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Opponent: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Kickoff: 12:00 PM
2 TD road win in the SEC? I’ll take it every time. Now we play the other team from round those parts and hopefully we get to exact a little revenge from last year. Another week, another SEC battle.
About the Ole Miss game…
I loved that game. Not even close to perfect, it gave the coaches plenty of things to work on moving forward but as fans it was plainly obvious that this UGA team was really close to being good, maybe really good. The defense played incredibly well all game, constantly rising to the occasion and smothering repeated attempts by the Rebels to seize momentum. When I began to feel comfortable was when they flat stoned the Rebels after that onside kick when you just had that feeling the game was starting to slip away. They stepped up and the rest was history. The offense showed some balance and at times looked downright nasty.
Clearly the most worrisome part of that game was the play of Blair Walsh. Normally a model of consistency, in this game he was just consistently bad. 3 missed FGs was just completely unexpected and frankly shocking. Coupled with his previous misses, we’re staring down the barrel of old Mr. Reliable turning into a huge question. Maybe it makes Richt less inclined to play for the FG. On that line of thinking, I firmly believe that late in the 2nd half, when it was clear that Ole Miss wasn’t capable of much on offense and we were trying to kill the clock with the run game that Richt decided to settle for a couple of FGs to give Walsh a chance to get back in rhythm. It just took a while.
- Running the Meyer spread, Mullen uses a balanced attack of run and pass with a lot of motion guys factoring into the play. You see a lot of option type stuff that makes the D play assignment football but with enough other things in there to keep a defense honest. His offense puts considerable pressure on the DEs to figure out if it’s a jet sweep or a straight run or a pass or who knows what. While they won’t go trick play as often as Nutt, there’s plenty of misdirection.
- At QB, Chris Relf reminds me a lot of former GT QB Josh Nesbitt, only bigger. He’s hard to take down and he’s tough as nails, getting hit a lot and just continuing to go. Like Nesbitt, he’s not a particularly gifted passer but his team’s running game allows him to succeed by putting him in good positions. On the year he’s completing a good number of passes (58%) but has only thrown 4 TDs to 3 INTs. Oddly enough his worst game of the year rating-wise was last week against Louisiana Tech where he completed less than 50% of his passes. He killed us last year, rushing for 109 yards on 20 carries to go with an efficient 9-14 passing night for 148 yards.
- Vick Ballard gets the bulk of the non-Relf carries. Looking at his sporty 7 ypc average, you see why. He’s not a small back at 215 pounds and is a threat on the bane of our defense, the wheel route. His 8 receptions actually leads the team. He’s got 5 TDs on the young season already and is averaging over 100 ypg. LaDarius Perkins is the smaller, quicker change of pace back. This will tell you all you need to know about their ground game. They rushed for 333 on the road at Auburn. OK, maybe that says more about Auburn.
- At WR they don’t have anyone with more than 7 catches. Chad Bumphis is an established threat in both the passing and running games. He’s only third on the team in terms of receiving yards though. Slight freshman Jameon Lewis started out strong but has slowed considerably, only catching two passes the last 3 weeks. The impact of the WRs is felt more than just in their numbers as they decoy a lot on that motion for the jet sweep.
- The MSU OL will return probably its best OL this week in LT James Carmon who’s a beast at 6-7, 330. This line isn’t nearly as large as the one we faced last week, but most aren’t. They start 3 seniors like us and also like us they have a lot of freshmen on the 2-deep. They’re giving up less than 2 sacks per game despite losing Carmon in the AU game. They’ve run-blocked well too, leading the 26th ranked rushing offense.
- Bottom Line: MSU is an interesting group. They put up 34 against Auburn (whose D looks increasingly questionable) including 24 in the first half. This after opening the season with 59 against Memphis. They then struggled, only scoring 6 against a stout LSU defense and only breaking 20 against La Tech once they got to OT last week. They’re not turning the ball over a ton, they just haven’t clicked yet after roaring out of the gates. Last year they flat dominated us, mainly with Relf on the ground but we seem to be much more capable against the run this year, especially on 3rd down, where we really struggled (and Relf succeeded) last year. Look for a ton of screens, jet sweeps and misdirection, stuff that typically kills us and puts massive pressure on playing responsible, under control football but doing it at a pretty darn quick pace.
- Key matchup to watch when they have the ball: That end around jet sweep thing to Bumphis worries me. He gets the ball at full speed and while Boykin and Commings are both sure tacklers at CB, I worry about them getting sucked up to play that and giving up a big play over the top. They had a ton of success with that play against Auburn with different guys and it really looked like Auburn struggled in containment, letting their CB get blocked inside by the play side WR. Once those speedy guys hit that outside corner, they’ll rip off 10 yards in a hurry.
- Just like the offense, the MSU defense has been pretty hit or miss. They gave up 41 to Auburn then turned around the next week and held what’s apparently a pretty decent LSU offense to 19. Statistically speaking they aren’t that great against the run, the pass or the scoreboard, ranking outside the top 50 nationally in all 3 and no better than 8th in the SEC. I thought their stats would’ve been skewed a bit because of the Auburn debacle where they seemed to give up a ton of big plays but they “only” gave up 381 yards that day (compared to the 531 they gained).
- This might be the first straight up 4-3 we’ve played all year. Gone to Texas is last year’s one-year whiz kid Manny Diaz. They haven’t gotten much production out of their front 4, with none having more than 1 sack and none cracking the top 9 in tackles. They lost a beast edge rusher in Pernell McPhee from last year’s unit and replaced him with a freshman who’s nearly as large as their DTs. No wonder their pass rush stats have dropped.
