When Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips sits down and evaluates Georgia, the last thing he pays attention to is the Bulldogs' 3-4 record.
Instead, he notices how Georgia has hit its stride after playing the first four games without star receiver A.J. Green, and how the Bulldogs have beaten Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined 84-14 the past two weeks.
He sees a Bulldogs defense that gets stingier by the week and ranks third in the Southeastern Conference in total defense and fourth in scoring defense. Not to mention special teams boasting a kicker (Blair Walsh) and a punter (Drew Butler) that rank among the nation's best.
"You look at them and you say this could not be a team that's lost four games," Phillips said.
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The fact is, the Bulldogs have lost four games — but three of those came while Green was on the sidelines serving a four-game NCAA-imposed suspension for selling his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey. Green has scored a touchdown in every game since returning.
"They have their playmaker back, which is the reason why they're so hot," Phillips said.
The Bulldogs' two-game winning streak, like Kentucky, has them thinking about winning a wide-open SEC East and has cooled the hot seat for Coach Mark Richt for the time being.
"I don't think I have to say anything to the team. They are keeping an eye on it," Richt said. "The only thing we focused on these last two games was winning each game. Our big motivation was just doing the things we need to do to get better. We've got some momentum from the last couple of weekends. We want to keep the focus on that.
"People always say year in and year out that anybody can win on any given weekend, and that's what's happening right now. Everybody has great coaches, players and fans, all the ingredients to win on any given Saturday. No one has proven to be unbeatable in the East, and in our league, the ones undefeated have been in some close games. It's an exciting year in the SEC, no doubt."
"They're coming in on a high, and our confidence is up, too, so it should be an exciting game," UK sophomore La'Rod King said.
Phillips hasn't shied away from talking about the possibility of the program's first division crown.
"I want our guys to hear it," he said. "Usually you have coaches who say we don't talk about it. Here in Kentucky, we need to hear it. I think we need to hear it."
UK plans to keep operating with a chip on its shoulder even after Saturday's season-reviving 31-28 win over No. 10 South Carolina.
"We have to have that mentality that we have to go out and prove ourselves," defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin said. "We're still Kentucky, and every week we're trying to prove everybody wrong. We're still going to get picked to lose. It is what it is. I'm not worried about a letdown. I think we're starting to come together."
Hartline Co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week
UK senior quarterback Mike Hartline was selected as the co-Offensive Player of the Week for his 349-yard, four-TD passing performance in the win over South Carolina. He shared the honors with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who accounted for 328 yards and four touchdowns in the Tigers' 65-43 win over Arkansas.
UK-Miss. State kickoff at 7
UK's Oct. 30 game at No. 24 Mississippi State will kick off at 7 p.m. and be televised by ESPNU.