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Cats, Dogs both with plenty to play for in late season matchup

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Gameday
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Kentucky at Georgia
Sat., Nov. 19 - 12:21 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky.
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Sanford Stadium
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UGA Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: SEC Network
Radio: UK IMG
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UK 2011 Team Stats UGA
17.0 Scoring/game 35.8
15.0 First downs/game 22.8
273.5 Total offense/game 438.7
126.5 Rushing yards/game 188.4
147.0 Passing yards/game 250.3
20.2 Kickoff returns (avg) 22.8
2.0 Punt returns (avg) 7.8
39.1 Net punting (avg) 33.6
28:20 Time of possession/game 33:46
29.2 Third down conversion 45.4
45.9 Fourth down conversion 62.5
-2 Turnover margin +9
27.0 Points allowed/game 18.6
393.1 Total yards allowed/game 273.3
198.2 Rush yards allowed/game 87.1
194.9 Pass yards allowed/game 186.2
With the Georgia just one win away from clinching the Southeastern Conference Eastern division title, the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 SEC) will no doubt be motivated for a matchup on Saturday in Athens, Ga., with Kentucky.

Joker Phillips knows the Georgia faithful will sense the opportunity in front of their team, making for an environment in Sanford Stadium that will be even more raucous than usual.  However, Phillips and the Wildcats (4-6, 1-5 SEC) won't concede their opponents are the only ones with a lot to play for.

"I'm sure (the crowd) will (be loud)," Phillips said. "Those guys have a lot riding on this game. We got a lot riding on it also."

With two games left in the 2011 season against Georgia and Tennessee, UK needs to win out in order to extend its streak of consecutive bowl games to six. From the coaching staff to the veterans to the newcomers, there exists an awareness of how difficult the climb to reach those bowl games has been that is driving everyone involved with the program.

"It's important to all of us with how hard it was to get to this level," Phillips said. "It was really a struggle, no doubt about that. It had never been done before so it was really a struggle to get to that level. The hard part is keeping it at that level."

The Wildcats know that a loss in either of their final two games means they'll be going home for the holidays. The players love their families, but they'd prefer to spend Christmastime in Lexington, Ky., preparing for a 13th game.

"We have to win out," sophomore linebacker Avery Williamson said. "It's an important thing for us, trying to get back to a bowl game. I don't want to go home early."

Georgia, though, won't make it easy. Since losing their first two games of the season, the Bulldogs have reeled off eight consecutive wins, including a dominant 45-7 victory over then-No. 24 Auburn their last time out.  They are probably the most balanced team the Cats have faced all season, averaging well over 400 yards on offense while holding their opponents to just 273.3 yards per game.

"They're very good up front, they're very good with their blitzes and they've got a great secondary," senior tight end Nick Melillo said.

To Phillips, it's Georgia's size that jumps off the page.

"What impressed me with the way Georgia plays, first of all you look at them physically," Phillips said. "It's one of the biggest teams that we've played up front especially."

The Bulldogs' five starters along the offensive line have an average weight of 329.4 pounds and three of them stand at 6-foot-5. On defense, the starters along Georgia's three-man front all weigh at least 306 pounds.

With Aaron Murray at quarterback, Georgia has the ability to move the ball up and down the field through the air, but their bruising offensive line allows running back Isaiah Crowell, one of the nation's top freshman, to do just as much damage on the ground. Crowell has rushed 170 times for 821 yards in his first collegiate season.

"They ran the ball 11 straight times in a drive and scored on it (against Auburn)," Phillips said. "Eleven straight times. When you can do that, it's controlling the clock, controlling the line of scrimmage, it's keeping your defense fresh."

For the Wildcats to avoid a fresh Georgia defense, they will need to find a way to move the ball consistently on offense. After he and the entire offense struggled in a loss at Vanderbilt last weekend, freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith will be looking to turn things around in his third career start. His teammates certainly have faith in him.

"I think the biggest thing about Max is he has so much confidence in himself from the way he plays, the way he distributes the ball and the way he runs the offense," Melillo said. "He's young, we know that, but that gives us confidence in him when we see how confident he is."

Smith wasn't around the last time Kentucky traveled to Georgia to play the Bulldogs, but plenty of his teammates were there when UK won 34-27, the Cats' first win at Georgia since 1977. The success UK had that season led to even more success recruiting players from Georgia.

"Probably the last time we were down there it was big, big getting on their turf and playing the way we played," Phillips said.

UK now boasts 21 players on its roster from the Peach State who are excited to be playing in front of their families.

"I'm looking forward to seeing those guys in front of their parents and last time we were down there a lot of guys from Georgia made plays for us," Phillips said. "I expect that same type of effort and desire to win down there."

The Cats are hoping a similar result will follow too.

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