Following a dramatic last-second victory on the road versus a pesky Missouri team, Kentucky returns to the friendly confines of Kroger Field for an SEC East title-bout with Georgia.
It is the biggest game of the season for the Cats, and the biggest game for the program in a very long time. Kentucky has not won the SEC East since the conference split into divisions in 1992, and only has two SEC titles in its history: one in 1950, and a split title with this Saturday’s opponent in 1976.
“You can’t shy away from it,” head coach Mark Stoops told reporters earlier this week when asked about the magnitude of the game. “We’re going to need to play our best football game of the year this week against a very good Georgia team.”
It will take a whale of an effort for Kentucky to make its first-ever trip to the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Georgia is No. 6 in both the AP poll and College Football Playoff rankings. Here’s what you need to know about last season’s National Championship runner-up:
Kirby Smart is in his third season with Georgia, after serving as the defensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama from 2008 to 2015. He has compiled a 28-8 record with the Bulldogs, including a 16-6 record in SEC play. With a win on Saturday, Georgia would claim its second straight SEC East title.
The Bulldogs rank 29th in the FBS in total yards per game, standing 66th in passing yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per game.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm has completed 67.4 percent of his passes for more than 1600 yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields has been used as a change-of-pace option. The no. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class has averaged more than seven yards per carry, with three touchdowns on the ground and two through the air.
The running game is anchored by the two-man punch of Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift. Holyfield, the son of legendary boxer Evander Holyfield, has racked up 559 rushing yards with an average of 6.6 yards per carry and four touchdowns. Swift has an equally impressive 5.6 yards per carry, with five touchdowns.
“They’re very good runners. Physical, run you over… Their backs will run down hill and they can run around you,” Stoops said in his press conference earlier this week. “They’re good. Just like you would expect when you’re playing these guys.”
Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman are the top two receivers for the Bulldogs, sporting nearly identical numbers. Ridley has one more reception (27), one more touchdown (5) and six more receiving yards (374).
Georgia is 14th in total yards per game allowed, ranking 9th in passing yards per game allowed and 43rd in rushing yards per game allowed.
Defensive back Richard LeCounte paces the unit with 47 tackles on the year, while linebacker D’Andre Walker leads the team with five sacks and three forced fumbles. DeAndre Baker has the most interceptions, with two. As a whole, the defense has forced 12 turnovers this season.
Start time for Kentucky-Georgia is 3:30 ET on Saturday. The game can be viewed on CBS, and is the first SEC on CBS game for the Cats since 2014.