As expected, Kentucky lost to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday evening by a score of 16-6. Kentucky had their chances to win at various points, but for the most part, Georgia had full control of the game from start to finish. The Bulldogs have now won 13 straight in the annual series. Head coach Mark Stoops is yet to beat them in his time at Kentucky. Don’t expect that to change very much unless there are significant changes philosophically inside the Kentucky football program.
Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs like to win games by playing great defense and controlling the line of scrimmages on both sides of the ball. They have won a National Championship and are in prime position to win another, going about it that way. They haven’t allowed many teams to successfully run the football on them, so Georgia is always dictating the terms of their games. Kentucky plays a very similar brand of football.
When Kentucky is good, they are running the ball well with running backs such as Benny Snell Jr. and Chris Rodriguez Jr., and they are playing bend-but-don’t-break defense. That style of football has allowed Kentucky to slowly build the program to the sustained program it is today. They have conquered Florida, Mississippi State and more throughout the years, but Georgia has always had their number. The problem is that Kentucky tries to beat Georgia at their own game, and Kentucky will never win that away. Kentucky simply doesn’t recruit well enough to win against Georgia playing their style.
If you look at the teams that have been able to beat Georgia since Kirby Smart took over in Athens, most have one thing in common: elite, spread offenses. Whether it be Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense led by Jarrett Stidham. Joe Burrow’s dominant LSU team with Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Florida with Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney. Or Alabama with their copious amounts of talent, teams must be able to spread it out and go on offense.
We saw Kentucky provide some explosive plays in the second half against Georgia on Saturday night. When offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello decided to open up the offense, Will Levis hit big plays to freshman wide receiver Barion Brown and others in Kentucky’s weaponry. Had Kentucky played more aggressively throughout the game, there is a strong chance Kentucky would win this game.
That is a prime issue within the Kentucky offense. Until today, Will Levis had not thrown the ball 30 times against an SEC opponent. There has been little-to-no explosivity to the Kentucky offense all season long. Yes, Chris Rodriguez Jr. is phenomenal. Yes, the offensive line has struggled mightily this season. However, there must be more vertical passing concepts if Kentucky wants to succeed in the modern age of football. A summary of Kentucky’s lack of offensive production can be simply put in one statistic: had Kentucky scored 25 points in every game this season, they would be 10-1. In 2022, 25 points are not much at all. Instead, Kentucky is in the bottom third of the SEC in scoring behind teams such as Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
11 of the top 13 teams in the country are all averaging 39 or more points per game coming into Saturday. Kentucky is sitting at a measly 23.3 points per game and hasn’t scored more than 27 in an SEC game. There are plenty of issues within the Kentucky football program right now, but none of it matters until the offensive philosophy changes. That must begin in 2023.