|No. 7 Georgia looks to bounce back against upstart Kentucky|
ATHENS, Ga. -- It's all about the response.
That's been Kirby Smart's weeklong message to the media following last week's 40-17 debacle at the hands of Auburn, a loss that knocked the Bulldogs out of the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. They fell to No. 7.
With Kentucky up next on Saturday, he's anxious to see what answers they find.
"Kentucky is not going to feel sorry for us, so humility is always a week away," Smart said. "But I think this team will answer the right way because we've got some good leaders in this room, and they want to improve on what they just showed."
There's obviously still a ton to play for.
Georgia (9-1, 6-1) already knows it's going to be playing Dec. 4 in Mercedes Benz Stadium for the SEC Championship, against either Auburn or Alabama.
Assuming the Bulldogs can get past the Wildcats, Georgia Tech in the season finale and win the SEC title, Georgia is all but assured a spot in the playoffs despite Saturday's loss to Auburn.
"There's definitely still plenty of motivation," Bulldog running back Nick Chubb said. "We just need to keep everyone's heads up and keep the guys going. We need to keep practicing hard."
Kentucky (7-3, 4-3) has plenty riding, too.
The Wildcats are still alive for a 10-win season and a Jan. 1 bowl if they can win their final two games, and after last week's rout of Vanderbilt last week, is feeling pretty good about its chances.
"I was pleased with the way our team responded from a tough loss the week before," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. "As I mentioned last week, it does not surprise me with the character of this football team, and again, hopefully we can continue to build on this and play our best football here down the home stretch."
Saturday's game features three of the best running backs in the SEC.
Georgia's Nick Chubb (894 yards, 10 touchdowns) needs just 106 yards to reach 1,000 for the third time in his career, while teammates Sony Michel has run for 731 and nine scores.
Kentucky, meanwhile, features sophomore Benny Snell, a 223-pound bruiser who has run for 1,013 yards and 15 scores, which ties Auburn's Kerryon Johnson for tops in the SEC.
"Chubb and Sony Michel, they're both just monster backs," Stoops said. "Those guys are just really quality players. You've got to respect them and the physicality of their team. That's what they want to do: They want to pound the football. They have a very talented, young quarterback (Jake Fromm) and very explosive outside, so they always put that stress on you."
Fromm will try to bounce back from a difficult afternoon, one which saw him harassed for most of the game against Auburn, completing just 13 of 28 passes for 184 yards.
"Jake's a battler," Smart said. "If he showed anything it was that he can move in the pocket. At the end of the day, I thought Jake played well. He played hard and made some good decisions."
Stoops has no doubt he will get the Bulldogs' best.
"Georgia's a fantastic football team and there's no doubt just like we have responded, they'll be back at it and Kirby (Smart) has done a phenomenal job," he said. "He'll have their full attention and they'll be back to work. They're a very good football team that's very well coached."
Smart believes his team will stay positive.
"I'm the one in charge. I'm the one responsible for what we did out there (at Auburn). I'm not running away from that," Smart said. "We didn't play the way we are capable of, and our kids understand and respect that. Now, we have to respond. That's why we do all the stuff that we do. This is just an opportunity for our leaders to come through, including me."
He's confident that will happen.
According to Smart, his team has put in too much effort to let one loss distract it from the goals that remain in place.
"It's a wake-up call for some of those guys. Auburn had a much better game plan and they beat us physically," Smart said. "Our job is to respond the right way and move on now to Kentucky. You don't want Auburn to beat you twice. You get ready to go play Kentucky."