No. 17 Georgia hits the road to take on Kentucky
The visiting Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 20 CFP) aim for their fifth straight win over the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4) Saturday as they try to stay within reach of first-place Missouri in the Eastern Division.
Kentucky wants to end a three-game losing streak that has stalled the rebuilding Wildcats' quest for becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
That mutual urgency could set the stage for another tense meeting between the schools.
Georgia owns this series 53-12-2, but beating the Wildcats in Lexington has been tough with seven points or fewer deciding three of the past four games at Commonwealth Stadium.
Georgia coach Mark Richt is certainly wary of Kentucky.
''We just know we've got our hands full,'' he said. ''It's the seventh time I've gone to this stadium and I can't think of one game that we had there that didn't have a lot of drama, didn't have a lot of questions who's going to win it until the very end.''
The Bulldogs certainly need something in their favor after last week's stunning 38-20 loss to the Gators essentially took them out of the national championship playoff picture. Georgia's upside is being just a half-game behind Missouri (4-1) in the East and holding a tiebreaker over the Tigers with last month's shutout win in Columbia.
Kentucky and its 21 departing seniors meanwhile would love to dash Georgia's dream and enter the bowl picture by winning their home finale. The Wildcats' last win over the Bulldogs was 2009 in Athens, Georgia, (34-27) and they haven't beaten them at Commonwealth since 2006 (24-20).
Said Kentucky defensive end and Georgia native Bud Dupree, ''it would mean a lot to me and the fellow seniors to go out and win and give the program the boost that we've been working so hard for. It would just put us in the (position) to get a bowl.''
Here are other things to look for when Kentucky hosts Georgia on Saturday:
STOPPING NICK CHUBB: Georgia freshman tailback Nick Chubb has been rolling in the absence of suspended Todd Gurley, who returns next week. He has rushed 89 times for 501 yards and four touchdowns in starting the past three games and has 725 yards and 6 TDs. His fast, hard-charging style poses a big challenge for Kentucky's run defense that ranks next to last in the SEC at 188.6 yards allowed per contest.
FASTER START: Sluggish beginnings explain Kentucky's recent skid that has forced the Wildcats to play catch-up. They can't do that against the SEC's top scoring offense (40.5 points per game), which means they're going to have to be awake and alert with the noon start and produce.
HUTSON MASON: Kentucky's priority is slowing Georgia's formidable ground game, but the secondary must also be ready for the Bulldogs' senior QB. Mason has completed nearly 68 percent of his passes for 1,341 yards and 11 TDs with just three interceptions.
TAKEAWAY EXPERTS: Both teams protect the ball, which will be necessary in a game matching opportunistic defenses. Georgia enters as the nation's second-ranked team in turnover margin at plus-13 and averaging 1.63 per game. Kentucky is among a bunch of schools at plus-8 and tied for 17th at .89 per contest.
OVER SO SOON? Saturday's game marks an unusually early home finale for Kentucky, which travels to Tennessee next week and has a bye before closing the season at Louisville on Thanksgiving weekend. Renovation of Commonwealth Stadium will ramp up immediately afterward with the $120 million project expected to be completed by next season, when the Wildcats have eight home games scheduled.
AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Athens contributed to this story.