Barreling head first into a massive weekend business trip to Athens, the Maroons are currently sitting at #17 in the AP Poll and the hype train is full steam ahead for Dan Mullen’s squad. For this weeks Q&A, I spoke to MaconDawg from Dawg Sports, to learn more about the rare Eastern Red & Black Bulldog.
1) Currently UGA is 3-0 with their only notable win being over #24 Notre Dame in South Bend. How are Georgia fans feeling coming into this weekend where UGA will be facing a team coming off of an emotional home win over LSU?
Pretty apprehensive. Georgia has looked good against FCS and Sun Belt competition, and looked just okay against Notre Dame. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, filling in for the injured Jacob Eason, has particularly benefited from teams not making him pay for some mistakes. There's a fear among UGA fans that Mississippi State may be the first team the UGA has played that is good enough to make them pay for those errors.
2) Mississippi State rolls into Athens ranked 20th nationally in total offense, averaging 493 yards per game and 14th nationally in offensive efficiency. How does Mel Tucker plan on stopping Nick Fitzgerald, Aeris Williams and Dan Mullen's offense that just won't seem to quit?
It helps that Tucker is scheming with a defense that returned 10 starters from 2016. That veteran unit has been the highlight of the season so far, pitching a shutout against App. St. until the reserve offense came in and surrendered plum field position, then holding Notre Dame's formidable rushing attack to only 55 yards.
I anticipate that a major part of the plan will be getting multiple bodies to the ball. Another part will be punishing Fitzgerald physically every time he takes off. Also look for Georgia to mix fronts as much as possible to make reads as difficult as possible.
3) Jeffery Simmons and Co. have been outstanding to this point of the season at defending the run, allowing just over 100 yards per game. Obviously the run game is an essential point of Georgia's offense, with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combining to accumulate 73 carries through the first 3 games. Who are some other players that Kirby Smart might look to to spread the ball around?
Georgia has recently found an additional spark from freshman tailback D'Andre Swift, whose electrifying spin move on a touchdown last week may have been the highlight of the Samford game.
But the Bulldogs will also play sophomore tailbacks Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien. We've also seen fullback Christian Payne carry the ball a decent amount this season.
Only rarely do college football games proceed as you drew them up. But if everything goes according to plan for Georgia OC Jim Chaney, UGA would be staked to a solid lead heading to the latter half of the third quarter, and we might see all six of those backs.*
*(Ron Howard voiceover) "They won't get to use all five tailbacks as planned."
4) With Kentucky, Vanderbilt looking to be putting some pieces together in their programs and Florida finding some late game magic last week against Tennessee, what are UGA fans' expectations moving forward after this game in the East division, pending the outcome on Saturday night?
Georgia fans still expect to win the East this season. Florida and Tennessee's recent tickle fight to the death, South Carolina's injury situation, Mizzou's Mizz-ess of a defense, and Kentucky lacking the depth to contend late into the season all bode well for UGA. A cross-divisional lineup of MSU and Auburn doesn't. But Mark Richt will attest that UGA boosters aren't grading on a curve.
5) The line for the game Saturday is currently standing at Georgia -5 (it's just Tuesday, I'm sure they'll change form now, oh well), if you were placing a bet on the matchup, who's your money going on?
I'd take Mississippi State and the points. Betting on college football is a hobby for people who expect 18 year old boys to act predictably. I was one so I know better.
I think Mississippi State has superior players at key positions and should win this one. But if I were a Mississippi State fan I'd be a little worried about whether Dan Mullen's team suffers a little bit of a hangover from last week's victory. It wouldn't be too surprising to see MSU come out a little flat off a physical road game like that.