One endearing thing about Vince Dooley, head coach, was the way he’d find something to blow up about an opponent, no matter how hapless. Even in the Herschel Era, Georgia could roll over a school on Saturday, have Vanderbilt coming in for Homecoming, and you would still expect him to say something during the week like: “the Comma-doahs have the faahnest long snappa in the country… I’m concerned about they-ah puntin’ game…” Never mind the fact that the reason the kid was so good was because he was getting so much in-game experience, Dooley was going to find an edge for the other team somewhere.
So you can imagine that he wouldn’t have much trouble poor mouthing Georgia’s chances on Saturday. The truth is that I’m a little nervous myself. Georgia is a fifteen point favorite at home against Ole Miss, but this is the kind of game that scares you if you’re a Dawg fan.
It’s not quite as much a certainty as Georgia’s ability to play well and win in an opponent’s stadium, but, under Richt, this team has had an uncomfortable tendency now and then to relax after a big win and let a lesser opponent sneak up on it. You worry especially about a young team’s ability to regroup and refocus after a game that it sounds like it’s still reminiscing about a couple of days later.
Five minutes after the game, fine… five days later, not so fine.
(photo courtesy TideSports)
For starters, here’s a quick statistical look at Mississippi:
- After four weeks, the Rebs have the worst record of any school in the SEC, at 1-3. However, the records of the teams they’ve played are a combined 11-3. Their only win comes against the only school they’ve faced with a current losing record, Memphis, and they needed a blocked punt for a TD and a 99 yard interception return for a TD to pull out a 2 point victory in that one.
- Mississippi is 11th in the SEC in scoring offense, at 22.2 points per game. That’s about a TD less per game than Georgia.
- UM is almost as bad in scoring defense – 10th in the conference, giving up 30 points per game. That’s almost two touchdowns worse than Georgia.
- Ole Miss is last in the conference in pass defense, rushing offense, total defense, pass defense efficiency, opponents’ first downs, opponents’ fourth down conversions, red zone offense, opponents’ third down conversions, sacks against and time of possession.
- An Orgeron-coached Mississippi has yet to win a conference road game in nine tries.
On paper, this is a team tailor-made for how Georgia likes to approach a game. Mississippi can’t stop the pass and it can’t force third and outs – incredibly, the Rebels have only returned one punt so far this year (no other team in the conference has returned less than five). The offensive line can’t pass block and even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the man of many names, is fifth in the SEC in rushing, the Rebs are only averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Sounds like easy pickings, right? Well, there’s that darn Florida game the Rebs played last weekend, the one that left Richt with a queasy feeling in his stomach. A twenty eight point underdog, Ole Miss played the Gators tough and only lost 30-24. As I blogged previously, their staff did an excellent job identifying the weaknesses in Florida’s offense and defense and schemed accordingly. That’s the good news. The bad news was that the talent gap was too much to overcome and Florida, behind Tebow’s running, nevertheless managed to gain over 500 yards of offense in the game.
I expect Ole Miss to come out with a different and more aggressive defensive game plan against Georgia than the one John Thompson employed against Florida. Sitting back in a soft zone isn’t the best strategy to employ against Stafford and Georgia’s offensive line. Look for more blitzing and attempts to put pressure on the Georgia offense. Georgia should be able to punch back all day long against UM’s weak linebacking corps (these guys miss Patrick Willis badly) with lots of short passing plays.
On defense, Georgia has to put the brakes on Green-Ellis and generate a consistent pass rush (the latter was something that Florida couldn’t do last Saturday). Against Florida’s less than stellar cornerbacks, speedy WR Mike Wallace had an excellent day. He looks like he’s breaking out and becoming a go to guy. Rod Battle’s reward for being leaned on by Andre Smith in Tuscaloosa is to handle man-mountain (6-5, 325) Michael Oher this week. Life just ain’t fair sometimes. In short, Georgia’s defense faces a bigger challenge on Saturday than does its offense.
Given this disturbing trend, it would be best for everyone’s stomachs if Georgia could put Mississippi away early. (See Groo’s point about that here.) That’s why the key to this game is very simple – Georgia needs to come in focused and stay focused the entire 60 minutes of the game. If the Dawgs do that, they’ll cover easily. Ole Miss has too many flaws that a good team can exploit.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this young Georgia team, as much as it’s going to be warned about what happened in the UM-UF game, can stand prosperity. They’ll win, but it won’t be as a result of a consistent, dominating performance. Look for a final score on the order of something like 24-10, 27-14.
And I’ll bet that Ole Miss’ long snapper is just deadly.
Say hello to the only guy in Sanford Stadium who wouldn’t mind if Saturday came down to a game winning field goal for Georgia. (photo courtesy Kelly Lambert/Athens Banner-Herald staff)