- The entire MSU LB corps from last year is gone. The group is generally undersized, averaging in the 220 range. Cameron Lawrence and Brandon Wilson are 2nd and 3rd on the team in tackles and have looked good at times on the year, but none of this unit has shown themselves to be a real dynamic force.
- Giving up right at 200 yards passing per game, the MSU secondary hasn’t been the dominating unit they expected after returning all 4 starters. A pair of junior CBs with some serious talent have started parts of the last 3 years. Both are experienced with a combined 16 INTs between them coming into the season. A 3-man safety rotation of 2 seniors and a sophomore who started last year rounds out this experienced safety unit.
- Bottom Line: With their front 7 struggling a bit against the run, the safeties have started creeping up to make plays, which you can do with CBs as good as they have but it opens you up to the TE and RBs in the passing game down the middle. These guys aren’t the biggest defense we’ll play by a long shot and I really think after the way they flat manhandled us on this side of the ball last year that we’ll try and prove we’re man enough to handle them this year, asserting the run game early and often, giving Crowell every opportunity to take over. Auburn gashed them for over 200 yards from their top 2 RBs, with Dyer and McCalebb both getting yards in chunks. On the other aspect of our offense, we simply have to do a better job of protecting Murray. Ole Miss got to him way too easily. We just have to do a better job there. If he’s getting hit like that all year by the Ole Misses of the world, when we play Florida, he might not make it.
- Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: After seeing the tale of two halves that was Isaiah Crowell last week in Oxford, I’m really curious to see how he responds to the 2nd half this week. I’m not convinced it was conditioning as I think his sore ribs contributed to it but we’ll see as he’ll likely get as much as he can shoulder. If it really was conditioning, look for him to get fewer carries early as we try and save him for late.
The MSU Game Overall
These guys are a noticeable step up in talent from the other Mississippi team but they’re awfully, awfully inconsistent. They played toe-to-toe with Louisiana State for 3 quarters but they also played toe-to-toe with Louisiana Tech for a whole game. You just don’t know who you’ll get with these guys. Their loss to Auburn was similar to our loss to South Carolina in that they dominated the stat sheet but some fluke plays set them back. While they limp in at 2-2 on the season, they lost one to the #1 team in the country and another when they got stuffed at the 1 on the last play of the game. I just can’t figure out which MSU team we’ll see.
In the end, if nothing else gets this UGA team going, maybe some pride will. The MSU loss last year was the one that sent our season into a spiral. The losses to SC and Arkansas while tough were against pretty darn good teams. While MSU turned out to be pretty darn good, we didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t just the loss, but the way we lost. We got dominated. MSU simply manned up and ran it on us when they had the ball and we had it, we couldn’t do anything against their front 4. This game will be something of an opportunity for payback, some bit of retribution for the embarrassment of last year’s loss. How we respond will tell me (and you) a lot about this team.
- Carlton Thomas versus Richard Samuel. After what I saw last week, I don’t think there’s any question as to who is the more functional backup. I’d start cross training Samuel at FB right now as he’s built for that and he’s obviously trying as hard as he can but he just really struggles with balance or something. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s almost like he’s in too big a hurry and his feet can’t keep up. Thomas on the other hand has blossomed into the shifty threat I so hoped he’d be back when we signed him. He’s quick and looks faster this year. He seems to have more burst.
- Christian Robinson might be able to make it back this week. That would be absolutely huge but I don’t want him to rush anything in his return. If he’s ready to go, then by all means go but if he’s questionable, based on what I’ve seen from Gilliard and Herrera, I’d rather see him get back to 100% rather than risk him missing more time because he tweaked it.
- Bacarri Rambo had a whale of a game with his 2 INTs but after finding out he played in the wake of some serious personal tragedy he shot up my respect meter. That couldn’t have been easy.
- Since no one knows what’s going on with Kolton Houston and Chris Burnette is banged up, we’re down to 5 OL. I honestly don’t know what would happen if someone went down there. I don’t want to think about it really.
- I’ll go ahead and say what you’re all thinking. Branden Smith scares me returning punts.
- Reader shoutout to Mr. Hobbs for pointing out that hearing Tony Schiavone on the post-game radio show really makes you think back to the glory days of wrestling, when I’m pretty sure it was real. Back when Dusty Rhodes and the original 4 Horsemen were working the ring. His interviews with Ric Flair were simply legendary, at least in my mind.
- LSU’s defense is confusing. On the one hand they are loaded with talented playmakers and fly to the football. On the other hand, Geno Smith threw for like 600 yards against them. I know WVU has a pretty good offense and Smith is a talented QB but they seriously gave up some yards and points in that game. Either way, that LSU-Bama game is going to be a war.
- I probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself as this week’s Florida-Bama game could easily go Florida’s way based on what I’ve seen out of them this year. Demps and Rainey seem to have readily adapted to the Weis offense even though their pro-style QB hasn’t. That should be a very, very interesting one to watch and I don’t see any reason with our noon kickoff that I won’t be able to make it back in time to catch it. Man I love this time of year.
- As I’m typing this the Braves are in the midst of blowing a 9th inning lead in the 162nd game of the year to try and complete an epic 2nd half collapse. I hate it for them because they really did fight through a ton of issues this year but this has been so painful lately that I’m almost ready to just put them down. If we make it to the playoffs we’re going to get run through worse than Auburn’s D.
- You know how they say some guys just always avoid the big hit? Guys that just seem to turn their bodies just the right way to deflect the brunt of the blow? Carlton Thomas is the opposite of that. I don’t know if it’s because he’s the smallest guy on the field by a good bit or what but he seems to get drilled every time he gets hit.
Have a safe weekend,