Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) almost intercepts a late fourth quarter Florida pass near the end zone. The Florida Gators fell to the Georgia Bulldogs 34 to Jacksonville, Florida Saturday, October 30, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Syndication Gainesville Sun

No. 1 Georgia continues making history on defense

Every time top-ranked Georgia takes the field, the Bulldogs’ defense will be facing more than an opposing offense.

The Bulldogs’ underlying opponent each week is history.

Georgia’s defense, through nine games, has rivaled any unit that has ever played. The Bulldogs have given up 59 points — and average of 6.56 per game — after holding Missouri to just two field goals in a 43-6 win last week.

Georgia is the first team since Alabama in 1992 to hold each of its first nine opponents under 14 points. And even 2011 Alabama, which featured at least statistically, the best defense that coach Nick Saban has fielded in Tuscaloosa, allowed 64 points through nine games and 106 in 12 regular-season games before blanking LSU, 21-0, in the BCS title game.

This season, the Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0 SEC) could have given up 73 more points than they’ve allowed so far and they’d still be leading the Football Bowl Subdivision, ahead of Texas A&M who is ranked second having allowed 132 points (14.67 points per game).

The Bulldogs have also done it against one of college football’s toughest schedules, as four of Georgia’s wins are against teams that were ranked at the time of the teams’ meeting — Clemson (No. 3), Arkansas (No. 8), Auburn (No. 18) and Kentucky (No. 11). Those four opponents scored 26 points combined.

The Bulldogs’ 59 points are the fewest the program has allowed through nine games since the 1971 squad allowed just 53 en route to finishing 11-1. Georgia gave up 115 points that year.

Georgia’s final three regular-season opponents — Tennessee (5-4, 3-3 SEC), Charleston Southern (3-5) and Georgia Tech (3-6) — should all face a daunting challenge moving the ball against the Bulldogs. Georgia ranks second nationally in total defense (231.8 yards per game), first downs allowed (119), rushing defense (80.7 yards) and passing defense (151.1 yards

But all Georgia coach Kirby Smart is focusing on is stopping Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and the Volunteers, who are averaging 38.2 points per game, on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. Hooker threw for a career-high 316 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-42 win at then-No. 18 Kentucky last week.

“Hendon Hooker is a tremendous athlete,” Smart said Monday. “He’s hard to tackle. He’s big, physical and has a strong arm.

“They’ve got an extremely good group of wideouts. They’re extremely physical, big, have size and speed. They are really fast on tape. We know the players they are running past. They are good football players that they are running past, making explosive plays.”

The Bulldogs have shown balance throughout their defense.

Seven players have made at least 29 tackles, led by Channing Tindall (45), Lewis Cine (40) and Quay Walker (39). Eight have at least one interception, led by safety Christopher Smith and linebacker Nakobe Dean, who each have two.

Fourteen players have at least one sack and four have at least three, including Dean (3.5), Travon Walker (3.5) and Jalen Carter (3). Linebacker Adam Anderson, who leads the team with five sacks, was suspended indefinitely last week after being accused of raping a 21-year-old woman.

“They are big, long, physical, athletic and they play with speed,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “They do a great job of retracing on perimeter screens, and when you think you got space, it closes down pretty quickly. … The depth of their football team is a big part of their success.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Boise State Broncos head coach Andy Avalos looks on against the UCF Knights during the second half at Bounce House. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Boise State routs No. 23 Fresno State

Jonah Dalmas kicked four field goals and Andrew Van Buren rushed for two touchdowns to help visiting Boise State roll to a 40-14 victory over No. 23 Fresno State in Mountain West play on Saturday night.

Hank Bachmeier was 15-of-27 passing for 283 yards and one touchdown as the Broncos (5-4, 3-2 MW) won their second consecutive game. George Holani racked up 186 yards from scrimmage (117 rushing, 69 receiving) and Khalil Shakir caught seven passes for 67 yards and one score.

JL Skinner, Kekaula Kaniho and younger brother Kaonohi Kaniho had interceptions for the Broncos, who recorded five sacks.

Fresno State’s Jake Haener tossed the three interceptions while completing 22 of 38 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Keric Wheatfall and Zane Pope had scoring receptions for the Bulldogs (7-3, 4-2), who had a three-game winning streak halted.

Boise State outgained Fresno State 470 to 356. The Bulldogs also were hurt by drawing 11 penalties for 91 yards.

