When the No.11 Kentucky Wildcats enter Athens this Saturday, they will do so with an upheaval in their mind.
Despite having hit the road to face the country’s top-ranked team in Georgia, which features a defense recognized as one of the best units in college football, the UK don’t seem intimidated by the task at hand. .
Part of that confidence stems from the Cats’ unblemished 6-0 record and the 4-0 score against opponents in the Southeastern Conference. Another key aspect of the Cats’ self-confidence is how dominant they were in last week’s 42-21 win over LSU.
These are big accomplishments, sure, but what should give Kentucky players and coaches the most conviction this week? While Georgia sports an all-time excellent defense, the Cats aren’t too far behind.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0 in SEC) have given up just 33 points this year – good for 5.5 points per game – and are limiting their opponents to just 201.2 yards per outing. It is impressive to say the least.
While the UK’s defensive prowess is not as prolific, the Cats also have the ability to squeeze their opponents.
Kentucky, on the other hand, has opponents at 305 yards (17th nationally) and 17.5 points per game (19th), which are both huge marks despite a lack of pressure from the quarterback and forced turnovers. The Cats totaled just 13 sacks – four against LSU – for the 66th place in the NCAA, as well as a minus 8 turnover margin (126th).
To make up for these shortcomings, Kentucky is allowing just 4.61 yards per game (tied for 14th), and only giving up 111.2 rushing yards per game to opponents – two key goals for the UK as ‘he’s getting ready for Georgia.
âUp front they’re so physical,â Cats defensive coordinator Brad White said of the Bulldogs, who have scored almost 40 points per game. âWe know that, playing every year. Their forehead is large. They’re really trying to get you away from the line of scrimmage. Their backs are big, physical, downhill runners. They are difficult to face.
âThey can stress you out on many different levels, but it starts right off the bat. It starts with running the ball. They rushed for more than five yards per carry last year.
Unfortunately for the Cats, they’ll have to do it without injured defensive lineman Octavious Oxendine, who is set to miss the season after registering two sacks against LSU.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart isn’t taking anything for granted, however.
“They have a lot of different appearances,” he remarked of the UK defense during the weekly SEC coaches conference call on Wednesday. âThey’re changing their covers. … They are really good at dressing up.
This was evident in Saturday’s win over LSU, in which Josh Paschal, Oxendine and others wreaked havoc on LSU quarterback Max Johnson.
Obviously, the UK has all the parts for a successful defense. In fact, the Cats have already done the legwork. What they need now is simple: pressure from the quarterback and turnovers. Often the two go hand in hand, and nothing would create a greater advantage for the UK than racking up bags and creating takeout against the Bulldogs.
After all, the Cats are clearly the underdog on Saturday, but how do the underdogs overcome the odds? By doing the unexpected.
âWhen the game comes up, guys have to do it,â White said. âAt the end of the day, if it’s an overturned ball, an overturned ball, you have to be able to adjust in the air and make a play. We have to do game-changing turnovers. in important and crucial moments. We have to keep trying to find stops.
Kentucky’s defense has shown tremendous promise, but the Cats will need to play better than ever to escape Georgia with a win. With this year’s group, that task may seem unlikely, but it is far from impossible.