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Thursday, November 6, 2008

10 Questions: UGA vs. UK

I'm swamped today with stuff, so this week's installment will have to be a bit brief. For more discussion of Georgia's question marks heading into this week's game, however, check out my story in tomorrow's Telegraph, where I'll address the major chinks in the Bulldogs' armor exposed in the loss to Florida.

1.) Can Blair Walsh get back on track?

Five of Georgia's past seven trips to Lexington have been decided by a touchdown or less, and while the Bulldogs would love to put the hammer down against Kentucky after last week's devastating loss to Florida, there's a good chance this will be a close game. That means Walsh could play a key role, and that might be a problem, given that the freshman kicker has missed four field goals of 40 yards or less (and five total) in his past three games. Fortunately for Georgia fans, Walsh said he thinks he has isolated the problem.

"I just need to keep my head back," Walsh said. "I'm looking too early. I want to see the results before it actually goes through."

2.) Can Knowshon get 10 yards?

That's an easy one to answer, but it will never the less be an historic moment. With 10 more rushing yards, Moreno will become just the second Bulldogs player with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in the program's history. I'm guessing you know who the other one is.

3.) Can the defense hold Kentucky to a low number?

The Wildcats offense doesn't have many stars left. Andre Woodson, Rafael Little, Steve Johnson, Jacob Tamme and Keenan Burton are all gone from last season, and running back Derek Locke and wide receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. are both out for the season with injuries. UK's best offensive weapon may be its QB/WR Randall Cobb, who does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats.

Kentucky hasn't scored more than 21 points in a game against a BCS opponent since opening the season with a 27-2 win over Louisville, but Georgia's defense has been far from impressive at keeping points off the scoreboard. The Bulldogs rank 10th in the SEC in scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 11th in passing defense (244 yards per game), while Kentucky ranks seventh in scoring offense (21.9 points per game) and seventh in passing offense (187.1 yards per game).

4.) Will the red zone be Georgia's friend?

It has gotten ugly inside the 20 for both Georgia's offense and defense. The Bulldogs have just 22 touchdowns on 35 red-zone appearances (63 percent), but are just nine for their last 18, including a 1-of-4 effort against Florida -- the only TD coming in garbage time late in the fourth.

On the other side of the ball, Georgia ranks ninth in the SEC in red-zone defense, with opponents scoring 81 percent of the time inside the 20 -- including 21 TDs in 31 chances. Part of the problem for the defense has been offensive turnovers that left them behind the 8-ball, but as defensive end Jeremy Lomax said, that's no excuse.

"We've been kind of getting the short end of the stick," Lomax said, "but still, if there's an inch to go to the goal line, they've still got to get that inch. It's still on the defense."

5.) Can Shaun Chapas get a touchdown?

Come on, Coach Richt... give the guy some love! The poor kid tried to return a missed field goal that had bounced off the upright last week. He needs to get in the end zone. Munzenmaier has a TD, why can't Chappy? Come on, put the poor kid out of his misery.

6.) Will all of Matthew Stafford's completions be thrown to his own team?

After starting the year with four straight interception-free games, Stafford has been picked off at least twice in three of his past four outings -- including a brutal three-INT day against Florida last week.

The blame shouldn't rest completely on his shoulders though. A couple have been spectacular plays by the defense -- including the second pick Florida made last week -- and others have been a direct result of a bad route by his receivers.

Still, this week Georgia is clearly the better team, and Kentucky's offense is not particularly good, so the only way UK wins the game is if Georgia -- and by that, I mean Stafford -- hands it to them on a silver platter. It's important to note, Kentucky ranks second in the SEC with a plus-six turnover ratio.

7.) Will A.J. Green inch closer to 1,000?

The Bulldogs have only had one 1,000-yard receiver in their history, but Green should top that mark this year. He has 753 receiving yards now, and has been over 88 yards in five of his past six games.

Kentucky will aim to stop the run, and Green said that should lead to some good matchups that could lead to a big day for the freshman.

"They run a lot of man coverage, so they're going to put us on an island by ourselves with just a corner," Green said. "They're going to put a safety in the box to stop the run."

8.) Will Mark Richt get some love?

Hey, I know people are down after the Florida loss, but a win Saturday would be Richt's 80th in eight years at Georgia. How impressive is that? Here are the other coaches in the history of college football to have accomplished that record:

George Woodruff (102-6-2, Penn, 1892-99)
Bob Stoops (86-19, Oklahoma, 1999-2006)
Amos Alonzo Stagg (85-33-7, Springfield, Chicago, 1890-97)
Barry Switzer (83-9-2, Oklahoma, 1973-80)
Pete Carroll (83-15, USC, 2001-present)

That's it. That's the list. Notice any other SEC coaches on there? Yeah, me neither.

9.) Can Georgia revitalize its season?

A loss would make this season a complete disaster. A blowout win would help to reenergize fans for the final two games -- both huge rivalry contests. But what about a close win?

Most fans look at this as a gimme game for the Bulldogs against a traditional SEC East bottom feeder. That's probably an underestimation of Kentucky's ability, but the truth is, it's a game Georgia should win.

It remains to be seen, however, just how excited anyone would be about a 7 to 10-point victory, given the struggles Georgia has had at putting an opponent away this season. Fans want to see that the Bulldogs are clicking on all cylinders -- not struggled to escape with a 'W.' Lomax says that might be the case though.

"They have a good offensive line, very aggressive," Lomax said of Kentucky. "The quarterbacks, they have a good pocket passer, then they bring in a fast, quick guy who can actually throw it, too, so we've got to contest that, too. They've got good running backs, they're aggressive blocking. It's a lot to deal with, and they're going to be hungry. I'm going to tell you now, it's not going to be a blowout."

10.) Am I excited to be going back to Lexington?

This will be my first trip back to the L-E-X (it doesn't have the same ring to it as the A-T-L) since I moved from there to Athens over the summer. I can't say I have a ton of emotions about my return trip, although I do plan to taunt the Lexington Herald-Leader's assistant sports editor, Rob Kandt, who is my lone remaining competitor in the NFL Survivor pool I'm in.

For those of you planning to make the trip north, I suggest getting pizza at Pazzo's on Friday night, drinking at McCarthy's on Saturday, then getting brunch at Alfalfa's on Sunday before heading back. Oh, and man am I sad that we'll be missing the racing at Keeneland by one week. Can someone petition the SEC to reschedule this game for mid-October?

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