The Georgia Bulldogs know that they do not have to play Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in order to win the SEC and national championships.
By Matt Zemek
They very likely won’t have to play Dabo Swinney and Clemson. If they keep winning, they will be the No. 1 seed in the playoff and face what is likely to be a relatively flawed No. 4 seed. Georgia is the heavy favorite to win the national title. One regular-season loss won’t knock UGA out of the playoff, but it would cause the Dawgs to lose the No. 1 seed and a favorable playoff path. In order to stay on course, UGA needs to handle Kentucky. Let’s look at the checklist in Lexington:
Give nothing away
It’s not that complicated: Kentucky can’t win this game unless Georgia makes significant, high-impact, untimely mistakes. Turnovers, special-teams breakdowns, third- or fourth-down penalties, you get the point. Georgia can’t give Kentucky any help. If it doesn’t, the Dawgs will win. It might not be pretty or forceful, but Georgia will get the job done and handle its last SEC road game of the season. Then comes Georgia Tech, then LSU in Atlanta, and then destiny in the playoff.
Fill up the fuel tank
Georgia’s defense was elite against Tennessee, then less than its best for a good portion of the Mississippi State game. Georgia’s 2022 defense hasn’t had the same suffocating, inevitable identity of the 2021 defense which crushed each and every non-Alabama opponent. This game needs to be an authoritative display of dominance against an opposing QB (Will Levis) who is hurt and physically limited. Georgia can win without its best stuff against Georgia Tech one week from now, but Kentucky will be playing its Super Bowl this weekend. Georgia needs to be mentally refreshed for the battle. You saw Georgia play with total commitment, aggression, and clarity against Tennessee. Limiting the Vols’ offense to six points in the game’s first 54 minutes was a massive feat worthy of the 2021 UGA defense. That’s the kind of fire Georgia has to bring to this Bluegrass dance.
Take away Chris Rodriguez
This is Kentucky’s best and most talented offensive player. Georgia has to force other Kentucky players to step up on a day when Levis is not able to run for big plays. Levis will have to throw to a certain extent. Taking away Rodriguez will force Levis to win this game by himself, and since he’s not 100 percent healthy, Georgia should welcome that scenario.