“We will be able to play physically with them”

ATHENS – Georgia defenders are eager to take to the pitch on Saturday. For several reasons.

For one thing, this unit continues to improve every week. It helps that Jalen Carter is regaining his form after posting three strong performances in a row. Having physical strength like Carter in the middle of the defense makes things easier for the rest of the unit.

“He’s explosive, he’s quick, he’s disruptive, he’s in the backfield,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s on the quarterbacks, in terms of when you get to the quarterbacks before they throw him, you usually have a chance to bring out a force, and when you get running backs in the backfield, maybe before they cross the line of scrimmage, you have a shot to put an arm on the ball or knock it out. He’s definitely a powerful and explosive player.”

There’s also this week’s opponent in Kentucky. While Tennessee and Mississippi State want to throw the ball all over the court, Kentucky doesn’t. Despite having an NFL prospect at quarterback in Will Levis, the Wildcats threw for 109 yards last week against Vanderbilt’s anemic secondary.

Related: Georgia football is more than confident that Stetson Bennett can beat Kentucky quarterback Will Levis

Kentucky wants to score and shorten the game by running the football. It helps to have Chris Rodriguez, one of the most physical running backs in the SEC. Kentucky has built a respectable program by being one of the most physical teams in the league.

Georgia knows this, the last two games against Kentucky being remembered for their physicality.

“One of the things we have to do to prepare for a team like this is have physical workouts,” linebacker Smael Mondon said. “We like it when a team just tries to attack us because we can physically play with them.”

There has been palpable excitement about going to play Kentucky this week, as it looks to be a game where the Georgian defense shines once again. Add the NFL concepts that Kentucky offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello employs, and members of the Georgia defense hope to use this game as a way to show how they would play against an NFL scheme.

“It intrigues the players a lot more, playing against an NFL-style offense,” Smart said. “It motivates them a bit more because they know a lot of teams are watching these tapes. With their coordinator coming from the NFL, it’s more the kind of style they’ll be playing against at the next level. So that part excites them.

Even after the loss to Vanderbilt, Smart knows Kentucky will give Georgia their best shot. Add to that that the game should be played in sub-freezing temperatures and is a game decided by the more physical team.

That should play into the hands of this Georgia defense, which has given up less than 105 rushing yards in each of the last nine games.

“We just got back to our basic stuff,” linebacker Chaz Chambliss said. “Going back to 12, 13 person packages and playing hard nosed football.”

Georgia football defense thrilled to stuff Kentucky offense

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