Darrell Bird, the publisher of Catspause.com, offers his insights and expertise on Saturday’s showdown in the Bluegrass. Darrell does a fantastic job and we always appreciate his thoughts on the Bulldogs and Wildcats.
What has made the difference for Kentucky this season?
Six years of the best and most consistent recruiting years the Kentucky fan base has ever witnessed came of age in 2018. Eight of the starters on offense are juniors or seniors, nine on defense. That includes outside linebacker Josh Allen and strong safety Mike Edwards, who both skipped the NFL draft and returned for their senior seasons.
Talk about the impact and popularity of Benny Snell for the Wildcats.
Benny Snell has electrified the fan base not only because he is outstanding, but it’s the way he plays the game. There is no player who runs angrier on the field, piling up yards after contact, and then instantly lights up the sidelines with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. He loves football and it rubs off on the fans.
Kentucky’s defense has been tremendous this year, what elements have gone into the unit’s outstanding play?
There is no substitute for talent and experience and UK’s defense has that to spare. All five starters in the secondary are seniors and finally playing up the hype they received when the group arrived on campus years ago. Mix in pass-rusher extraordinaire Josh Allen, and suddenly all quarterbacks are making bad, hurried decisions. UK’s defense has taken a beating the court of public opinion for years and they are not wasting the chance to fight back.
How excited are the Wildcat faithful for this game?
Kentucky’s last SEC championship came in 1977. They are ranked in the top 15 for the first time since 2007. And they’ve not even sniffed the SEC East title. So yes, Big Blue Nation is fully aware we are talking about a season of historic proportions in Lexington. Not only that, Kentucky controls its destiny and has the game in Lexington.
What does Kentucky need to do to win?
Find a passing game. Any passing game will do. It’s a bizarre situation at Kentucky where the team came into the season loaded at every single position, except the most important one – quarterback. None of the QBs had ever taken a snap at this level, including junior college transfer Terry Wilson, who won the job. Wilson is a great runner, but the passing game is so shaky that coach Mark Stoops said Oct. 22 that coaches will work backup Gunnar Hoak extra hard this week in preparation for Saturday’s road trip to Missouri. In a 14-7 win over Vanderbilt last week, Wilson was 3-of-9 for 18 yards.
What is your take on Georgia?
We knew Georgia was not as good as last year – how could it be, to be fair? But most assumed the Dawgs would still roll to the SEC East title. That thought was still in tact until the misstep at LSU. It has opened a ray of hope, however slim, for every SEC East contending school.
What is your prediction?
Kentucky 21, Georgia 17. UK can’t outscore Georgia, so the defense must grind that 39 points per game offense to a halt. Plus, the Wildcats will need a little of that pixie dust that so often accompanies a magical season like the one under way in Lexington. Fans are checking with Purdue to see if they have any left.