The Mississippi St. Bulldogs are set to square off against the Georgia Bulldogs. Mississippi State is coming off a big win over LSU, only the third time the Bulldogs have beaten the Tigers in the last 25 years. Georgia has looked good, not great, in their three games so far under the direction of true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who is playing due to injuries sustained by last year’s starter Jacob Eason.
Reasons to worry about Georgia
- Georgia is really good at defense. The other Bulldogs are only giving up 266 yards of offense to their opponents through three games. Georgia also does a good job of keeping teams out of the end zone, as they have only allowed 4 touchdowns all season.
- Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are a 1-2 running combination like no other, and they seem to have a nice third punch in D’Andre Swift. The three have combined for an average of 192 yards rushing per game and 6.2 yards per carry.
- The Bulldogs have big play potential in the passing game. The two leading receivers for the Bulldogs are averaging over 20 yards a catch.
Reasons not to worry about Georgia
- The Georgia secondary can be beat. They have only given up 195 yards per game which is okay, not great, but opponents have completed 62.6% of their passes, and no defensive backs have picked a pass off yet.
- Jake Fromm is a true freshman quarterback with a vulnerable offensive line in front of him. He’s not a very mobile quarterback, and if Mississippi State can continue to get penetration with their active front 7, he could go down quite a bit.
- History will have no impact on the game. The last time the Bulldogs beat Georgia in Athens was 1956. The last time the Bulldogs played in Athens, Mississippi State was hammered. None of these players were on those teams, and it won’t impact the game at all.
Mississippi State will lose if...
- The Bulldogs aren’t able to protect Nick Fitzgerald. Georgia has an incredible front 7 and will do their best to make Nick Fitzgerald uncomfortable when he looks to throw the football.
- Nick Fitzgerald isn’t able to get comfortable running the football before he has to start throwing the football. Fitz seems to find his rhythm best when he is able to establish his running game first. If the Bulldogs can’t get him to break a run or two early, it could lead to a slow day in the passing game.
- Georgia is able to shut down the running game. Aeris Williams didn’t get a lot of attention for having an amazing game last week against LSU, but it was his running ability that kept the LSU defense honest. Mississippi State needs to feed him early and often.
- Jeffery Simmons doesn’t continue to dominate the offensive line. The offense will focus on slowing down Simmons, and in doing so will continue to create opportunities for Montez Sweat and Gerri Green to make plays rushing the quarterback.
Mississippi State will win if...
- The Bulldogs are able to continue the consistent play in the passing game. Mississippi State is the SEC leading team in rushing the football, but the reason they have so much success on the ground is because Nick Fitzgerald has continued to develop as a passer
- The offensive line plays like it did last weekend against LSU. John Hevesy may not be much of a recruiter, but when he has guys he likes on the offensive line, he can turn those players into a cohesive group that opens holes for the running backs and gives the quarterback time to throw.
- Mississippi State finds big plays in the passing game off the read-pass option or play action pass. Fitzgerald’s two touchdown passes last weekend were on these exact types of plays and he will need to execute like he did against LSU.
- The Bulldogs are able to get points every time they reach the 30 yard line. Jace Christmann left an amazing impression on Bulldog fans last week, and they will need him to produce similar results this week as well.
For some reason, many Mississippi State fans I have spoken to aren’t very optimistic about the Maroon Bulldogs’ chances in this game. They all seem to think Mississippi State has the better coach, better quarterback, and more experienced players ready for a big showdown of such magnitude. They think since this game is on the road, the Bulldogs can’t win it.
I hate to be bearer of good news in this situation, but home field advantage in college football isn’t what it used to be. And there’s a handy dandy report to prove it. Only 55% of conference games in the SEC were won by home teams in 2015.
In 2014, Mississippi State won all of their home games and went 2-2 in conference road games. It could lend to the argument that home field matters. Problem is, in 2015, Mississippi State went 3-1 in conference games on the road and 1-3 at home. In 2016, Mississippi State went 1-3 in conference on the road and 2-2 in conference at home. It’s not that big of a difference.
Dan Mullen runs a team that nullifies much of what makes playing on the road difficult. The Bulldogs play with pace much more than they used to, which relies less on calling a play in from the sideline, thus eliminating the effect of crowd noise. Snap counts can go silent and it allows the offense to not have to hear the quarterback. Plays can also be changed at the line without speaking a word.
Home field advantage can play a factor, but it simply isn’t as big as it used to be. Simply playing in front of Bulldog fans in red instead of Maroon doesn’t make me think it will be enough to cause the Bulldogs to lose. Mississippi State wins this game, 34-24