Published October 20, 2010 - 12:00pm
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At the beginning of the season, I made a few predictions. One was that Kentucky would win nine games, which thus far appears to be slightly overzealous, but not beyond reach. In that prediction, I did have Kentucky beating Ole Miss and Auburn, which they lost by a total of ten points. Not terrible, but I did pick the Cats to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks; a pick that came to fruition last Saturday. I made a pretty bold statement then, that the Kentucky Wildcats would beat the Georgia Bulldogs on October 22nd. At the time, this was a pretty bold prediction. The Dawgs had a lot of preseason hype, and I added to this pick an article citing the top ten reasons that I was right. This top ten list met the ire of many of our readers, and in fairness, the article was written in jest. That was then.
This is now. Georgia is not who we thought they would be, in fact, Georgia is not who Georgia thought they would be. After dropping games to South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Arkansas, Georgia went on the road and laid an egg against Colorado. While they did win in convincing fashion against their last two opponents, their last two opponents are the consensus bottom two teams in the league. They line up on Saturday against a red hot Kentucky offense, with all the cards in the SEC East on the table. As I said in August, Kentucky will beat Georgia in Lexington. By no means, however, do I believe that this is a lock. In fact, ESPN’s Chris Low calls this game an elimination game in the hunt for the SEC East title.
I’ll make you a deal. I will make this a serious article this time, if you promise to behave yourselves. Here are ten reasons why Kentucky wins on Saturday:
10. Kentucky’s Defense
I’ll go ahead and concede this from the start. Kentucky has the worst red zone defense in the SEC. Kentucky is also the second to worst team in the league in stopping the run. Matt May, from TheCatsPause.com reports that Kentucky has given up 59 points and 581 total yards in first half of last two games. That’s a scary stat. However, in the second half of the last two games, the same Wildcat defense gave up just 159 yards and six points to the #6 Auburn Tigers, and 85 yards with no points to the #10 South Carolina Gamecocks. So yes, the Wildcat’s have some defensive troubles, especially in the first halves of big games. However, just as Coach Joker Phillips said in a press conference on Tuesday, “It’s like piranhas. Once you smell blood, everybody wants some, somebody made a play in the second half, a big play, and everybody wanted to make a play.” Kentucky looks to have senior defensive end DeQuin Evans, starting linebacker Qua Huzzie, and starting cornerback Martavius Neloms back from injuries this weekend as well. If Kentucky’s defense can get rolling in the first half, we need not hope for a second half miracle.
9. Washaun Ealey
Kentucky struggles against teams with powerful, consistent running games. Unfortunately for Georgia, they don’t have one. Washaun Ealey may be the Bulldog’s leading rusher, but that doesn’t say much for the Bulldog Sophomore. Statistically, Ealey barely breaks the top 15 rushers in the SEC, ranking in at number fourteen. Ealey has 369 yards on the ground, but only two touchdowns. Total. What’s more, before the Vanderbilt game, Ealey rushed for mere 246 yards. Kentucky has already faced six rushers in the SEC that rank ahead of Ealey. All of Kentucky’s losses have come to teams with a strong backfield, so Georgia has to get more out of Ealey if they want to hand Kentucky their second SEC East loss.
8. Georgia’s Pass Defense
While Kentucky’s defensive struggles are well known, until two weeks ago, Georgia had one of the worst pass defenses in the league. The only team in the league that passes better than Kentucky is Arkansas, and Georgia gave up 380 yards and four touchdowns to the Hogs. While the Bulldogs held Tennessee to just two scores, the Volunteers still put up 240 yards passing on the Bulldog secondary. Last week, Georgia held the Commodores to just 82 yards. In fairness, Vanderbilt has the nineteenth worst pass offense in the country. That’s not a bad stat, that’s terrible. Georgia’s secondary has seven picks, but Kentucky leads the league in the fewest interceptions thrown.
7. Justin Houston
The highlight of the Georgia defense is Justin Houston, a 6-3 229 lb. monster of a man. Houston had already recorded thirty four tackles, with nine tackles vs. Cackalacka alone. Coming into Saturday’s game in Lexington, Houston will already have sixteen sacks, seven this season. Kentucky’s strong offensive line, however, has only allowed quarterback Mike Hartline to be sacked five times all year.
6. A.J. Green
Arguably the most versatile and dangerous player in the South Eastern Conference is Georgia’s A.J. Green. Green, who collected 125 catches for over 2,000 yards and eighteen touchdowns in his first two seasons in Athens, sat out the first four games in the 2010 campaign. Since his return, he has put up fantastic numbers; sixteen catches for 279 yards and four touchdowns. To say that the 6-4, 212 lb. receiver is a decent player would be like saying Chic- Fil- A is a good restaurant; it’s an understatement.
