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Michael Clubb/Kentucky Kernel
Georgia's defense had a number of injuries.

Georgia football winners and losers following 14-3 win over Kentucky

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Georgia football winners and losers following 14-3 win over Kentucky

Winner: Georgia running backs

There weren’t a ton of positive things you could say about Georgia coming off a 14-3 win over Kentucky. But one of those was the efforts of the Georgia rushing attack.

Zamir White had a career day, as he topped 100-yards for this first time in his career. Kendall Milton got involved early in the game as well.

Perhaps most encouraging was the play of James Cook, who picked up 39 yards on six carries and led Georgia in receiving once again with 62 yards on four catches. Add this to what he did against Alabama and he’s looking more and more like the difference-maker everyone thought he was going to be.

Given all the issues at quarterback, having a strong ground game is only going to become more paramount. Georgia ran the ball for 215 yards on 43 carries on Saturday. On the opening drive of the game, Georgia had 12 plays. All of them were runs and it resulted in an 86-yard drive for a touchdown.

That’s the kind of effort Georgia is going to need consistently on Saturday if they’re going to beat Florida.

Loser: Georgia defense

Georgia’s defense played great on Saturday. Kentucky had just 91 passing yards in the game. Joey Gatewood got sacked four times. The Wildcats ran for 138 yards, but that was 45 yards under their season average and Kentucky came into the game ranking second in the SEC rushing.

The reason though the defense ends up in this category is because of all the injuries. Defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Julian Rochester left injuries. So to did safety Lewis Cine and linebacker Quay Walker.

That all happened during the game, and Smart commented on the matter after the win.

“That’s what you’ve got those other players for, that’s why you have 85 scholarships. You use those and you get the next guy up and ready to go play. That’s why we rep those guys. That’s why we train those guys. They rep in practice every day and when their chance comes they get their opportunity to play.

But when the team got back to Athens the defense suffered another huge loss as safety Richard LeCounte was involved in a traffic accident. LeCounte did not need surgery for any of his injuries but he did sustain a concussion, a shoulder injury, some bruised ribs and various cuts and scratches.

It was a scary situation with LeCounte and fortunately, it was not much worse. But according to an ESPN report, LeCounte will miss a few weeks.

This is absolutely not what the Bulldogs needed going into a game against a potent Florida offense. The Bulldogs have recruited well, but replacing Davis and LeCounte specifically will be very big asks against the Gators.

We should find out on Monday how significant some of those injuries are and what it will mean for Georgia. Smart is set to speak to reporters at noon.

Winner: Georgia-Florida drama

There were a couple of bumps along the way, whether it be Georgia’s quarterback play or a COVID-19 outbreak at Florida, but we got to the Georgia-Florida game with both teams ranking in the top-10 and having a shot at making the College Football Playoff.

Neither team had the performance you want going into such a huge matchup. We covered what happened with Georgia. As for Florida, the Gators got into a massive brawl after the end of the first half. Florida had two players ejected for throwing punches, including key defensive lineman Zachary Carter.

Florida head coach Dan Mullen played a role in the brawl as well and many are calling for him to be fined. After the incident, Mullen showed up to the post-game press conference dressed as Darth Vader, which is not the message you want to be sending.

Related: Dan Mullen at the center of massive brawl during Florida-Missouri game

Mullen has had no problem taking shots at Georgia and Smart hasn’t hidden his glee when beating Florida. Surely that will come up this week in what seems to be a spicy edition of The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Loser: The Georgia passing offense

Georgia didn’t need to throw the ball much to beat Kentucky. But when the Bulldogs did drop back to pass, the issues that presented themselves against Alabama once again came up against the Wildcats.

Quarterback Stetson Bennett was intercepted twice. One of those came yet again on a deflected pass in the redzone. Bennett explained that on the second interception he was trying to get the ball out of bounds and just didn’t get enough on it.

Either way, Bennett has five interceptions in the past two weeks. That’s problematic given some of the limitations in Bennett’s skillset.

Now it’s fair to point out Georgia didn’t have George Pickens, as the wide receiver did not travel due to an upper-body injury. And Kentucky does have one of the top secondaries in the country, as the Wildcats have intercepted 11 passes in the last four games. Over that same span, opposing quarterbacks have thrown zero touchdown passes.

Related: WATCH: Kirby Smart denies Georgia’s offense struggled in 14-3 win at Kentucky

But if Georgia is going to get to where it wants to go — the College Football Playoff — it needs to get more out of Bennett and the quarterback position. Smart said after the game he never considered making a quarterback change. And the last time Georgia made a surprising quarterback change midseason — against Florida in 2015 — it went horribly.

Florida’s defense is not as good as Kentucky’s and the Gators were missing three starters in the secondary due to COVID-19. If the Bulldogs are going to beat Florida, Bennett will need to make some plays and more importantly, not turn the ball over.

Winner: A possible second SEC playoff team

The Big 12 now has just a single team with one-loss this season after Oklahoma State fell to Texas. North Carolina dropped a game against Virginia. Penn State lost for a second time and its unknown when Wisconsin will see the field again as it deals with a COVID-19 outbreak.

All these events lead to a better chance of the SEC having a potential second playoff team. Alabama is a clear front-runner for one of them, as the Crimson Tide have been the best team in the country on a week-to-week basis this year.

But Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M all have just a single loss and rank in the top-10. The first two teams will meet this week, while the Aggies have already played and lost to Alabama while beating Florida. All three have a chance to move up this week, especially with No. 1 Clemson playing No. 4 Notre Dame.

The PAC-12 kicks off this weekend, but given the league is playing a shorter schedule, it will be worth seeing how seriously the conference is taken in College Football Playoff discussions. Would a 9-1 or 9-2 SEC team have a better shot of getting in over a 7-0 PAC-12 team?

At the mid-point of the SEC season, the league looks to be about as well-positioned as you can be for a possible second College Football Playoff spot.

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