A key sequence occurred during the middle of the third quarter. With the Broncos leading by 12, Dalmas kicked a 44-yard field goal but Fresno State’s Cale Sanders Jr. was called for roughing the kicker.

Boise State accepted the penalty that moved the ball to the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line. Three plays later, Bachmeier hit Shakir on a 10-yard scoring pass to make it 23-7 with 6:43 remaining in the quarter.

Dalmas booted a 27-yarder with 13:30 left in the contest to make it a three-score game and Van Buren tacked on a 1-yard scoring run to make it 33-7 with 7:41 remaining.

Tyler Crowe added a 7-yard scoring run with 2:48 left before Fresno State scored on Haener’s 5-yard pass to Pope with 1:10 to play.

Van Buren rushed for a score and Dalmas kicked three field goals as Boise State led 16-7 at the break.

Dalmas’ boots of 47 and 27 yards and Van Buren’s 1-yard run gave the Broncos a 13-0 lead with 12:45 left in the first half. Fresno State got on the board on Haener’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Wheatfall with 5:50 remaining before Dalmas added a 32-yard field goal with 41 seconds to play.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Adam Anderson (19) before the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia starting LB Adam Anderson faces rape allegation

Police in Athens, Ga., are investigating Georgia senior linebacker Adam Anderson on an allegation of rape.

ESPN reported that the football program suspended Anderson indefinitely.

As of Thursday night, Anderson has not been arrested, and he has denied the allegation through his attorney.

A police report was filed last Friday afternoon outlining the allegation. A woman told police that she went to a house in Athens after having some drinks and awoke to nonconsensual penetration.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart released a statement Thursday confirming the university was aware of Anderson’s situation.

“We don’t comment on law enforcement matters, but I’ve been clear about the high standards we have for our student-athletes on and off the field,” Kirby said. “I will be working closely with our administration to ensure we cooperate fully with all law enforcement and campus protocols.”

Anderson played in No. 1 Georgia’s 34-7 win over Florida the day after the police report was filed.

Anderson has 32 tackles and leads the Bulldogs in sacks with five.

–Field Level Media

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart walks out of the tunnel with his team at the start of the annual Florida Georgia rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Fla. October 30, 2021.

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Mizzou keeping QB a mystery; 5-TD underdogs at No. 1 Georgia

Top-ranked Georgia and visiting Missouri will collide Saturday in a game between teams aiming for different results for the 2021 season.

Georgia (8-0, 6-0 SEC) clinched its fourth conference East Division title in five years by coupling a win over Florida with Kentucky’s loss to Mississippi State last week.

The Bulldogs, already assured of a spot in the SEC title game Dec. 4, also are in control to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time since losing in the championship game in 2018.

“We are not really focused on that right now,” Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer told reporters. “We are focused on Missouri because we have Missouri this week. When the time comes, we will celebrate, but right now we are still locked in for each game week by week.”

Missouri (4-4, 1-3) enters with a 37-28 win over Vanderbilt — the Tigers’ first conference victory this season — and stands two wins shy of becoming eligible to play in a bowl game.

Missouri is entering a stretch in which their final four opponents are .500 or better and all jockeying for bowl position.

After facing Georgia, Missouri hosts South Carolina (4-4, 1-4) on Nov. 13 and Florida (4-4, 2-4) on Nov. 20 before closing at Arkansas (5-3, 1-3) on Nov. 26.

But first, the Tigers have to get past Georgia after being installed by oddsmakers as 37-point underdogs.

Beating Georgia has been the impossible mission for Missouri since joining the SEC prior to the 2012 season. Georgia has won seven meetings in a row and eight of their past nine. Missouri is the lone SEC East that hasn’t beaten Georgia since coach Kirby Smart took over the Bulldogs before the 2016 season.

Under Smart, the Bulldogs are 5-0 against the Tigers, winning by an average of 20.4 points. Georgia has outscored Missouri 76-14 in the teams’ past two meetings.

Missouri’s offense is inconsistent and hasn’t been tried against a defense as loaded as this Georgia group.

The Bulldogs have given up a national-best 6.6 points per game. That’s more than a touchdown less than Cincinnati, which ranks second at 14.2 points per game. Georgia also ranks second nationally in total defense (226.6) and first downs allowed (104), rushing defense (75.6 ypg) and passing defense (151 ypg).

Georgia and Missouri have questions at quarterback.

Missouri quarterback and team captain Connor Bazelak suffered what coach Eli Drinkwitz said was a soft-tissue injury midway through the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt. He was replaced by true freshman Tyler Macon, who didn’t attempt a pass.

