quarterback situation. Stetson Bennett or J.T. Daniels? Listen here: