Battle For The SEC East Title

Battle For The SEC East

Cats And Dawgs Meet In Athens

For the first time since 1950, Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats are 6-0. In addition it’s the first time since the magical season of 1977 they are 4-0 in the SEC. Coming off back-to-back wins over Florida and LSU the 11th ranked Cats are flying high. However they’ve got a monumental task ahead of them as they hit the road to play top ranked Georgia. Let’s look at both teams and give you a prediction as we preview the battle for the SEC east title.

Offense Back On Track

During the first two weeks of the season, the Liam Coen-led offense rolled up over 500 yards against Louisiana-Monroe and Missouri. However in the next three games the attack sputtered, having to rely on the defense to pull out the wins. That all changed in Kentucky’s destruction of LSU as the Cats rolled up 475 yards including 330 on the ground. Will Levis had his best game of the year accounting for five touchdowns, three through the air and two on the ground. As a result he was named the Walter Camp player of the week.

It’s the second straight week a Kentucky player won the award as linebacker Jacquez Jones got the nod for defensive player for his game against Florida. Not only did Levis have a big game but so did Chris Rodriguez. The conference’s leading rusher gained 147 yards and a touchdown, giving him 768 in six games.

Best In The Country?

The Cats face a tough test ahead of them Saturday when the play Georgia. So far in 2021 the Bulldogs lead the SEC and are fourth in the nation giving up only 66.5 yards a game. They are on pace to lead the league in rushing defense for a third straight year. Taking it a step further they are allowing 203 yards of total offense and 5.5 points per game. In addition they’ve nearly scored as many touchdowns (2) as they’ve given up (3).

Linebacker Nakobe Dean is one of many stars with 23 tackles, three-and-a-half sacks and an interception so far this year. Another linebacker to watch is Adam Anderson who leads the team with four-and-a-half sacks. Currently they rank seventh in the nation with 22 sacks. Basically if there’s a defensive statistic then Georgia is near the top. Defensive coordinator Dan Lanning has done a remarkable job.

However if  you are looking for a bright spot the Kentucky rushing game has had some success against Georgia. In fact they are the only team in each of the last two years to gain more than 100 yards on the ground. Lynn Bowden gained 99 in 2019 and Rodriguez went for 108 last year. For Kentucky to have any chance of pulling the upset they have to get the running game going. One of the biggest things to watch on Saturday is how the “Big Blue Wall” fares against the Georgia defense.In addition look for Coen to go to the far reaches of the play book and find creative ways to get Wan’Dale Robinson involved as much as possible.

As we continue our battle for the SEC East title let’s now turn our attention to the home team and especially the offense.

Scouting The Bulldogs

With Alabama losing at Texas A&M on Saturday Kirby Smart‘s club ascended to the number one ranking. It’s the first time since the 2008 preseason poll the Bulldogs are in the top spot. Furthermore it’s been since 1982 they’ve been in the top spot during the regular season. Georgia has been dealing with some injuries most notably quarterback JT Daniels. It his absence Stetson Bennett has taken over and done a very good job. Last week against Auburn Bennett completed 14-21 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. In addition he’s a threat on the ground gaining 126 yards on nearly eight yards a carry.

The Bulldogs have been relying on their rushing game with four backs who have gained more than 125 yards. Zamir White leads the way with 354 yards to go along with six touchdowns. Right behind White are James Cook and Kendall Milton, with 245 and 210 yards respectively. Kentucky is hurting up front on defense as they are without starters Marquan McCall and Octavious Oxendine, who was just named defensive player of the week. He’s out for the year with a knee injury. The big fear is Georgia controlling the line of scrimmage behind an offensive line we voted the SEC’s best.

When they do throw the ball tight end Brock Bowers is the leading target with 20 receptions for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Another big target is wide receiver Ladd McConkey, who has 16 catches for 280 yards and two scores.

Continuing our battle for the SEC east title let’s now look at the history between these two SEC east foes.

Series History

If you are a Kentucky fan then the series history is not pretty. This will be the 75th all-time meeting between the two squads. Overall Georgia leads the series 60 wins to 12 and there have been two ties. The Bulldogs are currently riding an 11 game winning streak with Kentucky’s last win coming in 2009 when they won 34-27 in Athens. Taking a step further UGA has won 27 of the last 30 meetings. The Wildcats’ longest streak is a whopping two beating Georgia in 1949 and then seven years later in 1956.

Now that we’ve taken a look at both teams it’s prediction time in the battle for the SEC east title.

Who Wins On Saturday?

This will be the second time in four years the Cats and Dawgs have met with the SEC east title on the line. In 2018 Georgia ran out to a big lead then held off a Kentucky rally winning 34-17. However with both teams being undefeated the stakes are even higher this time around.

Now that’s not to say something crazy couldn’t happen in the last few weeks but the winner of this game is virtually assured a trip to Atlanta. As we mentioned earlier Kentucky’s has some success running the ball against Georgia but have had little to show for it. Two years ago UGA won 21-0 in a monsoon while last year the Bulldogs won 14-3 in Lexington.

For Kentucky to have any chance they have to control the ball and limit turnovers. The LSU game was the first one all season without a miscue and that turned out great.

We’ve talked a great deal about all the boxes Stoops has checked in recent years. However the big one remaining is beating Georgia. Currently they’re the only SEC east school he hasn’t beaten going 0-8. Kentucky’s going to have to play a near perfect game, and that might not even be enough. The Bulldogs are the number one team in the country for a reason. The point spread on the game is 23 which seems a little high. UGA won’t cover but they get the most important thing, a win.

Georgia 28-13

Thanks for checking out the battle for the SEC east preview with us here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a wrap up and will also update our bowl projections.

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