The Georgia Bulldogs try to secure their first SEC win on Saturday when they visit another Bulldog team — Mississippi State. Georgia came up on the short end last Saturday with a 31-24 last minute loss to Arkansas Razorbacks giving them a 0-2 SEC record. Mississippi State has an identical 0-2 SEC record with losses to Auburn and LSU. So both teams are desperate for a win as they look to get back into the SEC race.
Last weekend against LSU, Mississippi State’s defense played valiantly despite being put in tough situations. The defense held LSU to only 264 yards of total offense, but the Tigers scored five field goals and two touchdowns on their first seven possessions. State’s defense allowed only 97 passing yards to the Tigers.
Mississippi State has a somewhat quarterback controversy on their hands. QB Chris Relf started against LSU and threw two picks in the first half and was shaken up on the opening drive of the second, so head coach Dan Mullen pulled him and put in backup Tyler Russell, who threw three more picks, all of them deep in Bulldog territory. For now, Relf will start against Georgia, but Russell has a laser rocket arm and is more of a prototypical quarterback than Relf. For now, Mullen will use a two quarterback system until one of his QBs takes the reins and never looks back.
State has been able to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in all three of their contests this year. State rushed for 192 yards against Memphis, 117 yards against Auburn, and 152 at LSU. The Bulldogs also scored at least one rushing touchdown in each game.
Georgia comes in this Saturday’s game mentally wounded as a Mark Richt Georgia team has never started 0-2 in SEC play. Redshirt freshman QB Aaron Murray has gotten better in each game even though the results may not show. He should have RB Caleb King back from injury, who was the leading rusher last year, in his backfield to take pressure off of Murray as well as being the best back to pick up blitzes. Last week, Arkansas put heavy pressure on Murray by sacking him six times.
On defense, Georgia is struggling with their new 3-4 scheme as South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore (187 yards rushing) and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallet (21-of-33 for 380 yards with 3 TDs) has shown. Due to the new scheme, players are at times having a difficult time reacting to the opposing offense.
The quarterback play in Saturday’s game should be the key as all the quarterbacks (UGA’s Murray; Miss St’s Relf & Russell) expected to play are young and inexperience. Georgia has not been able to run the ball effectively in the last two games so it will help with King coming back. The offense line has been a disappointment so far and have been heavily criticized all week. Murray needs to do a better job of not holding onto the ball and avoiding the sack. On defense, Georgia needs to force Mississippi State to throw and not let them establish the run.
Mississippi State has nothing to lose on Saturday. If they are successful in running the ball and controlling the clock, it could be a long day for Georgia. The intangibles in this game could also be working against Georgia – road game, night game, national telecast, and Dan Mullen seeking his first signature win. By the end of the game, both teams could be going in different directions.
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Written by Bob Ballard