Bulldogs stand between UK and fifth SEC win


The University of Kentucky football team celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the game against New Mexico State on Saturday, September 17, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Angolia

As winners of three straight SEC games and five of six games overall, UK football is finally starting to build some positive momentum and can make it four in a row in conference play Saturday night against the Georgia Bulldogs.

While it may have seemed unlikely that the Cats would be only one win away from a bowl game in week 10 after a horrid 0-2 start, it is now a distinct possibility that UK can solidify its bowl eligibility against the Bulldogs.

Losers of four of their last five, and two straight, Georgia (4-4, 2-4 SEC) enter the matchup with UK with a two-game losing streak and have disappointed in the first year under head coach Kirby Smart, the former Alabama defensive coordinator. Nonetheless, Georgia will still be bringing a talented group to Lexington and UK head coach Mark Stoops is well aware of the Bulldogs’ abilities.

“We need to find a way to move the football. They are very good defensively. This is a very talented football team. I say it every year, when we play them, they are an absolutely good-looking bunch,” Stoops said. “I know by Georgia standards, they are maybe not playing to the level that they expect and will under Kirby as he builds it and gets it going.”

When talking about talent for the Bulldogs, you must immediately mention the duo of running backs that Georgia has. Junior Nick Chubb is back and healthy this year and has played in all eight games rushing for 634 yards and five touchdowns, and teammate Sony Michel has complimented Chubb with 380 yards and a touchdown so far this season.

It is no secret that Georgia is going to try to impose its will in the run game Saturday. However, they have not had much success on the ground as of late, rushing for only 21 yards in last week’s loss against Florida.

The UK defense will have its hands full on Saturday regardless of how the Bulldogs have been playing recently, and it will be up to the front seven to dictate how things play out Saturday.

“We just make plays to work what they run,” linebacker Josh Allen said. “They have two good running backs, Chubb and Michel, and it’s going to be hard to stop them, but we’re going to get the job done.”

As for the Cats’ offense, they are coming off of their most complete showing of the year, rushing for 377 yards and throwing for another 205 in the win over Mizzou, but things will not nearly be as easy this week.

Smart, from his days at Alabama, always has his defense primed and ready to play, and things will be no different come Saturday. One thing to keep an eye on will be how well the Bulldogs can defend UK’s potent rushing attack.

“Those guys do a great job. They are big, they’re fast, they’re talented, they are hard to move and they understand schemes,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said about UGA’s run defense. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us and really excited about it for Saturday.” 

With a run game that has gone wild over the past few weeks, and an improved passing game thanks to the progression of QB Stephen Johnson, the UK offense should not be a problem come game day.  If the Cats’ defense is as physical as it has been, it may be able to cause problems for the Georgia offense.