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  • The Bulldogs outclassed a game Kentucky team to punch their ticket to Atlanta for another SEC title game.
By Daniel Rapaport
November 03, 2018

Georgia clinched its second-straight SEC East title with a dominant 34–17 win over Kentucky, denying the Wildcats a program-shifting victory and neutralizing a crowd witnessing just the fourth matchup between ranked teams at Kroger Field.

The Bulldogs’ second consecutive win over a team ranked No. 9 away from home—Georgia pulled away from Florida for a 36–17 victory last week in Jacksonville—moved Kirby Smart’s team to 6–1 in SEC play, with the conference finale coming next week at home against Auburn. Kentucky drops to 5–2 in the conference and will have to wait for its first-ever appearance in an SEC title game.

Georgia has hit its stride after its lone loss of the season three weeks ago at LSU, and if the Bulldogs can win its last three games, all at Sanford Stadium—vs. Auburn, UMass and Georgia Tech—the SEC title game will likely serve as a de facto play-in game for the College Football Playoff.

This is looking increasingly like a championship-caliber team. Georgia was dominant in a tricky matchup on Saturday, imposing its will by physically dominating the line of scrimmage. Georgia rushed for 332 yards on nearly seven yards a carry carries, and both D’Andre Swift (156) and Elijah Holyfield (115) surpassed the century mark on the day.

The Bulldogs stated their intentions early by forcing Kentucky to punt on its first possession. Mecole Hardman returned the kick 65 yards to set up quarterback Jake Fromm & Co. inside the Wildcats 25. Four plays later, Fromm found tight end Isaac Nauta for a four-yard touchdown pass to put the visitors up 7–0.

Kentucky had a golden opportunity to knot things up and shift momentum after a Georgia fumble in the second quarter. A steady dose of Benny Snell Jr., who entered the game as the SEC’s leading rusher but was mostly contained on his way to just 73 yards on 20 carries, saw Kentucky move inside the Georgia 10. That’s when a false start penalty turned a third-and-manageable into a third-and-long, and Kentucky had to sellte for a field goal to cut the deficit to 7–3.

That would be the closest the Wildcats got.

Georgia responded with a textbook 14-play, 75-yard touchdown score to take a 14–3 advantage into halftime. The Bulldogs then put things out of reach with two rushing touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half, including an 83-yard dash from D’Andre Swift.

Kentucky simply couldn’t muster a big play to flip momentum and bring the crowd back into it until it was too late—the Wildcats failed to produce a gain of 20 yards until Asim Rose caught a fortuitously deflected touchdown catch for a 31-yard score the fourth quarter.

Kentucky entered the day with a shot to clinch the SEC East; now, it must readjust expectations after coming up against a bona fide playoff contender.

Georgia, on the other hand, finds itself in an ideal position after nine games: Win the last three and get a crack at Alabama or LSU for a spot in the final four.

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