- With Kentucky's SEC-worst passing attack going up against Georgia's elite secondary on Saturday, the Wildcats have little hope for a comeback if they fall into a hole.
Georgia Bulldogs at Kentucky Wildcats (+9)
Sat. 11/2, 3:30 pm ET
Three things to know before betting on Georgia-Kentucky:
1. If Georgia hopes to keep its national championship hopes alive, the team will likely need to win out. A 20-point loss at LSU delivered a blow to the Bulldogs' postseason hopes a few weeks ago, but Georgia remains firmly in the race for the College Football Playoff. With a decisive 36-17 win last week over Florida, its strongest opponent to date, the Dawgs are No. 6 in the AP Poll. While Georgia is an uneven 4-3-1 against the spread, it hasn't lost ATS in two consecutive games at any point this season.
Like Georgia, Kentucky is also 7-1. Unlike Georgia, Wildcat fans are thrilled with that record. Even in their better years, the Wildcats have been doormats in the ultra-competitive SEC, but they already have five conference wins this season, including impressive victories over Florida and Mississippi State. If not for an overtime loss at Texas A&M, Kentucky would be undefeated. But while Kentucky has exceeded expectations in its straight-up record, the team is only 4-4 against the spread this year.
During Mark Stoops's tenure as head coach, the Wildcats have gone 0-5 against the Bulldogs and, despite getting an average line of 15.7 points in those games, Kentucky has the same record against the spread in those games.
2. Even in a conference filled with fearsome defenses, Kentucky's unit stands out. The Wildcats haven't allowed more than 20 points in a game this season and are tied with Clemson for the national lead in fewest points allowed per game (13.0). Kentucky is well-balanced against the run and pass—it is tied for 15th in FBS in both yards allowed per carry and yards allowed per pass attempt. Linebacker Josh Allen is second in the nation with 10 sacks on the season. He has sealed two Kentucky wins this season with strip sacks.
The Wildcats, though, have not yet faced an offense like Georgia's. The Bulldogs are one of only nine teams in FBS averaging seven or more yards per play, and their 38.6 points per game trail only Alabama in the SEC. They face an average third-down distance of 6.5 yards, 11th-smallest in the country, and gain at least 20 yards on 10.4% of their plays, the 15th-highest rate nationally. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm trails only Tua Tagovailoa in the SEC with a passer rating of 174. After struggling mightily against LSU earlier in the month, he returned from a bye week and unloaded on Florida with 17-of-24 passing for 240 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Georgia has good reason to believe his arc this season will match last year's, when Fromm followed a tough loss to Auburn with four straight strong performances to lead the Bulldogs to the national title game. That streak included a 42-13 win over Kentucky.
3. The Wildcats better hope their defense can contain Fromm, because their offense is downright bad. They've scored either 14 or 15 points in three consecutive games, and their passing attack is especially weak. Quarterback Terry Wilson has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) and is 12th in the SEC with a 122.6 passer rating. Kentucky ranks 96th in the country in yards per pass attempt (6.7). This incompetence through the air leaves Kentucky vulnerable in third-and-long situations (third-and-seven or longer), which they convert only 13.6% of the time. That's the third-worst mark in the country. Running back Benny Snell is a lone bright spot, leading the conference with 116.9 rushing yards per game.
But Snell alone won't be enough to break down a Georgia defense that, while not as ferocious as last year's D, remains very tough to beat. It will be weakness-on-strength when Kentucky tries to throw the ball, as the Bulldogs allow the fourth-fewest yards per pass attempt (5.3) in FBS. With such a mismatch in the passing game, Georgia will feel free to load the box to stop Kentucky's run game. And if the Bulldogs grab onto a double-digit lead, they'll keep it. It's almost impossible to imagine the Wildcats mounting a comeback through the air against this secondary.
Pick: Georgia (-9)
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)