3 areas Georgia will try to attack Ole Miss
Georgia is fresh off a thrilling comeback victory against Missouri in which its freshman quarterback led the offense down the field and threw a fourth-down touchdown with just over a minute remaining to win the game.
The Bulldogs will look to keep that momentum going against an Ole Miss team that has dropped two tough games to a pair of high-caliber opponents in Alabama and Florida State. The Rebels are still loaded with talent and will likely give Georgia its biggest test to date.
Fortunately, Georgia has a working blueprint for how to effectively attack Ole Miss but will need to execute better than it has in recent weeks.
Here are the three areas of the game that Georgia will try to attack Ole Miss on Saturday.
1. On the ground: It’s been well-documented that Georgia has struggled to get its running game going in recent weeks, but that could change Saturday.
The Rebels’ run defense has been on the decline since the start of the season. Against Florida State, Ole Miss surrendered 161 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, and those numbers might be skewed to the low side as the Seminoles were throwing the ball while behind. The following week, Ole Miss allowed Wofford to gain 233 yards and a score, and Alabama had no issues running for 334 yards and 3 touchdowns last weekend — though quarterback Jalen Hurts (below) did most of the damage.
Georgia’s offensive line has had trouble opening up consistent running lanes for the Bulldogs’ talented running backs and that is sure to be a major area of emphasis for the coaching staff. If the line struggles against an Ole Miss defense that is allowing five yards per carry this season, there could be some changes on the way.
With players like Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, it’s unlikely that Georgia will want Jacob Eason throwing the ball 55 times again on the road. It’s a pretty safe bet that the Bulldogs will go to the ground early and often.
2. On third downs: Third down will be a critical aspect of Saturday’s game offensively and defensively for the Bulldogs.
This season, Ole Miss is converting over 51 percent of its third downs. That numbered is skewed a little bit, however, because the Rebels converted a staggering 76.92 percent against Wofford. Outside of that game, Ole Miss converted 45.45 percent against Florida State and only 33 percent against Alabama.
If the Bulldogs can keep Ole Miss below 45 percent, they have a decent shot. The Rebels have an explosive offense that is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, but an inability to sustain drives can cripple any team’s rhythm. Getting Chad Kelly and Ole Miss’ playmakers on the sidelines should be a big focal point for Georgia.
Keeping them there should be the team’s other focal point. By sustaining drives on offense, the Bulldogs can keep the ball out of Kelly’s hands. Against North Carolina, Georgia converted its third-down attempts at a solid 50 percent clip. Last weekend, the Bulldogs achieved a first down 45 percent. Georgia needs to have similar success on Saturday.
3. Scoring points off of turnovers: The Bulldogs have been among the best in the nation at forcing turnovers, but capitalizing has been an entirely different story.
Georgia is tied for sixth in the country with 8 forced turnovers but has only scored one touchdown off those added opportunities. Coincidentally, that one touchdown came on a recovered fumble by Lorenzo Carter, who returned it for the score.
Against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs will need to take advantage of any extra possessions. Leaving points on the table against a good opponent can mean the difference between a win or a loss, especially on the road.
In each of the Rebels’ losses, turnovers were the deciding factor. Ole Miss turned the ball over four times against Florida State, which helped the Seminoles rally in the second half. The same thing happened last weekend, when Alabama rode two second-half turnovers to a victory.
Florida State scored 13 points off the Rebels’ four turnovers, and Alabama scored a touchdown on both of Ole Miss’ mistakes.
Georgia has shown it is among the best in the country at taking the ball away from opposing offenses, but now it needs to prove that it can make its opponent pay.
* All statistics come from cfbstats.com
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.