football Edit

UK-UGA Predictions

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The wait is almost over. Through half the regular season the Kentucky Wildcats are undefeated. The biggest challenge yet, and perhaps the biggest challenge possible, is this weekend with College Gameday and the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens.

Cats Illustrated writers Jeff Drummond and Justin Rowland offer their UK-UGA predictions in Take Two format.

Here's how they see Saturday's game playing out.

What are you most interested to see in tomorrow's game?

Jeff Drummond: This is probably the best measuring stick we'll ever see for the Big Blue Wall. Nobody in college football plays defense like Georgia this season. The Bulldogs may have the best front seven in the nation, and they allow only 2.2 yards per rushing attempt. The Cats pride themselves on being able to run the ball against anyone, anywhere -- and their star tailback, Chris Rodriguez leads the SEC in rushing -- so it's going to be really interesting to see who holds the upper hand early in this game. Expect both teams to come out looking to make a statement in the trenches. If UK has any chance of pulling the upset against the No. 1 Dawgs, I think it has to be a "rock fight" type of game with methodical, ball-control football by the Cats.

Justin Rowland: Can Kentucky be within 10 points at the half tomorrow? That's the number for me. If the game is at or around a 10 point Georgia advantage going into the locker room (of course, a Kentucky lead would be even better for their chances) then you'd have to take that and be happy with it. If you can get into the second half close to striking distance then a couple of mistakes or UGA getting tight could come into play.

To get there, Kentucky's going to have to take a punch in the first half. At some point UGA's going to do something that brings the crowd to life and makes you wonder how Kentucky is going to respond. I've seen nothing this season that makes me believe they won't respond well, but this is by far the best opponent yet and UK is coming off two really emotional games. They've got to have enough in the tank, enough physical and mental reserves, and that will be a test this week.

What does Liam Coen have up his sleeve? We saw against LSU that he had held some things back for the UGA game. This would be the perfect game for a trick play or two to try to catch the defense off guard in a calculated risk situation. UGA has a lot of UK to scout so any tendency-breakers he's able to scheme up will be important.

Finally, can Will Levis avoid turnovers against this defense? He's going to face some real pressure and is going to have to be smart with where he goes with the ball. Even one or two really errant passes could be all it takes for the game to go the wrong way.

Who is your pick for Kentucky's MVP?

Drummond: I'll go with QB Will Levis again this week. While the ground game is going to be key for dictating the type of game that UK wants to play, there's little doubt that Levis will be asked to convert some big third-down situations in this one. I look for some of those to be with his legs, which has been a big weapon for the Cats in recent games, and would force UGA to account for an "extra man" in their defensive game plan.

Rowland: Josh Paschal seems like a good candidate here. Kentucky is going to need him to step up in a huge way with Bully McCall and Octavious Oxendine out of action. There are a lot of young guys on the depth chart and it's going to fall on Paschal to be not only as disruptive as possible but to show the kind of leadership in a tough environment that the other guys can rally around.

There's no reason to believe Paschal won't play at a high level. He's been arguably the best player on the team through half the season, right there with Wan'Dale on the other side.

What's your prediction for the game's outcome?

Drummond: Georgia 26, Kentucky 10 - I think the Cats could be in this game for much longer than the national TV audience and folks out in Vegas believe they will, but ultimately, I think the Dawgs just have too much D and maybe punch one in defensively at the end to make it look like a more lopsided game than it is. I think it would take a huge positive turnover margin -- maybe +3 -- and some good breaks to shock the world.

Rowland: Georgia 27, Kentucky 10. This is the score that has been in my head since the start of the week. UK's defense is playing at a high level and I think the Bulldogs will execute a fairly conservative game plan as they have in recent years.

Even though this game is on the heels of two games the 'Cats got supercharged for, and even though UK is pretty beat up just like Georgia, I think they'll come to play and will turn in a respectable showing.

There aren't enough paths to an upset for me to pick it. This is the first time this year I'm logging a pick against the 'Cats. I've said all week I think this Georgia team could be in the class of '19 LSU or '20 Alabama. It seems like college football can support outstanding team per season. It's unfortunate for Kentucky that perhaps its best season in many decades coincides with perhaps UGA's best team in 40 years.

I'll give Kentucky a 5-10% chance of pulling the upset but even with the portal and the offensive staff shake-up I can't pick against UGA in Athens when this is the one game Kirby Smart and those players know they can't afford to lose. There aren't going to be many scoring opportunities and scoring on a short field against this team is going to be difficult.

I think this game will make UGA sweat some and the Bulldogs get a late score as UK wears down.