LEXINGTON, Ky. - News that running back Derrick Locke won't be available for Kentucky, due to a shoulder injury, certainly didn't go unnoticed by the Georgia coaching staff.
But that's not necessarily good news for the Bulldogs as that likely means more plays for Randall Cobb.
Not only is Cobb one of the more versatile players in the SEC, he's also one of the more explosive, as he's shown on two previous occasions against the Bulldogs (3-4, 3-3), who enter Saturday night's game in Lexington hoping to even pull to .500 thus keeping their hopes of an SEC East title alive.
The Wildcat junior certainly has defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's attention.
"You've got to know where he's at, that's for sure. He's an explosive guy," said Grantham, whose defense ranks third in the SEC in total defense (290.1 yards per game). "He's dangerous, running, throwing and passing. They've got some other good players so we can't say we've got to stop just him; we'll have to play well. We're going to have to play efficiently and we'll have to know where guys are."
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-3) will no doubt miss Locke, the SEC's third-leading rusher with 574 yards, but with quarterback Mike Hartline and the afore-mentioned Cobb, Kentucky is still a dangerous team.
Hartline is actually the league's second-rated passer having completed 157-of-230 passes for 1,791 yards and 13 touchdowns, but when it comes to the player who grabs Georgia's attention the most, it's Cobb.
In two games against Georgia, Cobb has scored five touchdowns, including a memorable performance as a freshman which saw the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder account for 187 total yards (105 passing and 82 rushing) with three rushing scores.
Georgia won that game, posting a 42-38 victory in Lexington before Cobb and Kentucky returned the favor with last year's 34-27 victory over the Bulldogs in Athens. Cobb scored twice in the seven-point win.
"He's just a talented guy who makes a lot of plays," said Grantham. "He's very much a part of what they do."
As for Georgia, the Bulldogs have every reason to keep Cobb corralled as best they can.
After last week's series of upsets, including Kentucky's win over East-leading South Carolina, Georgia's victories over Tennessee and Vanderbilt have put the Bulldogs back in the improbably position of being in contention for the division crown.
Although some may still consider Georgia's chances a long shot, the fact is the Bulldogs can lay claim to the East title if they beat Kentucky, Florida and Auburn and have South Carolina lose two of its four remaining contests to Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas.
"You never know each week who is going to win - we witnessed that the last couple weeks in the SEC, especially the East," said quarterback Aaron Murray, who continues to thrive having completed 112-of-181 passes for 1,653 yards and 12 touchdowns. "It's been a whirlwind for everybody. All you can do is focus on yourself and keep winning and see how it all unfolds."
But to do that, the Bulldogs will have to do something they've yet to accomplish in three attempts this year - win on the road.
Head coach Mark Richt dismissed the notion that his Bulldogs have any sort of confidence issue playing away from Sanford Stadium.
"I don't think so. As you mentioned, our road record has been very good if you're talking about the opponent's home. Our neutral site hasn't been as exciting, but when we go into other people's house we've had tremendous success," Richt said "If you took the record over nine or 10 seasons it's probably the best in the league, I don't know. As of the last year or two it hasn't been very impressive, this year especially has not been. Do I think there is a confidence issue? I don't think there is. Why is that the case? Usually it just comes down to whether or not you made the plays when you had to. The last couple of games we've played have been games where we started fast and kept the momentum and finished pretty fast."
Actually, playing away from home isn't the biggest concern for Richt.
Can the Bulldogs win a close game? So far, they haven't.
Georgia's three victories have been by a combined score of 139-21. In the Bulldogs' four losses have been by 11, 7, 12 and 2 points.
"We've not won a game that's been tight. We have to learn to make the plays when they count the most. We're talking about the Arkansas game, didn't finish and had a chance to finish. We had a chance at Colorado to finish the game and didn't finish," Richt said. "We've had some key turnovers or penalties in some of those very close games that have hurt us. We know red zone scoring is going to be huge. Are we going to get threes or are we going to get sevens? Are we going to keep them from getting touchdowns and getting field goals if they can get into that range. Third down conversions are huge. The margin for error is much less in this game than it's probably been in the last couple. Going in we didn't know that. Can we win a close game? That's what we are going to find out."
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