LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Most seasons in the Southeastern Conference, having three losses before Halloween relegates a team to spoiler status.
This isn't most seasons, at least not in the wide-open SEC East.
Kentucky (4-3, 1-3) and Georgia (3-4, 2-3) meet tonight knowing a win could give them a legitimate shot at making it to Atlanta for the SEC title game. All six teams in the division have at least two losses with six weeks to go.
While Kentucky coach Joker Phillips knows the Wildcats would need some help, coming off an upset of South Carolina helps. And his team played well enough in the second half against the Gamecocks -- rallying from an 18-point deficit to win 31-28 -- that he isn't afraid to mention what's on the table for the Wildcats.
"I want our guys to hear it," Phillips 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."
Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't quite as blunt about his team's prospects even though the Bulldogs are finally starting to look like the team considered one of the conference favorites over the summer.
"I'm sure it's in the back of everybody's mind that things could get more exciting, but things won't get more exciting unless we win this game, so that's where our focus has been," Richt said.
Georgia has won two in a row by a combined score of 84-14, including a shutout of Vanderbilt last weekend. The offense is clicking thanks to the return of wide receiver A.J. Green.
The confidence that was on the verge of eroding in September has returned. As strange as it sounds, they're the hottest team in the SEC East at the moment and with games against Florida and Auburn still on the schedule, the Bulldogs still have plenty of chances to make some noise.
"We knew what we had since back in the summer, and when things weren't going our way we weren't doing what we knew we could do," Georgia running back Carlton Thomas said. "We pulled together and took a stand. that's what we did. Everything's getting better and we pulled out some wins."