Across the (By)Line: The Red and Black


The Georgia Bulldog’s celebrate a touchdown during the game against Kentucky on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Braden Ramsey

As Kentucky looks to get back on the winning path, the Kernel wanted to provide Wildcat fans an in-depth look at Saturday’s opponent: Georgia.

In addition to the Kernel’s preview, Braden Ramsey turned to Austin Roper, assistant sports editor of Georgia’s student newspaper – The Red and Black – for a first-hand account on some of the more pressing questions regarding the Bulldogs season and Saturday’s matchup

Prior to the SEC’s schedule changes, Georgia’s bye week was this week. Does the team feel it was beneficial having the off week essentially moved up after its second half in Tuscaloosa?

Austin – “Nobody on the team has come out and publicly said that they’re happy that the bye week was moved. They may not even have been asked whether or not they feel good about it being moved. But I think the bye week being where it is now actually kind of benefitted Georgia in the long run.

“When you look at how Georgia was after the Alabama game – obviously the second half didn’t go Georgia’s way – but beyond that, Georgia was a little banged up. On the offensive side, running back Kenny McIntosh left the game early. It’s not a certainty that he’s going to play against Kentucky. On the defensive side, starting inside linebacker Monty Rice played through a foot injury in the Alabama game, and is still going through it. I think Kirby [Smart] said earlier this week or last week that Monty basically took the whole bye week off to rest up and heal.

“When you look at it from that standpoint, and add in the fact it was Georgia’s third straight game against a ranked opponent, it’s probably a good thing that immediately following the Alabama game they had a bye week to regroup in preparation for Kentucky. With the way the schedule was originally set up, you would probably have some questions about how Georgia is going to handle this game, how they’d start the game off. But the bye getting moved was probably best for the team.”

In the same vein, has there been any focus/reaction on now only getting seven days to prepare for Florida instead of the original two weeks? Basically, is there any indication the Dawgs may be overlooking the Cats?

Austin – ‘“I don’t think so. I think that this is interesting, because throughout the availabilities and press conferences that we’ve had the opportunity to speak with players and coaches, there hasn’t been many questions about “what are you doing to not overlook Kentucky?”. It has been mostly about Kentucky, but also been a lot about the Alabama game. They’re still getting asked questions about how the second half of that game went and what they’re doing to fix the issues that showed up there.

“From a player’s standpoint and what Kirby’s said throughout media availabilities, it’s business as usual this week. They all seem really focused on what’s immediately in front of them because they kind of know this game can get closer than what everyone thinks it’s going to be if they don’t pay attention. The loss puts Georgia in a situation where it basically has to win out to cement a spot in the SEC Championship and likely play Alabama again. So I don’t think you’ll see much overlooking from the Georgia side. But it is a noon kickoff, and Kirby is 2-3 in noon kickoffs against SEC opponents. That gives some interest and reason to pay attention at the start of the game, but based on their attitude and their tone, it has been business as usual.”’

Georgia has the top defense in the SEC. Most fans have heard probably heard of Richard LeCounte, but outside of him, who are some of the players to watch on that side of the ball? What makes the unit so effective? How do you think it bounces back after the Alabama performance?

Austin – “Two players to watch for the Kentucky game are inside linebacker Monty Rice, who leads Georgia in tackles, and outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who leads Georgia in tackles for loss. Based on how Kentucky likes to run the ball, and really try to play between the numbers and be physical, I think that those two are going to be a big part of the game Saturday. Monty does have a foot injury like I mentioned, so that’s something to look out for, but he should be good to go. Azeez is Georgia’s big playmaker. It has so many playmakers on defense, but if there’s one that’s going to be a huge part of the game plan, it will be him. He leads the team in forced fumbles, sacks, and I think he’s set up for a strong performance, especially given Kentucky’s quarterback situation.

“Georgia prides itself on having so much depth and talent everywhere on defense… they don’t really have one star they lean on each and every game. They have so much depth at all three levels, so many guys they’ll bring in and out of the game within each drive, and there’s not a great talent disparity between the first and second unit. There’s five-star [recruits] on the field at all times. And Kirby just lets them react. They’re really good at not giving up big plays. The Alabama game doesn’t really demonstrate that, but that’s the big reason they’ve been so dominant.”

Kentucky’s defense is just behind Georgia’s at the top of the conference. What do you think the plan of attack will consist of for the Dawgs? Who are some players to know?

Austin – “I would not be surprised if Georgia comes out throwing the ball against Kentucky, but in the same light, it would make sense for them to try and run the ball given Kentucky is coming off a game [against Missouri] where they gave up 220 rushing yards. Given the fact [Stetson] Bennett had such a bad second half against Alabama, and Kirby is sticking with him, it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried getting him in a rhythm early and often. They’re not going to be one dimensional though; they’ll try to be 50/50 in the run and pass and not put Bennett in bad situations. But they’ll maintain a mix of both. Kentucky’s really physical, I think Kirby and Georgia will try to be physical as well.

“As far as players to know, you have to watch Stetson Bennett. Running the ball, Georgia has Zamir White and James Cook who emerged as a receiving threat against Alabama… Zamir’s the power back; he’s the guy they turn to for the most part when going between the tackles and kind of sticks inside. Cook doesn’t get that many carries. They like to match him up with linebackers and throw him the ball. It’s a one-two combo that’s different from years past.”

Score prediction? Who wins and why?

Austin – “Choosing who wins wasn’t that difficult for me. I think Georgia’s going to win this game and probably do so convincingly. I have it at 30-13. It’s going to be difficult for Kentucky to score against Georgia’s defense, especially off the heels of last Saturday’s loss to Missouri. I think it’s a game where Georgia comes out and dominates defensively like it has three of the four games so far this season. I’m expecting [Bennett] to bounce back.”

Austin Roper is the assistant sports editor for Georgia’s student newspaper, The Red and Black.

To see his interview with Kernel Sports Editor Braden Ramsey on today’s game, click here.