On Tuesday, Drinkwitz said there would be no injury updates, including those impacting his QB situation.

Macon and redshirt freshman Brady Cook were going to receive plenty of snaps in practice this week.

“I have no idea about anything other than practice today,” Drinkwitz told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re talking about practice today.”

If Macon makes his first start on Saturday in place of Bazelak (2,138 yards, 13 TDs, 8 INTs), he’ll look to get the ball to leading receivers Keke Chism (29 catches, 383 yards, 2 TDS) and Tauskie Dove (26 catches, 370 yards.)

Drinkwitz said he wants his team to focus on Georgia, and denied the team is anxious about measuring up to the No. 1 team in college football.

“Crud, why else would you do it? I don’t want to live life in the shadows,” he said. “Go out, see what you got. Take your best shot. … I’m not anxious about it at all. See you Saturday at noon.”

The Tigers will continue to lean on running back Tyler Badie, who rushed for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries against the Commodores, bringing his season total to 989 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also caught a team-high 40 passes for 305 yards and four scores.

Georgia’s Stetson Bennett has started the past five games for the Bulldogs in place of the injured JT Daniels, who has been out with a strained oblique.

Daniels has been able to practice recently.

Smart, who made reference to the importance of mobility at the position, said he’ll name a starter based on practice this week after Bennett went 10-of-19 passing for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 34-7 win over Florida last week.

Zamir White (97 carries, 505 yards, 8 TDs) and James Cook (57 carries, 342 yards 3 TDs) fuel the ground game.

True freshman tight end Brock Bowers leads the team in receptions (26), yards (454) and receiving touchdowns (6), with redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey also having a breakthrough season with 18 catches for 302 yards and two scores.

–Field Level Media

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) warms up while Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) looks on before an NCAA college football game between Kentucky and Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021.

Syndication Online Athens

Kirby Smart remains diplomatic about Georgia QB situation

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has followed the same script he’s used for most of the season, refusing on Monday to name the starting quarterback for the top-ranked Bulldogs’ next game, Saturday against Missouri in Athens, Ga.

Stetson Bennett has started the past five games in place of JT Daniels, who has been out with a strained oblique. Smart said Daniels made progress in practice last week, but he started Bennett in the win against Florida on Saturday to maintain continuity.

Bennett went 10-of-19 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in Georgia’s 34-7 victory.

His performance atoned for last year’s effort in a 44-28 loss to the Gators, when he threw for just 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 5-for-16 passing.

After initially injuring his shoulder in the first quarter of that game, he was pulled in the third quarter in favor of D’Wan Mathis, who no longer is on the team.

Smart has said all season he uses what happens during practice to determine who starts under center for the Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 SEC).

Bennett and Daniels bring different attributes, with Bennett’s ability to run the ball giving the Bulldogs a dimension they lack with Daniels. Conversely, Daniels has a better pocket presence of a pro-style quarterback and has proved he can throw the ball more accurately downfield.

Bennett’s two interceptions against Florida on Saturday came when he attempted deep passes to receivers who were double-covered.

“(Bennett’s ability to run is) a separator, but, I mean, there’s things that JT is better at than Stetson, but it’s one of the things that’s a factor,” Smart said. “Mobility in a quarterback is critical. It’s not that JT’s immobile … it’s just that Stetson is very mobile. Stetson is able to make some plays with his feet. I thought there were five or six plays in the game where his mobility was a factor.”

Bennett has gone 67-for-101 passing (66.3 percent) for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns, with four interceptions, this season. Daniels is a more efficient passer, completing 76.1 percent of his throws (54-for-71) for 567 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions.

Smart praised Bennett for his ability to turn plays that initially appeared to be well-defended by Florida into positive gains. Bennett rushed for 35 yards on six carries against the Gators, raising his season total to 183 yards on 25 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per attempt.

“We had breakdowns, and you’re going to have some, on offense,” Smart said. “And when you have those, you gotta have somebody who can get you out of a bad play, and I don’t mean by way of check. I mean during the play, and he does a good job of doing that.”

Though Smart didn’t address playing both quarterbacks against Missouri (4-4, 1-3), it could be an opportune time.

Georgia opened as a 38.5-point favorite against the Tigers, who have given up an average of 40 points per game in their four league games this season.

Smart said he expects the Bulldogs to gain yards in bunches, regardless of who is at quarterback.