Kentucky faced a similar opponent a week ago in Alshon Jeffery, and held him to a sixty five yards. Kentucky will fare better with Green than they did with Jeffery. While Jeffery is not as fast as Green, and Green is still a dominating force, Kentucky won’t have to play the run. As I showed you earlier, Georgia’s run game is lacking. The Dawgs haven’t played a good SEC team yet with Green. The Kentucky defense has proven over the past few weeks that it is capable of stopping good offenses. Auburn has a great passing game, and a great running game, and in the second half they were able to hold the Tigers to just two field goals. South Carolina also has a great pass and run game, and we saw what the Wildcats could do there, as well. If Georgia continues to rely on Green, which they have proven to do, do not expect to see the same results from the past two weeks. Here’s where I make my money: While Green will play well, he will not be dominant against an improving Kentucky defense. 95% chance of disappointment in Athens on Saturday night.
5. Chris Matthews
While he may not get the same attention as Green, Kentucky’s Chris Matthews is having a break out year in his own right. Don’t believe me? Matthews has thirty-three catches for nearly 500 yards this season, and leads all SEC receivers in touchdowns with six. Part of Matthews’ success is also one of Coach Joker Phillip’s biggest complaints, his athleticism. At 6-6 and 219 lbs., Matthews has the speed and height to make big plays. Many of his long touchdowns runs come from busted routes when he breaks from his assignment and forces his quarterback to wait for him to get open. When Mike Hartline has time to wait on Matthews, Kentucky scores quick and often. With big Justin Houston breathing down his neck, we will see how much time Hartline is willing to give Matthews on Saturday. Don’t miss this though, with Chris Matthews and Randall Cobb, Kentucky has two of the top five receivers in the SEC.
Danny Trevathan is arguably the best linebacker in the conference. He is known throughout the Bluegrass as The Leviathan, named after the monster that ate humans and feared by all in the Bible. If you’re a Georgia Bulldog, this next stat will haunt you until kick off: The Leviathan has seventy tackles already this season, seventeen coming against #6 Auburn alone. The Leviathan is kind to women and children, but to pass defenses he is four or five different kinds of deadly. Again, with Georgia’s inability to run the ball consistently, Aaron Murray will have a hard time finding receivers in the midfield with The Leviathan and Qua Huzzie lurking about.
3. Mike Hartline
Hi haters. Mike Hartline is, statistically, the best quarterback in the SEC not named Ryan Mallet. Mike Hartline has thrown for 1,791 yards, thirteen touchdowns, and only three interceptions. His offensive line has given up only five sacks.
Let me cut you off right there, Georgia fans. You have a great young quarterback in Aaron Murray, but he ranks right below Mike in almost every category.
Against #6 Auburn, Mike threw for 220 yards, a touchdown, and no picks. Last week, in a victory over the #10 Cackalacka Gamecocks, Hartline threw for 349 yards, four touchdowns and zero picks. I don’t always like these algorithms, but against the same South Carolina team, Murray threw for just 192 yards, and no touchdowns. I know, he didn’t have A.J., and that’s a fair point, but that doesn’t change the facts. Right now, Mike Hartline is a better player than Aaron Murray. The current SEC Player of the Week is looking to continue his streak.
2. Derrick Locke
Georgia has a good rush defense on paper. Against teams with strong backfields, though Georgia has struggled. Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina had his way with the Dawgs, racking up 182 yards and two touchdowns. Against Mississippi State, Georgia gave up 179 yards and two touchdowns. Statistically, Derrick Locke is the second best running back in the league, racking up 574 yards and seven scores. The good news for the Bulldogs is that Locke is injured, and is day to day as of Tuesday. The bad news is that the injury is a shoulder stinger, so if Locke does play, his 4.3 speed won’t be affected. More bad news for the Dawgs: Kentucky finally found a consistent rusher in Donald Russell to go between the tackles. With Locke testing Bulldog defensive ends, and Russell running down the throat, Kentucky’s already explosive offense is as fiery as ever.
1. Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb is The Mann. He was impressive his first year. In his sophomore season, Cobb was sensational. This season, Randall Cobb is unstoppable. The Wildcat formation is no gimmick offense with Cobb under center. Cobb has forty catches for 466 yards and five touchdowns. He has thrown for three touchdowns, and rushed for three touchdowns. Against #6 Auburn, he threw for one touchdown, and caught two more. Last week, hosting #10 South Carolina, Cobb had eight catches for sixty four yards and a score. Needless to say: Randall Cobb like big games. But The Mann loves playing against Georgia, in his first two seasons; he scored five touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Randall can’t wait for Saturday. And honestly, I can’t either.