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Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Schedule Preview: Kentucky Lies In Wait Between Gamecocks, Gators

Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky., Oct. 20

Coach: Joker Phillips, 11-14 in two seasons at Kentucky.
Last year: 5-7 (2-6 SEC), finished fifth in the SEC East.
Best win: The season-ending 10-7 victory over Tennessee that snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols.
Worst loss: A 38-8 loss to Vanderbilt in which the 'Cats trailed 24-0 at halftime.
Returning starters: 13 (six offense, six defense, one special teams).

Stock watch for 2012: Down — maybe not by much, but when you only won two league games the previous season, does it really matter? The Wildcat offense was an absolute disaster area in 2011 (next-to-last in the conference in rushing, dead last in passing yardage, overall yardage and scoring), and there are few indications coming out of Lexington that things will get substantially better this year. They're still searching for a feature tailback, and while there are two relatively experienced QBs on the roster (Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton), everyone in Kentucky blue is crossing their fingers and praying true freshman Patrick Towles makes an immediate impact when he arrives on campus. The defense had its moments last season but must replace its two most productive players, linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy.

Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The completely rebuilt UK secondary allows Aaron Murray to bomb away and roll up considerably better numbers than he did the last time these two teams faced off (an ugly 19-10 Georgia win that nevertheless clinched the SEC East for the Dawgs). Georgia's defense should have no trouble handling a Kentucky attack that will likely be stuck in neutral for a second straight year; what Dawg fans would really like to see after last year's slog is a show of offensive firepower. The strength of Kentucky's defense will be its line, particularly going up against Georgia's regrouping offensive front, so Murray needs to have a good game to keep the Wildcats honest and open up some breathing room for Isaiah Crowell.

Worst-case scenario: A Georgia team either high off a victory over South Carolina or moping from another loss loses focus in Lexington and allows another UGA-UK game to turn into a cover-your-eyes trench battle. Given the disparity in talent between these two teams, it's likely Georgia can escape with a win even if they give another subpar effort, but that wouldn't send a great message with the Cocktail Party trip on deck. The offensive line, in particular, needs to come together and keep Aaron Murray's jersey clean. Either way, maintaining focus will be a challenge considering that this game falls directly between the two biggest games on Georgia's 2012 schedule, at least in terms of repeating as SEC East champions.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.