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Kentucky Wildcats Preview

Alec Smith

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Saturday, October 7th, 2023, 7:00 EST (ESPN)




2023 Record

5-0 (2-0)

5-0 (2-0)

Head Coach

Kirby Smart

Mark Stoops

HC Career Record



Current AP Poll Ranking










After sliding by Auburn on the road last week, the Dawgs are returning to Athens to take on SEC East opponent #20 Kentucky. The Bulldogs and Wildcats have met 74 times since 1939, with Georgia winning 62 of those matchups. UGA has won 13 in a row vs. UK, and the last loss came in 2009 when Kentucky won 34-27 in Athens. During Kirby Smart’s tenure, the average score of this game has been 26.3-10.9. The Wildcats and Bulldogs typically are entangled in defensive battles, as UGA has scored over 40 points only one time in the last eight matchups. Kentucky’s momentum is high after beating a ranked Florida team last week, and Georgia needs a get right game after failing to pull away from P5 opponents thus far. Let’s look under the hood for this week’s matchup.

Kentucky Offense

Similar to Auburn, UK’s offensive success hinges on running the ball. UK’s run game is far more reliant on power concepts and running between the tackles. We saw Auburn run for 219 yards against the Dawgs last week; however, 125 of those yards came from QB’s. Yes, the Bulldogs struggled to set the edge against Auburn, which played right into AU’s scheme. Does Kentucky adjust to attack the perimeter in the run game? Perhaps, but that also goes against the strengths of their offense. This is a pro-style offense which relies on staying on schedule during 1st and 2nd downs. The biggest factor here could be Ray Davis. Following last week's thumping of Florida, Davis has been the talk of the town surrounding Kentucky football. The senior running back had 26 carries for 280 yards and 3 TD’s against the Gators, which puts his season totals at 594 yards and 8 touchdowns along with 7.8 YPC. On the other hand, QB Devin Leary is not a legitimate rushing threat. Leary has 9 attempts for -20 yards on the year. His passing stats are also not threatening, as Leary is currently averaging 225.8 YPG with a 57.7% CMP. The matter of the fact is that Kentucky has not been forced to throw the ball, and Kirby Smart feasts on one dimensional offenses. Another interesting note to add is that the Wildcats MAY be without their top two WR’s, Barion Brown and Tayvion Robinson, as both went down in last week’s game. Both are still listed as starters, and Mark Stoops has been vague about their participation levels this week.

If Georgia can properly fill run gaps and have elite front seven play, I see no scenario where Devin Leary beats the Dawgs through the air. Even if Brown and Robinson are full participants, UK needs their run game to set up the pass. Out of 35 career games, Devin Leary has had more than 40 attempts in a game nine times. In those nine games, Leary is 3-6. He is a career 60% passer with concerning turnover rates, and he has thrown an interception in every game this season, except for last week.


Kentucky Defense

Brad White is now in his 5th season as UK’s defensive coordinator. Over the past four years, the Wildcats have given up 21.5 PPG and have steadily improved since White came on the staff in 2019. Kentucky ran a lot of 3-3-5 formations against UF, but they stopped the run impressively well for having five DB’s on the field. Florida was held to 69 rushing yards on 2.4 YPC. A lot of that success in the trenches has come from 6’6”, 348-pound DT Deone Walker. Walker is the anchor of the Wildcat Dline. Similar to players like Jordan Davis, Deone Walker isn’t going to wow anyone with box score stats, but he makes his presence known in run stuffing and eating up blockers. Running defensive formations with only three down lineman becomes a little easier when you have a refrigerator at the one technique. The ‘Cats have yet to allow more than 100 rushing yards in a game this year, but several teams have found success through the air against them. UK is giving up 221.4 passing YPG against Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, Akron, Vanderbilt, and Florida. Ball State’s QB’s went for 223 yards on 73.3% CMP against UK, while they went 18-37 with 147 yards against the Dawgs.


Impact Players to Watch

Devin Leary (QB #13) – Played in 35 career games with 31 starts. 22-9 as a starter. #8 player in 2023 Transfer Portal, #2 QB. Left NC State as the #6 QB in passing yards in school history.

Ray Davis (RB #1) – Played in 36 career games with 29 starts. Former Temple and Vanderbilt RB. Ranked 4th in the SEC in YPG in 2022. Averaging 7.8 YPC in 2023.

Deone Walker (DT #0) – 2022 True Freshman All-American. 2022 All-SEC Freshman Team. 2022 All-SEC 2nd Team. 40 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 5 QB hurries last year.

Maxwell Hairston (DB #31) – Current leading tackler for Kentucky. 78.9 PFF Defensive Grade (56th out of 786 CB’s). Moves around the secondary. Sure tackler who can also hold his own in coverage.

Betting Trends

Will Georgia cover a spread this year? Does it really matter? Yes and no. Dawgs are -14.5 (-610 ML) against Kentucky in Athens this week after opening at -24. The game total is currently at 47.5.  UGA is 0-5 ATS in 2023 and 0-4 ATS (4-0 SU) in their last four with Kentucky. The Under has also hit four consecutive times in Dawgs vs. Cats matchups. The Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in 2023 and the Over is 3-2 in their five games. 

Edited by Alec Smith

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