This has been a season to forget for Joker Phillips and Kentucky, as the club is just 1-5 in SEC action and 4-6 overall. The Wildcats would have to win this weekend on the road and next week at home against Tennessee in the finale just to earn bowl eligibility. Last weekend, Kentucky was completely dismantled by a mediocre Vanderbilt squad, 38-8.
"Just got tougher for us," said Phillips of his team's chances of reaching a bowl. "Still some things out there for us to play for."
Put simply, a win over the Wildcats would clinch the SEC East title for the Bulldogs and secure a spot in next month's SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome. Georgia is 8-2 overall and recorded its most impressive victory of the season last weekend in a 45-7 romp over Auburn.
"There was a lot of energy when the (Auburn) game was over," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "There was a lot of excitement in the locker room with guys celebrating. We let them jump around and have some fun. But when it was over, I told them to realize that we still have some business that needs taking care of. And they understand that."
Georgia has won three of its last four meetings with Kentucky, and owns a commanding 50-12-2 lead in the all-time series.
It is hard to imagine Kentucky playing any worse offensively than it did in the loss to Vanderbilt last week. The Wildcats finished with a mere 211 total yards, including an embarrassing 32 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Freshman QB Maxwell Smith completed 15-of-31 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but he was sacked four times in the affair. The Wildcats were 0-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts and possessed the ball for fewer than 22 minutes.
"I didn't have a good first half at all, but I thought I came out in the second half and played a lot better," said Smith. "But clearly it wasn't close to enough."
Overall this season, Kentucky is generating only 17.0 ppg and 273.5 total ypg, numbers that help explain its poor league record. The Wildcats are gaining a mere 3.6 yards per rushing attempt and 9.9 yards per pass completion, as big plays have been hard to come by. A total of 20 turnovers have been committed, and while WR La'Rod King (39 catches, 569 yds, seven TDs) is a threat on the outside, he has been limited by some shaky quarterback play. Neither Maxwell Smith nor Morgan Newton has been impressive at all.
Kentucky struggled against both means of attack last week, permitting Vanderbilt to rush for 203 yards and pass for 207 more. Five touchdowns were surrendered to the Commodore offense, which kept possession for nearly 39 minutes and was 10-of-18 on third-down conversion attempts.
Opponents are scoring 27.0 ppg against Kentucky, which is yielding 393.1 total ypg. The Wildcats are giving up nearly 200 ypg on the ground at a clip of 4.8 yards per carry, and the fact that opposing quarterbacks are picking up 13.5 yards per completion is concerning as well. Danny Trevathan has been tremendous for the UK defense, as he is tops with 118 tackles and four interceptions. As for Winston Guy, he has 12 TFL to his credit.
Georgia has scored 108 points over its last two games, proof of the explosiveness of the offense. The Bulldogs racked up 528 total yards en route to five offensive touchdowns against Auburn, and Aaron Murray continued to shine under center. Murray completed 14-of-18 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Four different players were on the receiving end of the scoring strikes, as Murray continues to spread the ball around effectively. The ground attack was tremendous as well, as Isaiah Crowell (132 yds, TD) and Carlton Thomas (127 yds, TD) were able to gash the Tigers.
The Georgia defense was every bit as impressive as the team's offense last week, limiting Auburn to 195 total yards, including 51 rushing yards. The Bulldogs forced three turnovers and permitted the Tigers to hold the ball for fewer than 20 minutes.
"Offense, defense, special teams, everyone played great today and it showed," said Georgia LB Alec Olgetree. "We wanted to come out and play a full game together and that's what we did. We just worked hard all week and it paid off today in the game."
Georgia is scoring 35.8 ppg and gaining 438.7 total ypg while limiting foes to 18.6 ppg and 273.3 total ypg. The Bulldogs are rushing for 188.4 ypg, far superior to the 87.1 ppg that they are yielding on the ground. Crowell, a standout freshman, has run for 821 yards and five TDs, but the star of the offense is clearly Murray. He has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,284 yards with 27 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Orson Charles (five TDs) and Tavarres King (six TDs) are the top two targets on the outside.