When Mark Stoops and No. 11 Kentucky (6-0, 4-0 SEC) face Kirby Smart and No. 1 Georgia (6-0, 4-0 SEC) on Saturday in a battle for the SEC East lead, it will be one of the most consequential football games in which a UK team has ever played.
Could an undefeated Wildcats team playing the number one team in the country relatively late in the season for the SEC East lead be the biggest game in Kentucky football history?
This seems an appropriate opportunity to rank “The 10 Biggest Games” UK has played. We are ranking on the level of pregame buzz and the stakes as they appeared before kickoff, not on the outcomes (which would be a very different list).
The stakes: UK was off to a 5-0 start to set up the first game between ranked teams in the history of the venue then known as Commonwealth Stadium (opened in 1973). The magnitude of the game brought ABC to Lexington to televise. In a time when there were far fewer games broadcast than today, that was a huge deal.
The outcome: LSU 36, Kentucky 10.
The stakes: Some of the pregame bloom had come off this contest when UK lost at No. 11 South Carolina in its prior outing. The once-beaten Cats were seeking their first victory over a No. 1 team since 1964.
The outcome: Kentucky 43, LSU 37, (3 OT).
The stakes: Kentucky had a star quarterback, Andre Woodson, and returned a veteran core from the previous season’s Music City Bowl champions. Louisville had a star quarterback, Brian Brohm, and returned a veteran core from the previous season’s Orange Bowl champions. To this day, this remains the most-hyped modern battle for the Governor’s Cup.
The outcome: Kentucky 40, Louisville 34.
The stakes: A once-defeated but physically-beaten-up UK team was seeking to finish out a memorable season with a 10th win. Standing in the way was the Wildcats’ longtime nemesis, the Rocky Toppers.
The outcome: Kentucky 21, Tennessee 17.
The stakes: UK was seeking its first 10-win season since 1977; its first New Year’s Day Bowl win since the 1952 (1951 season) Cotton Bowl; and its first bowl victory in the state of Florida ever. Meanwhile, Penn State was led by a coach, James Franklin, who had humbled UK by going undefeated vs. the Wildcats in his three years (2011-2013) coaching at Vanderbilt.
The outcome: Kentucky 27, Penn State 24.
The stakes: Kentucky’s upset of No. 1 LSU the prior week and a marquee quarterback matchup between UK senior Andre Woodson and Florida sophomore Tim Tebow combined to bring ESPN’s “College GameDay” to Lexington.
The outcome: Florida 45, Kentucky 37.
The stakes: Undefeated after six games for the first time in 71 years, UK will battle the No. 1 team in the country for the SEC East lead. The fact that the Bulldogs are No. 1 and the Wildcats are unbeaten has combined to gin up a torrent of national media attention for Kentucky football this week.
The outcome: To be determined Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The stakes: Arguably the best team in UK history was one victory from completing a perfect season. Then-UK coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was seeking his first career victory over Tennessee and its iconic coach, Gen. Robert Neyland.
The outcome: Tennessee 7, Kentucky 0.
The stakes: This was a pure winner-take-all for a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Since the Southeastern Conference launched its championship game in 1992, this remains the only time to date when UK was one victory from reaching it.
The outcome: Georgia 34, Kentucky 17.
The stakes: In an era when the mythical national champion was declared before the bowl games, Oklahoma already wore the crown for 1950. Coach Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners were on a 31-game winning streak. UK and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant were seeking to throw off the disappointment of a crushing 7-0 loss (see above) at Tennessee in the regular-season finale.
The outcome: Kentucky 13, Oklahoma 7.
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia
When: 3:30 p.m.
Records: Kentucky 6-0 (4-0 SEC), Georgia 6-0 (4-0)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Series: Georgia leads 60-12-2
Last meeting: Georgia won 14-3 on Oct. 31, 2020, in Lexington.