NOTE: This is part of our series ranking Georgia's most important games in 2012, beginning with the least important, and continuing on to No 1.
The criteria for ranking the games follows this basic criteria: Their role in shaping the ultimate success (or not) of the season, but with consideration given to rivalry, context of season, and caliber of opponent.
No. 12 was Florida Atlantic.
No. 11 was Georgia Southern.
No. 10 was Buffalo.
No. 9 was Ole Miss.
Next up is ...
8. AT KENTUCKY
THE BASICS: LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 5-7 overall, 2-6 in SEC
RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: 6
RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: 5
WHEN: Oct. 20 (Georgia’s seventh game)
HOW THINGS WILL LOOK THEN: Georgia will be coming off a bye, following the game at South Carolina. So Georgia will either be in much need of a confidence boost or will be riding a high. And either way it will be rested. For Kentucky, this will be homecoming, a home game sandwiched in between trips to Arkansas and Missouri.
LEVEL OF IMPORTANCE: If Steve Spurrier had his way this would matter a lot more than that Auburn game. But he didn’t, so this is where it is on the list. Much like the previous entry on this list, the home game against Ole Miss, this is a game that Georgia will either be considered a solid favorite, or its season has taken a pretty bad turn. (Or Kentucky will be playing like its basketball team.) Whatever the case, any successful season for the Bulldogs includes this game going down in the victory category.
MORE ABOUT KENTUCKY: Remember how coaches used to get five years to be judged? Well, now “three” is the new “five” – and Joker Phillips was facing heat at the end of last season. He can take heart in the fact that his successful predecessor, Rich Brooks, didn’t get it going until his third year. But Kentucky will be hard-pressed to do that this year, with so many key players gone. That includes linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy, two of the SEC’s leading tacklers. The quarterback spot is also a bit mucked, with Morgan Newton and Maxwell Smith yet to separate from each other. Smith, a sophomore, was the starter after spring, but his hold on the job is anything but firm. That’s not to say Kentucky can’t turn it around and make a bowl. Phillips has always enjoyed a reputation as a good recruiter. This season he has to show why, and coach up that talent a bit too. It also doesn’t help that in-state rival Louisville is starting to shine under Charlie Strong, who was hired the same season that Phillips took over.
WHO TO WATCH: Senior receiver La’Rod King is the closest thing the Wildcats have to an offensive star. He led the team in catches (58), receiving yards (598) and touchdowns (seven) last year, numbers that were only a slight improvement over his sophomore season. It’s easy to stipulate that King’s numbers would be a lot better if Kentucky’s quarterback situation were settled.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Georgia played sloppy and won 19-10 in Athens, in a game that was much closer than anticipated. It was a bit of a letdown performance a week after throttling Auburn. Still, the Bulldogs clinched the SEC East by winning the game.
THIS TIME: Georgia has had some issues in Lexington before, and has to play a lot better than it did against Kentucky last year. But the fact the game comes after a bye should really help the Bulldogs.