“Explosive plays are the number one trait to scoring points, in my opinion,” he said. “That’s probably the number one characteristic of teams that win games is how explosive you are, especially in today’s day and age. So being able to be explosive is really important, and we work really hard on it.”

–Field Level Media

Florida Gators place kicker Jace Christmann (47) makes a touchdown saving tackles on Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Kearis Jackson (10). The Florida Gators played the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half Saturday afternoon, October 30, 2021 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]2021

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No. 1 Georgia spins turnovers into gold vs. Florida

Top-ranked Georgia continued its season-long defensive domination by converting three Florida turnovers into 21 points into en route to a 34-7 victory on Saturday at Jacksonville, Fla.

Stetson Bennett, starting his fifth game of the season at quarterback for the Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 SEC) in place of the injured JT Daniels, went 10-of-19 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.

Georgia’s Zamir White rushed for a team-high 105 yard on 14 carries, highlighted by a 42-yard touchdown run, while James Cook added 46 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts. Kearis Jackson had three receptions for 59 yards for the Bulldogs, whose victory all but guaranteed they will be atop the initial College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday.

Florida (4-4, 2-4), which defeated Georgia last year en route to winning the SEC East Division, started Anthony Richardson at quarterback over Emory Jones, who had been inconsistent while starting the Gators’ first seven games.

Richardson went 12-of-20 passing for 82 yards and two interceptions, in addition to rushing for 26 yards. But he was replaced by Jones after an upper-body injury midway through the third quarter.

Jones went 10-of-14 passing for 112 yards. His 2-yard run with 2:49 left enabled Florida to avoid getting shut out and kept their record streak of scoring in 418 straight games dating to 1988 intact.

Dameon Pierce led the Gators with 69 rushing yards, and Justin Shorter caught four passes for 50 yards.

Georgia took advantage of Florida’s first-half miscues to score three touchdowns in the final 2:16 of the second quarter.

Richardson was running for extra yards when he was stripped before his forward progress was stopped. Nolan Smith made the strip and also had the recovery on Florida’s 11-yard line.

On the next play, Cook took a handoff and burst up the middle for a touchdown, giving Georgia a 10-0 lead with 2:16 left in the first half.

Smith got Georgia the ball back inside Florida territory 33 seconds later when he intercepted a pass that was tipped by lineman Travon Walker at Florida’s 36-yard line with 1:46 remaining. On the next play, Jackson made a diving catch just inside the sideline for a 17-0 lead with 1:35 left in the half.

Instead of playing conservatively and running out the clock, Richardson pushed the ball down the field. On a second-and-11 from Florida’s 47-yard line, he was intercepted by linebacker Nakobe Dean, who raced untouched 50 yards for a 24-0 lead with seven seconds left in the half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) runs against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Trick or treat: No. 12 Kentucky travels to personal house of horrors in Starkville

Kentucky is the nation’s 12th-ranked team, but you can expect Mississippi State to roll out the welcome mat for Saturday’s SEC contest.

The Wildcats have dropped their past five games in Starkville, with the past three setbacks coming by a combined score of 115-36.

Kentucky hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs in Mississippi since 2008. In that game, star wide receiver Randall Cobb played about half of the game at quarterback and threw for one score and rushed for another in a 14-13 win.

The Wildcats (6-1, 4-1 SEC) look to end their troubles at this house of horrors on Halloween weekend, though ninth-year coach Mike Stoops is stumped to describe the reason for the difficulties in Starkville.

“I can’t put my finger on any one thing,” Stoops said during a press conference. “There were times when we were down there and weren’t really in a good game. There were times when we had a chance to steal one. There were games when we weren’t very good, they were a better football team than us.”

Second-year Mississippi State coach Mike Leach isn’t concerned about the history. He sees his Bulldogs (4-3, 2-2) facing a big challenge against a team coming off a bye week.

“This is a really solid team,” Leach said of the Wildcats. “They’re going to play hard. They’ve had some close ones that they’ve gotten out of. That’s the biggest thing. They are guys that play hard and play together.”

Kentucky rattled off six straight wins to open the season to reach No. 11 in the rankings before being outclassed 30-13 by top-ranked Georgia on Oct. 16.

Star running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. never got untracked and rushed for just 7 yards on seven carries and caught four passes for 10 yards.

For the season, Rodriguez sports a 6.1 average per carry while rushing for 775 yards and five touchdowns. He also has two receiving scores.

