Statistically, Georgia’s run defense is top five in the country and the best in the SEC. That is not to say that the Bulldogs have been flawless, but they have been stout throughout six games so far this season.
A lot of that starts with having Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter in the middle. Those three have been stellar, forcing opposing offenses into longer second and third downs. That has contributed to edge rushers putting pressure on quarterbacks in obvious passing situations.
Now, Georgia prepares for what could be its toughest test yet in stopping the run. No. 11 Kentucky comes in at fifth in the SEC in rushing yards so far this season, led by the conference’s leading rusher Chris Rodriguez Jr.
“Yeah, he is super physical, dude is one of the hardest runners in our conference,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart on Rodriguez. “His pad level, his strain, his drive, his power, it’s like hitting a brick, man. People bounce off of him and they have for years. I told our guys, you have to get his cleats out of the ground because he is not stopping. Yards after contact is why. They don’t have a very long second-and-long reel. Their second seven to ten reel is shorter than anyone we have ever faced because they don’t get in them. He’s a really thick, heavy back that you have to be a willing tackler. He gets to the second level quickly.”
UAB and Auburn showed flashes of running the ball successfully against the Bulldogs, but Georgia still kept both of those teams to under 150 yards rushing. If they are able to do the same against Kentucky, the odds will surely be in Georgia’s favor.
Smart said that Kentucky has always been one of the more physical matchups since he’s been at Georgia and praised the Wildcats’ offensive line on Monday. Despite the early success, Georgia’s defense does not plan to change its approach.
“We’re not changing anything in terms of our defense,” said junior safety Lewis Cine. “We know that they’re gonna run the game, they’re gonna run the ball. But we also know they’re gonna pass the ball. We’re prepared for both, it’s not leaning one way or the other.
It sounds simple, but the approach has clearly worked for UGA so far this year. Cine is right that Kentucky can throw the ball as well. UK wideout Wan’Dale Robinson is leading the SEC in receiving yards and also has four touchdowns this season.
Georgia is currently a 23-point favorite at home, so it’s not like Vegas is expecting Rodriguez to run crazy on Georgia’s defense. However, it will be a nice benchmark to see where the Dawgs stack up against one of the best backs in the conference.
For Kirby Smart’s full Tuesday presser: