No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia
WHERE: Sanford Stadium
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
RECORDS: Mississippi State 3-0, 1-0; Georgia 3-0, 0-0
TV/RADIO: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge, Holly Rowe); Georgia Bulldog Sports Network (Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle). SIRIUS/XM (98/192)
Saturday night’s game is all about opportunity. For Mississippi State, it’s a chance to establish itself as the No. 2 team in the West behind Alabama. For Georgia, it’s a chance to prove that the Bulldogs are indeed the team to beat in the East.
On paper, it should quite a game with plenty of storylines to watch.
Mississippi State features one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC in junior Nick Fitzgerald, while defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has the Bulldogs playing inspired defense through the season’s first three games.
Georgia, meanwhile, will start freshman quarterback Jake Fromm for the third straight game, while hoping its defense – which has been outstanding – will keep up with what’s been a high level of play.
This one should be fun.
Players to Watch:
Mississippi State: QB Nick Fitzgerald, RB Aeris Williams, NT Jeffery Simmons, CB Tolando Cleveland, OL Martinas Rankin, OL Deion Calhoun, LB Dez Harris, WR Donald Gray.
Keys to the game:
• Control Nick Fitzgerald: Although this may be easier said than done, Georgia needs to do what it can to limit the talented quarterback. Fitzgerald can get it done with his legs and his arm, so having a plan in place will be imperative. If not, it’s going to be a long night for the Red and Black.
• Stymie Jeffery Simmons: Mississippi State’s nose guard is a man-beast, and the job of keeping him from disrupting Georgia’s run game will fall to center Lamont Gaillard, along with guards Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker.
• Be physical: Mississippi State is determined to control both lines of scrimmage in this ball game and if Georgia’s isn’t ready, that’s just what Dan Mullen’s squad is capable of doing if the Bulldogs struggle to meet the challenge.
• Create turnovers: The Bulldogs forced some huge fumbles in the team’s win at Notre Dame but head into Saturday’s night’s contest still looking for their first interception of the year. Georgia’s interceptionless streak won’t last forever, and a pick or two against Mississippi State would certainly enhance the Bulldogs’ chances.
Most eyes are on quarterback Jacob Eason who returned to practice this week after spraining his left knee in the opener against Appalachian State.
Could Eason see snaps? We’re told that’s not likely, but Kirby Smart hasn’t officially ruled out anybody.
Cornerback Malkom Parrish is expected to see some action after breaking a bone in his foot prior to the start of the season.
Meanwhile, both running back Sony Michel (ankle) and defensive lineman Tyler Clark (undisclosed injury) are expected to play after missing last week’s game against Samford.
Indications are this is going to be another nail-biter in Sanford Stadium. At least that’s what the experts seem to be thinking. Me, I’m going to go a different route. Yes, Mississippi State was very impressive in its win over LSU, but Georgia’s defense has really opened my eyes. The Bulldogs’ defensive line is better than a lot of people are giving it credit for. They’re playing physical, they’re playing tough. Lorenzo Carter has been the team’s defensive MVP through three games, while Roquan Smith has been amazing in his own right. Mississippi State is solid. I love what Nick Fitzgerald has done. Defensively, Todd Grantham has MSU playing with a different confidence than it did last year. There’s an awful lot to like about Dan Mullen’s squad. That said, can Mississippi State put together back-to-back games like it played last week? The crowd at Starkville played a huge role last week, but won’t be a factor come Saturday. Other predictions? Georgia’s secondary gets its first pick, while the offense makes hay with perimeter runs and even a reverse or two. Call me crazy, but the Bulldogs – the Red and Black version – make a statement. Prediction: Georgia 27, Mississippi State 14.