Wildcats quarterback Will Levis has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,326 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Mississippi State is fresh off a 45-6 shellacking of host Vanderbilt last Saturday. Will Rogers tossed a career-high four touchdown passes while accumulating 384 yards and two interceptions.

Rogers has thrown for 300 or more yards in five straight games and six of seven. He has 2,546 yards and 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Five different Bulldogs caught five passes against Vanderbilt, and 13 players had at least one reception.

“It is important that we have good distribution,” Leach said. “We definitely want that. We had good distribution the other night where you want all the skilled positions to contribute to the offensive effort. That was good to see.”

Defensively, Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes has three interceptions this season and eight in his career.

Kentucky has just three interceptions as a team this season, which might be just fine with Leach.

In last season’s 24-2 win in Lexington, the Wildcats registered six interceptions of KJ Costello (four) and Rogers (two). Linebacker Jordan Wright returned one for a touchdown.

Kentucky would like some of that same interception magic on the visit to Starkville as it looks to end its recent road futility in the series.

“You name it. You’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better,” Stoops said of ending the misery. “No excuses; we’ve just got to go down there and play better.”

–Field Level Media

Mississippi State wide receiver Lideatrick Griffin (5) is brought down by Vanderbilt defenders during the first quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.

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Miss. St. gains 524 yards in rout of Vandy

Will Rogers threw a career-high four touchdown passes as visiting Mississippi State routed Vanderbilt 45-6 in an SEC game Saturday.

Rogers completed 42 of 58 passes for 386 yards for the Bulldogs (4-3, 2-2 SEC), who bounced back from a blowout loss to Alabama last week. Rogers connected with a season-best 13 receivers and easily overcame two interceptions.

MSU has won the last five meetings with the Commodores by a combined score of 152-40.

Mike Wright, making his second consecutive start at quarterback in place of injured Ken Seals, completed 12 of 17 for 122 yards with an interception for Vanderbilt (2-6, 0-4) lost its 17th consecutive SEC game.

MSU outgained the Commodores 524-155 and had 29 first downs to just five for Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs possessed the ball for 39 minutes.

One of Rogers’ few mistakes came when he threw an interception on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the third quarter. That led to Joseph Bulovas’ 41-yard field goal that trimmed MSU’s lead to 24-6.

Rogers rebounded with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Malik Heath that gave the Bulldogs a 31-6 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Jo’quavious Marks’ 5-yard run produced MSU’s only touchdown that didn’t come on a pass, pushing the lead to 38-6 early in the fourth quarter.

Chance Lovertich replaced Rogers late in the fourth quarter and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas with 51 seconds left.

MSU drove to a 9-yard touchdown pass from Rogers to Makai Polk on the first possession of the game.

Brandon Ruiz added a 36-yard field goal that increased the lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Bulovas kicked a 27-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to pull Vanderbilt within 10-3.

Rogers and Polk combined on a 31-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bulldogs a 17-3 lead.

On third-and-goal, Rogers threw a six-yard touchdown to Rufus Harvey for a 24-3 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Coach Nick Saban leads the Crimson Tide players onto the field before Alabama's 49-7 victory over Southern Miss Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 in Bryant-Denny Stadium. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Alabama Defeats Southern Miss

Coming off first loss, No. 5 Alabama heads to Mississippi State

Alabama committed just enough miscues to undermine its performance last weekend against Texas A&M and snuff any aspirations for completing an unblemished season.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban addressed those shortcomings in short order following a 41-38 road loss that dropped Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC) from first place to fifth in the polls. In preparation for their second consecutive road conference game, this time at Mississippi State (3-2, 2-1) at Davis Wade Stadium, the Crimson Tide are honing in on the specific tasks ahead.

Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers is the only quarterback in the SEC with 400 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in the same game, a feat he has accomplished twice.

Alabama rolled to a 41-0 home win over Mississippi State last year; but with the loss to A&M fresh in their minds, the Crimson Tide are aware of what is required to slow the Bulldogs.

“I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that you’ve got to rotate players and keep a lot of fresh players in the game,” Saban said. “You’ve got to rush three guys sometimes, you’ve got to rush four guys sometimes, you’ve got to rush five guys sometimes. I think you’ve got to mix it up and disguise what you’re doing.”

The challenge in facing Alabama is annually the same. The Crimson Tide are juggernauts, and the loss at Texas A&M doesn’t alter that fact. The Aggies did prove that Alabama isn’t infallible, and their effort last week set something resembling a template for crafting an upset victory.

