A clash of undefeated SEC teams headlines the Week 6 slate as No. 20 Kentucky travels for a meeting with two-time reigning national champion Georgia between the hedges in prime time. The No. 1 Bulldogs are coming off of a nail-biter on The Plains, where they narrowly topped Auburn 27-20 in quarterback Carson Beck’s first road start of his career.
The Wildcats ran over, around and through a hapless Florida defense last week to get to 5-0 and on the brink of bowl eligibility. Running back Ray Davis, a transfer from Vanderbilt, ran for 280 yards, three touchdowns and averaged a whopping 10.77 yards per carry in the 33-14 blowout.
Georgia’s strength of schedule was heavily criticized prior to the season since, on paper, it didn’t look like a gauntlet. However, Kentucky’s success has changed that in a big way. The winner of this matchup will have a huge leg up on the loser, which will essentially be down a game and a half in the race for the SEC East crown.
What should we expect on Saturday evening in Athens? Let’s break down the game and make some picks:
Georgia vs. Kentucky: Need to know
Where’s the front seven? Georgia’s defensive front seven hasn’t been anywhere close to what it was during the previous two seasons. The Bulldogs are only averaging 5.6 tackles for loss per game (11th in the SEC) and 1.6 sacks per game (13th in the conference).
“As far as the defensive line part, I never felt like we had — we had a lot of the same defensive linemen this year that we had last year, outside of Jalen [Carter], who really didn’t play most of the year,” coach Kirby Smart said this week. “So we got plenty of D-linemen good enough to do things and execute. Just don’t have disruptive people. So you got to find other ways to do things defensively to try to get people negative plays.”
They have to figure it out. The last thing that Smart needs is Davis getting the Kentucky offense into second-and-5 or third-and-3 situations.
Kentucky’s identity: Offensive coordinator Liam Coen returned to Kentucky’s staff after a one-year stint with the Los Angeles Rams offense. His return has made a world of difference. The Wildcats have the SEC’s top rushing offense at 6.48 yards per carry, which is a stark contrast to last season’s 3.26 yards per carry — last in the SEC. Under Coen in 2021, the Wildcats averaged 5.23 yards per carry — fourth in the conference. The success in the running game is a direct result of the hard-nosed mentality that Coen has instilled in the entire offense — especially the offensive line.
“I thought [the offensive line] obviously played their best game of the year [against Florida]. They took some great pride in just straining, of executing,” coach Mark Stoops said. “We’ve talked about the communication and I thought there would be an improvement there with Eli [Cox] at center and I think that showed improvement in the second week [of Cox starting at center]. I just think their overall commitment and attitude the past several weeks paid off some in that game because they were obviously very motivated to get some movement at the first level and to really strain. They did a good job.”
It’ll be fascinating to see the battle in the trenches. Kentucky loves to get teams into a fist fight, and it’s likely to throw haymakers early and often in order to get Georgia’s defense on its heels.
Beck’s development: Beck’s first career road start last week wasn’t perfect, but perfection shouldn’t have been expected in one of the toughest environments in the game. He completed 23 of his 33 passes for 313 yards, one touchdown and one interception against an Auburn defense that has held strong in every game this season despite getting no help from its offense. Smart said Monday that watching Beck on the road confirmed something that he simply couldn’t simulate in practice.
“I’ve seen him make good decisions with the ball. He was really efficient. I guess the only thing that I’ve learned is that he does have natural composure. I already thought that because that’s the way he practices. But he doesn’t get flustered very easily,” Smart said.
Now that the road start is out of the way, what’s next for Beck? Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo seemed to be ultra-conservative with his play-calling during the first month, but this might be a time that Beck has to win with his arm.
How to watch Kentucky vs. Georgia live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 7 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Sanford Stadium — Athens, Georgia
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fubo (Try for free)
Georgia vs. Kentucky prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
Georgia is 0-3-1 against the spread in FBS games this season while Kentucky is 3-0. Those trends are hard to ignore. Plus, the hook on the 14.5-point line makes it tempting to take the Wildcats. That’s exactly where I’ll land. The Kentucky rushing attack is too good to ignore, and Georgia’s struggles up front have been established through five games. That’s just who Georgia is at this point. This will be a rock fight, and even if Georgia controls it throughout, it will be low-scoring. The chances of a backdoor cover are incredibly high, too. Pick: Kentucky +14.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 6, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons — and find out.