ATHENS — BCS fever is gripping Georgia fans these days, with a big-money bowl game well within the Bulldogs’ reach.
If eighth-ranked Georgia (8-2, 5-2 SEC) wins out, the Bulldogs are all but assured of an at-large bid to a Bowl Championship Series game — probably the Sugar Bowl. But the rapid rate of descent among highly ranked teams in this crazy college football season has some Georgia fans contemplating who must fall in order for the Bulldogs to advance all the way to the national title game.
Aside from the improbability of enough teams losing for that to happen, other obstacles remain between the Bulldogs and a top-tier bowl. And one of them has already developed a reputation as somewhat of a giant killer.
Georgia will be the third top-10 opponent that Kentucky has faced this season when they kick off at 12:30 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. The previous two — ninth-ranked Louisville and No. 1 LSU — finished those matchups with their first losses of the season.
"They know they can beat LSU, they know they can beat Georgia, they know they can beat everybody they play," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They’ve been in just about every game they’ve played, so we know it’s gonna be a heck of a ballgame."
Kentucky’s Rich Brooks traces that success back to last year’s 24-20 win over the Bulldogs in Lexington. The 22nd-ranked Wildcats (7-3, 3-3) hung with SEC powers Florida and Tennessee last year, but couldn’t quite break through.
Then they drove 69 yards for the winning touchdown over Georgia with a minute remaining.
"It was the first win over one of the traditional powers in the league and certainly showed our team that they could come back in the fourth quarter to beat a quality football team," Brooks said. "I think that probably carried forward."
That it has. The Wildcats have trailed at halftime in seven of their 10 games this season and came back to win four of them. They’ve trailed entering the fourth quarter five times and won twice.
And with a talent-laden offense led by quarterback Andre Woodson, they won’t mind if the game develops into a shootout.
Georgia has scored 40-plus points five times this season - including each of the last three games - but Kentucky has pulled the feat six times.
"As a complete team at every position, I think that it’s the best offense we’ve faced this year," Georgia cornerback Bryan Evans said.
Revenge for last year’s loss - when Kentucky fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts - would normally serve as extra motivation for the Bulldogs. But with an SEC East title still within reach and a possible BCS bid hanging in the balance, Georgia has more than payback on its mind.
"There’s enough to play for regardless of what happened last year, but I’m sure the guys will be thinking about that to a certain degree," Richt said.