A large part of that challenge is mental. If the Bulldogs play with the vigor they showcased against LSU and Texas A&M over consecutive weeks, opportunities will manifest to push the Crimson Tide to the limit. How the Bulldogs manage the emotional roller coaster will be crucial.

“Your best is always enough,” Bulldogs coach Mike Leach said. “You’ve got to be disciplined enough to do your best, focus in, don’t get discouraged and don’t get too hyped if something good happens for you. It’s the discipline to constantly bring your best effort and not get distracted by the highs and the lows. And I think it takes discipline to do that. That’s the key.”

The Bulldogs do have the benefit of having already done what Alabama could not: defeat the Aggies in College Station. The combination of that result on the heels of a narrow loss against LSU and in advance of an open week set the foundation for an optimistic approach.

Film study of the Alabama loss might offer an additional incentive. The Crimson Tide so frequently throttle foes that not only are defeats rare, but close games are, too. If the Bulldogs need proof that a shocking result is possible, Leach needs only to remind them of what has already been done.

“One thing with Alabama, watching a team that plays them to the wire — not everybody does,” Leach said. “So that’s beneficial from that tape.

“You’ve just got to try and stay even-keeled. You always fight that with a young group, but I have seen some positive things. I thought we did that through the A&M game, so that was pretty good practice with regard to that in a tough environment where it’s tough to communicate.”

–Field Level Media

Georgia Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart works with outside linebacker Nolan Smith (4) against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021.


No. 1 Georgia meets No. 11 Kentucky in battle of unbeatens

No. 1 Georgia and No. 11 Kentucky each will look to take a major step toward a Southeastern Conference East Division title in a game with College Football Playoff implications between undefeated teams on Saturday in Athens, Ga.

The Bulldogs (6-0, 4-0) are coming off a season in which they failed to win the SEC East for the first time in four years. The Wildcats (6-0, 4-0) are off to their best start since 1950 and have never won a division title.

“This game speaks for itself in what it means and what’s at stake,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters.

Georgia’s average of 39.8 points per game are 22.3 more than the 17.5 points on average the Wildcats have allowed. The Bulldogs’ average of 432.5 yards per game also is 127.5 more than Kentucky has given up on average this season.

Conversely, Kentucky is averaging 410 yards per game, which is 206.5 more than the Bulldogs have yielded on average this season. Georgia’s defense has allowed only three touchdowns.

The Bulldogs have outscored their opponents 239-33 after a 34-10 win at then-No. 18 Auburn last week. The Tigers took a 3-0 lead on their first possession before Georgia scored the game’s next 24 points en route to the victory.

Georgia rolled up 432 yards of offense and held Auburn to 46 rushing yards on 29 carries.

“You see why they’re ranked No. 1 in the country,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops told reporters. “They have an incredible defense, are doing good things on offense and are a complete football team.”

Kentucky has its highest ranking since the 2018 season after it cruised to a 42-21 win over visiting LSU on Saturday. The Wildcats put up 475 yards of offense behind quarterback Will Levis’ three touchdown passes and Chris Rodriguez Jr., who rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

Georgia has won its past 11 games against Kentucky, including outscoring the Wildcats 35-3 the past two games combined. Kentucky’s most recent win over Georgia at Sanford Stadium came in 2009.

Kentucky will lean heavily on Levis, who has thrown for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns — with six interceptions — to get the ball to receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (37 catches, 527 yards, four TDs). Rodriguez has been terrific through six games, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, having run for 759 yards and five touchdowns on 120 carries.

Georgia leads the nation in total defense (201.2 ypg), passing defense (137 ypg) and scoring defense, as its 5.5 per-game average is nearly seven points fewer than Cincinnati and Clemson, who are tied for second at 12.2. Georgia also is fourth in rushing defense (64.2 ypg).

The Bulldogs’ biggest question, as it has been for the past month, is at quarterback. Stetson Bennett has started the past two games in place of JT Daniels, who has been sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

Bennett went 14-of-21 passing for 231 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn. He has completed 69.4 percent of his passes (43 for 62) this season while throwing for 746 yards and eight touchdowns, with two interceptions.

“I don’t think the team has ever lacked confidence in Stetson,” Smart said. “Within this team there’s a belief that Stetson is a winner.”

Zamir White, who has rushed for 354 yards and six touchdowns on 71 carries, and James Cook, who has 245 yards and two scores on 41 carries, power a Georgia ground game that averages 197.2 yards per game.

–Field Level Media