Two-thirds of the college football regular season is in the books and it finds Georgia headed into their ninth game of the season with a 4-4 record to face a 5-3 Kentucky team that sits in second place in the SEC’s Eastern Division. This Georgia squad needs a win just to keep their hopes at post-season play in a bowl game alive, and they must do so on the road at night in Lexington. Here are my five keys to a Dawgs’ victory.
1. LOWER THE BOOM
Stanley the top tailbacks in the Southeastern Conference and the key to Kentucky’s offensive success. Williams is physical with a burst, an outstanding runner between the tackles. A Georgia native and one time Bulldogs verbal commitment, Williams will be on his “A-game.” Georgia’s run defense must be up to the challenge.
If the Bulldogs can bottle up Williams and force Kentucky into passing situations, stops and turnover potential loom.
2. RUN IT AND THROW IT
Throughout the season, the Bulldogs have had trouble putting it all together offensively. With the lack of depth on the offensive line, a freshman quarterback, new staff, injuries at tailback and inconsistency at wide receiver, there have been plenty of issues. But it’s November now, and the potential is there for this Georgia offense to hit its stride down the stretch. When those elite tailbacks can get out running and Jacob Eason is accurate, the Dogs will have the chance to put up big numbers.
3. GET AT LEAST A KICKING GAME PUSH
Georgia’s struggles in the kicking game have been painful and proven costly. As Kirby Smart rebuilds the depth of talent in Athens, a focus on dramatically improving the special teams is a top priority, for the remainder of this season and beyond. Making progress in the month of November is vital if the Bulldogs are to beat Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette and Tech, and have an upset opportunity against Auburn. If the kicking game has the kind of struggles that cost the Dogs against Vandy, it could be 1973 and 2006 all over again … losses to the Commodores and Wildcats in the same season. If that kicking game comes out and plays well, then the Bulldogs should start November with a victory.
Any game, any time, any two teams, the turnover differential is critical. For Kentucky to spring the upset, this is the area – along with the kicking game – where the ‘Cats could make their mark. A defensive score or at least a setup of a short field would be big for the Bulldogs. As this program moves forward, chalking up those Non Offensive Touchdowns is a sure fire path to greatness. Just look at the No. 1 team in the country. Alabama has a dozen this season.
Penalties have hurt the Bulldogs this season, in the heart-breaking losses to Tennessee and Vanderbilt in particular. Georgia isn’t good enough to consistently play behind the chains, and too many first-and-15’s have hurt this season. Dramatically cutting down the self-inflicted wounds is a must if the Bulldogs are to close out the 2016 season in strong fashion. Playing sound football, with penalties, substitutions, special teams and all the “little things,” is at the top of Smart’s checklist.