By Joe Vitale:
In an SEC clash on Saturday, No. 12 Georgia travels to No. 23 Ole Miss. Here are the particulars and pregame analysis.
Kickoff: Noon EDT, 11:00am Central
Where: Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi
TV: ESPN (Dave Pasch, play-by-play; Greg McElroy, color and Tom Luginbill)
Georgia Radio: Athens 960 AM/106.1 FM; Atlanta 750 AM/95.5 FM; Macon106.3 FM; Augusta 580 AM/95.1 FM; Savannah 1400 AM/104.3 FM; Columbus 1460 AM/100.1 FM; Valdosta 105.9 FM; Rome 107.1 FM (IMG Radio-Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle)
Sirius/XM: Channel 80/191
Weather: High temperature of 93°, 51% humidity, 5 mph breeze and only a 20% chance of rain.
Series history: Georgia leads the series 32-12-1 and has won the previous 10 meetings. Ole Miss hasn’t beaten Georgia since 1996 and the Dawgs are 10-5 in Oxford.
Last meeting: Georgia beat the Rebels during Ole Miss’ 2012 Homecoming in Oxford, 37-10.
Georgia players to watch:
OFFENSE- QB Jacob Eason, RB Nick Chubb, WR Isaiah McKenzie, RB Sony Michel
DEFENSE- S Dominick Sanders, DL Trent Thompson, CB Malkom Parrish, OLB Lorenzo Carter
Ole Miss players to watch:
OFFENSE– QB Chad Kelly, TE Evan Engram, WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, WR Van Jefferson
DEFENSE- DE Marquis Haynes, OLB DeMarquis Gates, OLB Terry Caldwell, S Zedrick Woods
Georgia faces its toughest challenge of the 2016 season as the Bulldogs visit an explosive Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1) team. Georgia (3-0, 1-0) has had 3 second half, come-from-behind victories this season, including overcoming 10-point deficits against North Carolina and Missouri. The Rebels have squandered a 22-point lead against No. 13 Florida State and a 21-point lead last week at home against No. 1 Alabama. Second half mistakes and turnovers in both games cost Ole Miss each contest. Something will have to give this week. Expect a lot of points as Ole Miss is scoring 38.3 point per game (3rd highest in the SEC) and quarterback Chad Kelly is averaging 325 yards passing per game. Georgia is averaging 29 points a game. On defense, Georgia is surrendering an average of 25.0 points per game and the Rebels are giving up 35.3 games per game.
When Georgia has the ball
Although Ole Miss has only 4 quarterback sacks this season, Georgia’s offensive line will have to protect Jacob Eason against the “Land Sharks”, led by defensive end Marquis Haynes, one of the SEC’s best. Ole Miss is giving up over 242 yards per game on the ground and the Dawgs simply have to take advantage of a weak rushing defense. I expect to see more passes in the seam to the tight ends as I doubt the Rebels will be single covering Isaiah McKenzie. In addition, expect more two-running back formations as Nick Chubb’s rushing yards per average is substantially higher with fullback Christian Payne leading the way.
When Ole Miss has the ball
Chad Kelly may be the best quarterback in the conference and he skillfully utilizes lots of weapons. Tight end Evan Engram goes after the ball better than any receiver in the conference and is a mismatch nightmare. The 6’ 3”, 227 pound, Powder Springs, Georgia senior has 20 receptions for 302 yards and 2 touchdowns. Georgia, with only 3 sacks this season, will have to find a way to put some pressure on Kelly. However, he’s a good athlete and can cause some damage running the ball as well. The Rebels will press the tempo and Georgia has to remain fresh and not get flustered if the Rebels have some quick strikes.
Keys to the game:
- Turnovers – Georgia has forced 8 turnovers this season (5 interceptions and 3 fumbles) while Ole Miss has only created two. The Bulldogs have to take advantage of these turnover opportunities and put points on the board.
- Avoid the Ole Miss quick strike offense. Ole Miss is going to get their points – just make them work for it. Dawgs can’t let Evan Engram roam freely downfield.
- Pound the line of scrimmage The Georgia line has to open some holes for Chubb and Sony Michel. Any positive yardage is good yardage because all that first half pounding should wear down the Rebels in the second half – and it keeps the ball out of Kelly’s hands.
- See the ball, catch the ball. It seems simple but Georgia receivers have dropped too many passes this year, including a couple of potential touchdowns. Those dropped balls are momentum killers and are tough to overcome.
- The kicking game has to drastically improve. Don’t know if it will be William Ham or Rodrigo Blankenship teeing it up, but those shanks are for my golf game, not the gridiron. Ole Miss is 13 for 13 on extra points and 4 for 4 in field goals. Would hate to see the kicking game be the deciding factor for the Dawgs in this game.
Ole Miss is fighting for their SEC life. After two disheartening defeats, will the Rebels come out clicking on all cylinders, or the specter of blowing 2 large second half leads be too much of a mental burden to overcome? Georgia should be fired up as a win puts them in prime position to capture the SEC East.
Even though the Dawgs are playing back-to-back, long SEC road trips, the 11:00am (local time) kickoff should help subdue the Ole Miss crowd.
Ole Miss is a 7– point favorite but the Dawgs haven’t put it all together for any game this season. Georgia finds a cure for its running game woes and keeps Chad Kelly off the field just long enough. Georgia continues its ball hawking skills on defense and Jacob Eason keeps converting those 3rd down plays as the Bulldogs hold on for a victory. GEORGIA 34 – MISSISSIPPI 30