By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Remember when you were a kid and you played your younger brother or sister in any kind of a game. Usually you had beaten them so many times in a row that it just wasn’t fun anymore. In fact, it was kind of boring but if you didn’t have anyone else to play against it was better than nothing.
I’m thinking Georgia feels about like that when it comes to playing the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night. In fact, I wonder if the Bulldogs will really take Kentucky seriously this year. They’ve beaten the Cats nine games in a row and they pounded UK last year after quite a bit of game week hype by the national media and some of Kentucky’s players. After hearing all week about Benny Snell’s running ability and the Kentucky defense’s ability to stop the run all Georgia did was shut down the UK running attack while piling up rushing yards of their own. In fact, in that game D’Andre Swift rushed for 156 yards on only 16 carries while Elijah Holyfield ran for 115 yards on 18 carries and the Georgia defense held Benny Snell to 73 yards total.
After the game Georgia left Lexington with a 34-17 victory — that was not as close as the final score indicated — thinking “same old Kentucky”. So when UK comes limping into Athens with a wide receiver for a quarterback – a quarterback for which they only have game film for one game – and a 1-3 SEC record the Georgia players have to be thinking, “Do we really have to play these guys again?” Just like playing your kid brother or sister.
After all, Georgia has owned Kentucky Football – even the best Kentucky team in the last 40 years. To make matters more interesting Georgia Football has a very important date coming up the week after the Kentucky game. A date in Jacksonville with the No. 9 ranked Florida Gators. Now that’s a team the Bulldogs can get excited about – not these lowly Wildcats.
So what does that mean for Kentucky? What should they expect from a wounded group of Bulldogs that beat themselves last week against South Carolina? Well, to hear Kirby Smart tell it Georgia needs to worry about Georgia – and get ready for Kentucky. Smart said about Saturday’s match up with the Cats, “What’s more important is that our team gets ready for Kentucky and gets ready to go play than talking about the rest of the year, because we gotta worry about Kentucky”.
But do his players really believe it? He went on to say that Kentucky knows how to run the ball. In fact Smart said, “They’ve been one of the best rushing teams in our league for a while because of Benny Snell, and now they’re finding other ways to use it with Lynn.” But I can imagine that his players are saying, “We beat them in Lexington last year when they had Snell and Josh Allen, they don’t even have a real quarterback this year, all we have to do is show up.”
So, knowing the history of the series, knowing that Georgia beat UK handily last season in Lexington and knowing the injury situation for the Cats at quarterback, as a Georgia player wouldn’t you feel like you were playing your kid brother for the umpteenth time?
And that’s just the point. I know Kirby Smart is thinking that. He said, “You can’t turn the ball over. We gotta correct those mistakes, and our guys gotta focus on Kentucky. The most important thing for us is Kentucky. And that’s us getting better. And a lot of it has to do with us inherently looking at ourselves and saying, okay, what can I improve upon, but a lot of the things that we can improve upon are based on what Kentucky does, offensively, defensively and special teams, and that’s where our focus will be.”
Knowing that Georgia lost at home last week, that they are still playing for the SEC East Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoffs should be motivation enough for the Bulldogs to make quick work of the Wildcats. But that’s just it, with Georgia as a 25 point favorite, if the Kentucky team that showed up against South Carolina shows up again in Athens it will be a long day for the Cats. But if the Wildcat team that played Florida for the first three quarters shows up again Saturday against the Dogs it could make for an interesting evening.
Either way I felt like Kirby Smart was whistling in the dark this week when he said, “This (Kentucky) is a solid football team that was playing for the east last year. They’ve had some injuries that have affected them and they’ve done a tremendous job of running the ball, finding ways to move the ball with different people doing it, and they’ve got a big front on defense. They had the same thing last year and they’ve got a lot of guys back.”
So this Saturday after all the dust settles between the hedges in Athens, Georgia the Bulldog players may feel like they just beat their kid brother and walk away with their tenth victory in a row or they may find themselves in quite a predicament heading into Jacksonville next week. Only time will tell. Well, actually, only Lynn Bowden Jr and the Kentucky Defense will tell. Do they want to play kid brother again to the Georgia Bulldogs or step up and play some physical, smart SEC Football? Because that’s what it will take for either team to win on Saturday.