ATHENS, Ga. — Despite being hit with an undisclosed number of new positive COVID-19 tests late this week, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are set to face the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. The battle of the Bulldogs is set for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be airing on SEC Network.
Reports are that Mississippi State (2-4) will have less than 53 available scholarship student-athletes, which is the threshold set by the Southeastern Conference.
According to guidelines announced by the league at the beginning of the season, SEC teams need to have at least 53 scholarship student-athletes available, including a quarterback, seven offensive linemen and four defensive linemen. If a team can’t meet the minimum requirements, it can either postpone the game without penalty or choose to play anyway, which is exactly what MSU has decided to do.
After snapping its four-game losing streak with a 24-17 win over Vanderbilt, Mississippi State had last week’s scheduled game against Auburn pushed back to Dec. 12 due to positive tests and contact tracing. Georgia (4-2) also had its game at Missouri postponed due to the pandemic.
Mississippi State and Georgia are meeting for the first time since 2017. Georgia leads the all-time series 18-6. Three of the last four meetings have taken place in Athens, and Georgia has won 10 straight meetings at Sanford Stadium since Mississippi State’s last victory in Athens, a 19-7 win in 1956.
Although it has become a weekly question, Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach won’t say whether freshman Will Rogers or graduate transfer K.J. Costello will start at quarterback.
Rogers played against Vanderbilt in place of the injured Costello and completed 35 of 46 passes for 226 yards and a touchdown. Leach said he was hopeful that Costello has recovered from a head injury that he sustained in a 41-0 loss at Alabama.
MSU’s leading receiver is fifth-year senior Osirus Mitchell, who has made 26 catches for 336 yards receiving and three scores. Freshman running back Jo’quavious Marks has carried the ball 37 times for 131 yards rushing and a score. He has also made 38 catches for 161 yards receiving.
Georgia ranks ninth in the SEC in total offense with 382.8 yards of total offense per game. The Bulldogs have especially struggled in passing offense, ranking 11th in the league with an average of 209.3 yards passing per game.
Georgia is set to start its third quarterback of the season, turning to former Southern California signal-caller JT Daniels. The former five-star prospect threw for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 11 games as a freshman. He tore his ACL in the first game of the 2019 season.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kearis Jackson leads Georgia with 27 catches for 396 yards receiving and two scores. The Bulldogs are also expected to get sophomore wide receiver George Pickens back from injury this week. He has made 13 catches for 140 yards and two scores in four games played.
Georgia’s ground game is led by redshirt sophomore running back Zamir White, who has carried the ball 97 times for 509 yards (5.2 average) and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, the contest features defenses ranked second and third in the SEC. Georgia ranks No. 2 and has allowed 345.7 yards per game, while Mississippi State is third on the list at 359.8.
Mississippi State sophomore linebacker Aaron Brule leads the team with 20 total pressures (16 hurries, two quarterback hits, two sacks), which is tied for sixth in the league and leads all linebackers. He posted a career-high 12 tackles against Vanderbilt. He is second on the team with 41 total tackles.
Senior linebacker Erroll Thompson leads MSU with 59 total tackles.
As for Georgia, it ranks first in the SEC in rushing defense (average of 82.8 yards), but it ranks 10th in passing defense, allowing 262.8 yards passing. In its two losses on the season, Georgia gave up 417 yards passing to Alabama and 474 to Florida.
Sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean leads Georgia with 49 tackles. Senior linebacker Monty Rice and sophomore defensive back Lewis Cine follow with 35 and 31 tackles, respectively.