LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky is trying to stay in SEC East contention, but it’ll have to do it by beating Georgia for the first time since 2009.
The Wildcats (5-3, 4-2 SEC) face the Bulldogs (4-4, 2-4 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. Here are five key questions for Kentucky before the matchup.
We caught up with Chip Towers, who covers Georgia football for DawgNation.com, to discuss the matchup and his prediction.
Joe: How important is this game for Georgia to stop its slide?
Chip: This is the most important game this season for the Bulldogs. It seems like I’ve written that several times this season, going back to Tennessee game and again last week before they played Florida. But the importance of each game has ramped up with each loss Georgia has suffered, and now it’s in desperation mode. Now Georgia needs two wins in its final four games just to become bowl eligible. And while such a narrative is common to Kentucky football, the Bulldogs haven’t failed to get a bowl bid since 1996.
Joe: What have you seen from Jacob Eason? He seems like the long-term guy at quarterback, but what inconsistencies has he faced this season?
Chip: It’s not easy to say whether Eason is playing well or not without taking into context the fact that he’s a true freshman. In that regard, he’s playing OK. In fact, he’s doing a little better than Matthew Stafford did as a true freshman in 2006 and he turned out OK (No. 1 pick of 2009 NFL Draft). But in the context of what he’s doing for the team right now, Eason’s not helping much. He’s completing just 53 percent of his passes, and his lack of mobility has been apparent playing behind a balky offensive line that’s not giving him much protection or run support. He has also had issues with a lot of drops from an undistinguished receiver corps. But he has shown a propensity to make big plays in big situations. The key is the Bulldogs putting him into position to showcase that.
Joe: How much will Georgia focus on its run game this weekend behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel?
Chip: This game is all about running the football, and stopping the run. Wildcats fans may not have heard that Chubb and Michel actually had a meeting with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to discuss their concerns with not getting the ball enough and not being able to do much with it when they do. So this is a real issue at the moment. And that could be a good thing or a bad thing for Georgia. I expect them to try to run the ball down the throats of the Wildcats on Saturday. But what if they can’t? Then you have some real problems.
Joe: Georgia has been historically dominant in this series. Throwing the current records out, is there any sense from the program or the fans that there’s always an expectation to beat Kentucky?
Chip: Oh, yeah. More than any program, maybe even Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs have always handled Kentucky fairly well. The Wildcats tend to pop up and give them a good game every four or five years and occasionally knock them off. This seems like one of those times.
Joe: How do you see Saturday playing out?
Chip: I expect an extremely close game between two teams determined to run the football. Something will have to give. Part of me wants to go with the Wildcats because they’re obviously a competitive team this year playing at home at night with much to play for. But the Bulldogs’ level of desperation is extremely high, and that might be enough to propel them to victory. Let’s go with Georgia, 23-21.