5 questions with Kentucky football writer and national championship prediction

Nakobe Dean-Georgia football-UGA football
Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean and the Bulldogs have Kentucky in their sights this week.

ATHENS — Georgia football looks to get back on track at Kentucky, a team that Coach Kirby Smart has said throughout the week can bloody noses in the trenches.

The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (3-1) kick off against the Wildcats (2-3) at noon at Kroger Field (TV:SEC Network).

RELATED: Kirby Smart updates George Pickens health, game status

Georgia is a 13-point favorite to win the game, which would represent its 11th in a row over Kentucky in the annual series.

DawgNation reached out to veteran Kentucky journalist John Clay, an award-winning columnist at the Lexington Herald-Leader to provide some insight and perspective from the BlueGrass State.

1.  What is the major different in style between Kentucky quarterbacks Terr Wilson and Joey Gatewood, and how the offensive looks with each under center?

JC: We haven’t seen much of Joey Gatewood, the transfer from Auburn. He played a mop-up series in the Cats’ 34-7 blistering of Tennessee in Knoxville and three series in last week’s 20-10 loss at Missouri. From what we have seen, he appears similar to Terry Wilson, UK’s starter in 2018 who tore his patellar tendon the second game of 2019. Both can run the football. Both are inconsistent passers. Since Wilson missed the week’s first two practices with a hand injury, Gatewood looks like the would-be starter for the Bulldogs.

2. Where is Kentucky football, on the SEC East totem pole, and in terms of its growth and the support level around the program?

JC: On the SEC East tier, Kentucky is in a fight with Tennessee, South Carolina and Missouri to nail down the No. 3 spot behind Georgia and Florida. Now in his eighth year as UK head coach, Mark Stoops has elevated the program in terms of recruiting and facilities. He still has a way to go however to consistently challenge the Gators and the Bulldogs.

3. What happened to the Wildcats against Missouri?

JC: After the big win at Tennessee — UK’s first win in Knoxville since 1984 — the Cats’ get up and go got up and went in Columbia. There is flat and there is the way the Cats no-showed at Mizzou. Missouri controlled the football for over 43 minutes, running 92 offensive plays to UK’s 36. The Cats’ offense never got out of the starting gate, and the defense couldn’t get off the field. One Missouri drive lasted 21 plays. Missouri did have an extra week to get ready for Kentucky. Oh yeah, Georgia has had an extra week, as well. 

4. What would it take for Kentucky to pull off an upset over Georgia this Saturday?

JC: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. And more turnovers. Kentucky grounded Mississippi State’s “Air Raid” with six interceptions in a 24-2 win. It picked off three passes and forced a fumble in the win at Tennessee. Jordan Wright register a Pick Six versus MSU. Kelvin Joseph and Jamin Davis each registered a Pick Six in Knoxville. Stoops could use one (or more) of those on Saturday. 

5. As a veteran football analyst and SEC expert, how do you view Kirby Smart five years into his tenure with Georgia, and if you had to place a bet, do you believe he will lead the Bulldogs to a national title in the next five years?

JC: If by veteran you mean old, my veteran expertise leads me to believe Kirby Smart was just the shot of juice the Bulldogs needed after Mark Richt. He appears to have elevated Georgia’s recruiting to the point where the Bulldogs should regularly be knocking on the national championship door. If they can keep knocking, that door should open sooner rather than later.

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