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Kirby Smart, Georgia lock in on undefeated Kentucky

All of the hand-wringing over losing defensive standouts to the NFL draft becomes a pertinent topic this week.

Not because Georgia head coach Kirby Smart misses the likes of Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, but because the Kentucky Wildcats are anchored by a physical pro prospect in running back Ray Davis. The Vanderbilt transfer ran for 280 yards and scored four total touchdowns in leading Kentucky’s takedown of Florida.

“He’s an exceptional back. As good a back as I’ve seen in a long time,” Smart said, comparing Davis to a bigger model of former Bulldogs running back D’Andre Swift, who is now with the Eagles.

“This guy is smooth, explosive. … He’s aggressive in the way that he runs. One-cut runner. They do a tremendous job blocking for him, so it’s not all him. They are committed to running the ball.”

Kentucky (5-0) might be a more complete team now than the 2021 version that went to Athens with a 6-0 record and lost 30-13 to undefeated Georgia. The Wildcats have the same number of explosive runs and passes this season and are getting it done on defense.

The Wildcats feature an assortment of unique defensive looks and vary which personnel drops off the line into coverage to confuse the quarterback. While Carson Beck passed his first road test in the SEC, beating Auburn 27-20 last week, the Wildcats are capable of flipping the field thanks to playmakers in the secondary. Kentucky has three defensive touchdowns this season, including two pick 6s by cornerback Maxwell Hairston.

“You don’t play a lot of people just like them,” Smart said. “They have a lot of overhangs, what I call depth in their defense. They have people at the second level all over the place. There’s not a lot of free yards. They play odd front, they play 3-4 and 4-3. These guys are really good at stopping the run. They have a really good scheme. It’s not easy to mimic.”

Georgia has 22 consecutive wins at home and the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a row against Kentucky.

Smart said he’s concerned about getting wide receiver Ladd McConkey (back) in good enough shape to play him more significant snaps, starting this week.

Former Georgia and Miami (Fla.) coach Mark Richt joined Smart at his Monday press conference to announce a fundraising event, the Chick-fil-a Richt’s Dawg Bowl, to help find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease and Crohn’s Disease on Oct. 18. The private bowling event during the Georgia bye week has a goal of raising $750,000 for the University of Georgia Isaacson Center for Neurological Disease research. Richt is fighting Parkinson’s and his granddaughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s.

“We’re going to get to a million, whatever it takes,” Smart said of the fundraising effort.

Smart said he plans to get some bowling practice in before the event.

–Field Level Media

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