SEC Preview and Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats at Georgia Bulldogs

Kurt Boyer

So Georgia has suffered not only its 1st loss of the 2019-20 season, but the maiden defeat suffered by any of the 5 perceived favorites (until last Saturday) in the College Football Playoff chase, with Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Ohio State all remaining undefeated.

I don’t like to mention AP rankings in my handicaps because I believe they can be deceptive. But it’s also noteworthy that UGA has fallen to #10 after the surprise loss to South Carolina.

How is Las Vegas reacting? Well, in a word…it’s not.

The “Dawgs” are an epic 1-to-25 moneyline favorite to beat visiting Kentucky this weekend, and a point spread that began at UGA (-26) has only shrunk a wee point or 2 despite 3 full days of betting action.

Clearly, at least half of the gambling public thinks USC (the southeast’s “USC”) has done little more than anger Kirby Smart’s team into clobbering a different SEC opponent this Saturday.

Were the Gamecocks just lucky? Or could this be the beginning of a slide for the Georgia Bulldogs?

Who: Kentucky Wildcats at Georgia Bulldogs

When: Saturday, October 19th, 6 PM EST

Where: Samford Stadium, Athens, GA

Lines: UK (+24.5) at UGA (-24.5) / O/U Total: (48)

Kentucky at Georgia: Handicapping the SEC in Week 8

A line that hasn’t sat steady throughout 72 hours of gambling action is the Over/Under total, which has fallen to just (48) points after opening a couple of ticks above the 50-mark. It’s not a shock to see a total falling for a marquee contest this season – the trend has appeared on all levels of pigskin including the NFL.

But what is convincing speculators that these SEC squads will have a lower-scoring scrum than bookmakers think?

Georgia hasn’t gotten to 25 points in 2 of its last 3 games, though there have been a hell of a lot of extenuating circumstances. Notre Dame hosted the Bulldogs on 9/21 and played bravely on defense, nearly coming back in which turned into a tense 23-17 victory for UGA. Georgia went on to clobber Tennessee in the next outing – there was no issue with the offense as Brian Herrien shined at tailback and QB Jake Fromm only misfired on 4 of 29 passes.

Last week’s performance was much more worrying, and would have been so even if the Dawgs had managed to prevail in OT.

UGA’s defense allowed WR Bryan Edwards of the Gamecocks (mostly) open for 6 catches, but still didn’t allow more than 300 yards or 10 offensive points in regulation. It was the offense and special teams which could not respond after South Carolina went up 17-10 at halftime, as the popular PK Rodrigo Blankenship missed 2 of 3 FG attempts (including a try that would have extended the overtime) and Fromm turned the pigskin over a crushing 4 times:

Jake Fromm knew better than to blame Georgia’s first loss on Rodrigo Blankenship’s missed 42-yard field goal that ended the game. It was four turnovers — on the usually rock-solid Fromm’s three interceptions and lost fumble — that put a big dent in the Bulldogs’ championship hopes. Israel Mukuamu returned the first of his three interceptions 53 yards for a touchdown and South Carolina took advantage of the turnovers to beat No. 3 Georgia 20-17 in double overtime on Saturday. Parker White’s 23-yard field goal in the second overtime proved to be enough when Blankenship was wide left from 42 yards. Blankenship’s second miss of the game sent South Carolina players charging onto the field to celebrate the upset.

Fromm threw no interceptions on 111 passes through five games. His first giveaway of the season in the second quarter was costly. Pressure from the South Carolina defense forced Fromm to attempt a pass off his back foot. The floater from Fromm in the direction of George Pickens was intercepted by Mukuamu, whose 53-yard return gave the Gamecocks the lead.

Kentucky clearly isn’t on the same level as Alabama, Georgia, or Florida this season, despite UK having risen to challenge the top of the SEC in 2018. The Wildcats were on a 3-game losing skid without injured QB Terry Wilson Jr. and things got even worse when backup Sawyer Smith had to sit out against Arkansas, but the squad was able to defeat the Razorbacks 24-20 by defending everyone on the field except opposing RB Rakeem Boyd.

Tailback ranks in the SEC are as thinned-out as any position these days. Herrein is injured along with a smattering of Bulldog contributors, but D’Andre Swift is still as fine of a starting RB that any FBS team can hope to put on the field. The injury issue (combined with Kentucky’s QB-injury woes) can become like an anvil tied to an Over/Under line. But I suspect that the real reason the number is falling is that these schools have only been consistent on defense and not on offense through a dozen combined kickoffs.

Georgia vs Kentucky: Prediction and Pick ATS

The way gamblers value quarterback play – especially vis-a-vis the moneyline and O/U total – you’d think there would at least be an impetus for more people to take the Over, since Smith is reportedly feeling better and may be ready to give it another try for UK this weekend. Not that facing Georgia’s defense is the ideal way to come back and get healthy…and Mark Stoops has not yet announced if Smith will start the game.

This contest is likely to go into quasi-garbage time in the 2nd half in which Kentucky won’t be behind by more than 20 or 25 points but will appear to be dead-in-the-water anyway. I recommended waiting for the 1st half outcome – if it’s a high-scoring 30:00 then the O/U will soar only for Over-bettors to be disappointed by a bland 2nd frame. If it’s low-scoring, bettors might not imagine just how run-oriented Georgia will be in the 2nd half. Smart wants to get Fromm back into a good rhythm…but he won’t risking losing another game to get there.

Take the in-play Under at halftime.

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