Georgia football: 3 matchups I'm watching as Bulldogs face Mississippi State
Georgia and Mississippi State had an unexpected weekend off as their respective games against Missouri and Auburn were postponed due to COVID-19.
So, needless to say, the 2 teams are simply ready to get back on the field and play some football.
To say the season hasn’t gone well for Mississippi State would be an understatement: Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense can’t get off the ground. Add the fact that Kylin Hill opted out, along with several players entering the transfer portal, and Leach might be looking for a mulligan for this year.
That’s not to say everything has gone Georgia’s way, though: It got clobbered at Florida; it very well may see its 3-year SEC East title streak come to an end; and it has found itself with a giant question mark at the quarterback position. While the Dawgs would have loved to take out their frustration on Mizzou, and maybe sort out their QB rotation in the process, they’ll be just as poised to add another loss to MSU’s ledger.
Here are 3 matchups I’m taking a look at for Saturday:
Zamir White vs. MSU defensive line
Mississippi State started the year playing fairly well against the run, allowing totals of 80, 63 and 84 yards to LSU, Arkansas and Kentucky, respectively.
Since then? Not so much: 186, 208 and 142 against Texas A&M, Alabama and Vanderbilt. While it’s certainly a quarterback’s league, a good ground game helps, and MSU’s past few opponents have found success running the football.
This might have the potential of being close to a career day for White. He’s had a touchdown in each game this year so far and 2 vs. Auburn. Expect that streak to continue Saturday.
One name I’d keep an eye on, though, is Marquiss Spencer, who has 7.0 tackles for a loss in 2020.
Georgia’s d-line vs. MSU’s QB1 (or QB2)
MSU’s quarterback controversy is more pronounced than Georgia’s. KJ Costello had a virtuoso performance against LSU but hasn’t come close to matching it since, with a 4-interception performance against Kentucky not doing much to increase Leach’s confidence.
Will Rogers started against Vanderbilt. MSU won, but not necessarily because of Rogers, who threw for 226 yards and a TD but averaged just 4.9 yards per attempt.
It might not matter whether Costello is cleared to return or whether Leach sticks with Rogers. Either QB will be behind an offensive line that has surrendered 3.17 sacks a game, and for a defense that is 2nd in the conference in sacks, the potential to exploit a possible mismatch and make it a long day for whoever is behind center exists.
Georgia’s QB1 vs. expectations
Georgia’s preseason goals are essentially gone as Florida has all but wrapped up the SEC East, barring a massive and dramatic slip-up down the stretch.
But there still is plenty to play for, especially for the quarterbacks who hope to be part of the future.
Kirby Smart has to figure this out.
I doubt that Stetson Bennett IV gets another shot this season. And D’Wan Mathis has been given a couple of opportunities to prove he’s ready.
Saturday, I’m leaning toward JT Daniels, who will immediately be scrutinized and face the expectation to outperform Bennett right out of the gate. (There’s also a small detail of him not having played since the 2019 season-opener.)
So there is potential for Daniels (or D’Wan Mathis) to end up being his worst enemy against Mississippi State. Avoiding that self-induced pressure is easier said than done, but Daniels obviously has played Power-5 football. He had success at USC. He nearly beat Notre Dame. He had a career-day as the Trojans upset No. 19 Colorado in 2018.
If he does make his Dawgs debut Saturday, he shouldn’t feel the need to look over his shoulder after every throw. If for no other reason, the bar hasn’t been that high in 2020.