Know Your Enemy: Georgia vs. Kentucky

Kyle Funderburk

Kentucky enters Saturday's game against Georgia with a mediocre 2-3 record, but the Wildcats could just as easily be undefeated.

Kentucky's worst outing of the season was a 29-13 loss to Auburn in the season opener. In that game, Kentucky was robbed of an apparent touchdown by the referees, and the Tigers capitalized. The Wildcats lost to Ole Miss 42-41 a week later and are coming off a 20-10 loss to Missouri. Between its losing spells, Kentucky has dominant wins over Mississippi State (24-2) and Tennessee (34-7).

So what's going on with the Wildcats? Why is this team so hard to figure?

Let's get the bad out of the way first. Kentucky doesn't have much of a passing offense. Quarterback Terry Wilson is an OK passer, but he's a much better runner. His numbers are decent with a completion rate over 61 percent of his passes, and four touchdowns against only one interception in 99 attempts.

However, with just 599 yards in five games, it's easy to see where the Wildcats start to crumble in the passing game. Of those yards, 290 belong to wide receiver Josh Ali. No other Kentucky receiver has more than seven catches or 68 yards.

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But things might be even worse for Kentucky's passing game this week. Wilson suffered an injury against Missouri, and Joey Gatewood might start in his place this Saturday. In three seasons, the former Auburn Tiger has just 72 yards on only 14 attempts and seven completions. Like Wilson, Gatewood is a solid rusher. He has 210 yards on 43 carries in his career. But he's yet to play meaningful minutes against a defense as ferocious as Georgia's.

Two weeks ago, we found out the formula for beating Georgia's defense. Have the best receiving corps in America with a running back who makes defenses pay for not loading the box against him. That's not exactly a formula Kentucky possesses.

Now on to the good. Mark Stoops has built Kentucky into a powerhouse at the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the SEC.

Kentucky's offensive line leads the way for a solid zone-read rushing attack. Wilson makes the offense go, but he's complemented by a pair of solid running backs in Christopher Rodriguez and Asim Rose. Kentucky's rushing success is surprising considering Kavosiey Smoke's injury suffered in the second game of the season. Including Smoke, Kentucky's four best rushers combine for 882 yards with nine touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats' line powers an excellent defense, especially on the ground. Kentucky is allowing 129 rushing yards per game. However, the unit did allow Missouri to rush for 220 yards last week. However, the Tigers needed 62 carries to reach that total, so the Wildcats still are only allowing 3.5 yards per carry.

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Similar to the offense, Kentucky's defense also has issues in the passing game. In their two wins, the Wildcats defensed the pass very well, intercepting Tennessee three times while limiting the Volunteers to a measly 112 yards. A week earlier, Kentucky picked off Mississippi State's quarterback tandem six times.

But in the three losses, the Wildcats haven't held an opponent to under 200 yards. Those teams are completing 70 percent of their passes and have thrown for seven touchdowns.

That is good news for Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who is coming off his worst half of football as a starter. Bennett threw two interceptions late against Alabama, and his struggles locating open receivers froze Georgia's offense and handed the momentum to Alabama. On paper, Kentucky is the perfect team for Bennett to regain his mojo.

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