PREVIEW: Georgia Bulldogs Face Mississippi State In Athens Saturday Evening

SEC Rivals Are Both Undefeated (3-0) In Early Season Play

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - by special report

One of the best matchups of the weekend might be No. 11 Georgia and No. 17 Mississippi State on Saturday evening in Athens, GA, as they both look to hand the opponent their first loss of the season. For the second week in a row, Georgia's Bulldogs play another Bulldogs team.

Both teams are 3-0. Both have had a strong win over a ranked opponent — at least at the time they played. Both teams have great running games — Georgia with Nick Chubb and Mississippi State with Aeris Williams.

These two teams haven’t played since 2011 and don’t play every year even though they’re both in the SEC.

So far this season, Georgia has hosted Appalachian State and Samford and beaten both teams by an average of 19.5 points per game. They also traveled to Notre Dame in Week 2 for a marquee matchup that they won by a single point. While their record may be 3-0, they’re definitely vulnerable to defeat.

On the other sideline, Mississippi State has really come on as of late. They throttled Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech in their first two games, by averaging over 50 points on offense. The signature win of the season so far came this past weekend for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs hosted LSU and handed them a 37-7 loss in one of the more surprising outcomes of the weekend.

Now they head to Athens for an important game that could have future implications in both the SEC West and East divisions. 

Mississippi State rolls into this game after steamrolling their last three opponents. Their confidence should be sky high after defeating No. 12 LSU at home.

Their offense has been extremely efficient thus far, averaging 47.7 points through three contests. They’ll need to have a similar performance at Athens, who is only been giving up 14.3 points per game.

The Mississippi offense has leaned on the legs of RB Aeris Williams. While they’re only averaging 195 yards per game through the air, they’re rushing for nearly 300 yards per game. Williams has been a big part of that, averaging seven yards per carry. Georgia only gives up 71 yards on the ground per game, so Williams and the rushing offense will need to get going early and often to have success.

Ever since the departure of Dak Prescott, Dan Mullen has been trying to find an equivalent replacement and finally may have that in Nick Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs signal caller has been solid this season, completing 61 percent of his passes, with a touchdown to interception ratio of 7-to-1. He’ll need to continue to be efficient, not turnover the ball and lead the Bulldogs’ offense to be successful. They were able to do it at home, so I’m sure they can keep it rolling at another SEC powerhouse.

If the offense for Mississippi State can get rolling on the road, the defense will back it up and carry them to a victory in Georgia. If their offense happens to sputter, they may be in uncharted waters and it could open the door for a Georgia victory.

Georgia rolls into this game undefeated as well. They don’t have a signature win yet — unless you count a close win in South Bend over Notre Dame. The Bulldogs (Georgia, now) have a young quarterback in Jake Fromm, but an experienced running back in Nick Chubb.

Coach Kirby Smart and the offensive staff have tried their best to balance both the running and passing attack through the first three weeks of the season. But with a young quarterback, it’s best to feed Chubb and run the ball down the opponent’s throat. Mississippi State has only allowed 101.3 yards rushing per game, so if Georgia wants to sit back and run the ball to set up the pass, they’re going to have to execute really well. The Mississippi State front seven has been stingy and hasn’t been giving up very many yards on the ground. Chubb will need to have a big day to open up the field for Fromm to create plays.

Through three games, Georgia is averaging 230 yards rushing per game, but only 150 yards through the air per game. Fromm has been efficient, completing 34-of-57 passes, but they haven’t let him off the leash completely. He has only thrown one interception so far this season and that ball security will need to continue against Mississippi State. If he starts to turn it over, Mississippi State and that offense will began to turn it into points real quick.

Smart should be able to get his young team fired up and ready to go for this heavyweight game on Saturday evening.

Here are two key matchups that we should be following heading into this Saturday night showdown of the Bulldogs.

1. QB Jake Fromm vs. Mississippi State's Defense

Jake Fromm is a true freshman that’s thrown only 57 passes — only 57 — in his young collegiate career. He hasn’t played in the big SEC games that are on primetime and man, are they a completely different animal.

His biggest test through three games has been the Notre Dame matchup, when he was 16-of-29 for 141 yards, including one touchdown and an interception. It definitely wasn’t the best game he played, which came against a defense similar to Mississippi State’s.

Hail State has been extremely stingy on defense, only giving up 105 yards per game through the air. Fromm’s facing a tough test in his young career, but he’s going to have to respond in order for Georgia to have a chance in this game.

2. Running Back Aeris Williams vs. Georgia's Run Defense

Williams has been an absolute stud for Mississippi State. His play has  opened up the field for QB Nick Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs have racked up nearly 300 yards rushing each game this season and that’s been imperative to their success as a team.

Against LSU’s run defense, Williams rushed 23 times for 146 yards. While he didn’t get into the end zone, that kind of ground game opened up it for the other backs and his quarterback. Williams is going to be expected to have a similar day against Georgia.

The Bulldogs defense has only given up 71 yards per game on the ground. So something has to give, Williams has a big day likely means that Mississippi State pulls off the upset, but if the defense can hold, then Georgia’s chances improve.

– Source: Adapted from College Football News

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