Bennett, Bowers lead No. 1 Georgia past No. 11 Kentucky, 30-13

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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ATHENS, Ga. – With Georgia playing its first game as the nation’s No. 1-ranked team since 2008, Stetson Bennett tossed three touchdown passes and the Bulldogs got another stifling defensive effort in a 30-13 victory over No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday.

Bennett, starting his third straight game in place of injured JT Daniels, hooked up with freshman tight end Brock Bowers on a pair of scores.

The senior quarterback was 14 of 20 for 250 yards in another solid performance with Daniels watching from the sideline for the Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference),

Bowers, who has emerged as one of Georgia’s most dynamic offensive weapons in his first college season, had five receptions for 101 yards.

Georgia’s defense allowed two touchdown in a game for the first time all season – the second with 4 seconds remaining after Kentucky (6-1, 4-1) called a timeout to take one last shot at punching it in from the 1.

Otherwise, Georgia’s top-ranked defense lived up to the billing, limiting Kentucky to 249 total yards and blocking a pair of kicks.

The Wildcats pulled out all stops, even running a hook and lateral. But one week after rushing for 330 yards in a win over LSU, they had little success on the ground against Georgia’s fearsome defense, managing just 51 yards.

Kentucky trailed only 14-7 at halftime, matching Georgia’s smallest lead of the season after two quarters.

But the Bulldogs took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards in six plays to effectively finish off the Wildcats and gain a stranglehold on the SEC East race. Every other team in the division has at least one conference loss.

An apparent 59-yard touchdown pass to Bowers was negated by a holding penalty, but Bennett connected again with the freshman right end in the right corner of the end zone for the 27-yard score that did stand, pushing the lead to 21-7.

Bowers had another TD on a 20-yard play with about 11 1/2 minutes remaining to make it 30-7.

After a scoreless opening quarter, Georgia scored on back-to-back possessions. James Cook took a short pass 19 yards to the end zone, and Zamir White followed with a 24-yard scoring burst right up the middle.

Late in the first half, Kentucky finally put together a lengthy drive against the Bulldogs.

Catching a break when a video review overturned a fumble call, the Wildcats covered 75 yards in 13 plays, converting three times on third down. Will Levis capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Justin Rigg.

Kentucky squandered another scoring chance when Devonte Wyatt powered right up the middle to block a 33-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the third quarter.

But Levis and the Wildcats would not be denied on their final drive, the quarterback going to Wan'Dale Robinson for another short scoring pass with the crowd that remained at Sanford Stadium booing loudly over Kentucky going to such efforts for a meaningless TD.

Clearly angry, the Bulldogs blocked the extra point.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kentucky: The Wildcats are building a top-tier program and could take some solace from scoring their first touchdowns against Georgia since 2018. But they still have a ways to go to compete against a truly elite squad such as the Bulldogs, who have now won 12 straight in the one-sided series.

Georgia: Being able to count on Bennett allowed the Bulldogs to give Daniels two more weeks of rest before their next game, which should give him plenty of time to be fully recovered from a lat muscle injury.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: After an off week, the Wildcats head to Starkville on Oct. 30 to take on Mississippi State.

Georgia: The Bulldogs are also off next weekend, then travel to Jacksonville to face Florida in the annual “Cocktail Party” rivalry game on Oct. 30.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.