Georgia Bulldogs (1-2, 1-2 ATS) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-2, 1-2 ATS), Week 4 NCAA Football, Saturday September 25th, 7:00PM Eastern. Davis Wade Stadium Starkville, M.S.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: UGA +2/MSU -2
The Georgia Bulldogs put up a valiant effort to knock off the highly ranked no. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks last week but Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett dropped a 40 yard touchdown pass on the Bulldogs defense with just 15 seconds to go in the game which lifted Arkansas to a 31-24 victory. It was the second straight loss for the Bulldogs and the first time in the Mark Richt era that Georgia lost their opening two games in conference play. Georgia had all anticipations of competing for the SEC East crown this season, but most of those hopes have gone out the window. Now the Bulldogs must regroup as they take the road to battle the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. There has already been turmoil in Athens due to the lackluster start but if the Bulldogs were to drop another big loss, things could get really ugly.
However, the good news for the Georgia faithful is that they have not lost 3 straight games since the 1990 season despite being slight underdogs when they take the road trip to Starkville. The Bulldogs are better than their 1-2 record might suggests. Georgia has a solid defense that can contend with anyone in the SEC. Despite the 1-2 record, the Bulldogs defense has only given up 18 points per game. The Georgia defensive front is armed with speed and quickness that get to the quarterback very quickly. The Georgia defense has already recorded 8 sacks on the season and that is against some rather solid offensive opponents.
The problem has been mainly on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs remain without their star wide out A.J Green who is sitting out the final game of his 4 game suspension due to NCAA rules violations. If not for Green being out, the Bulldogs may be sitting in much better shape that 0-2 in conference play. In Green’s absence, the passing offense has not provided many sparks. QB Aaron Murray is still getting a grasp of the college landscape in his freshman season. Murray has put up respectable numbers completing 62% for 605 yards, 4 scores, and 2 picks. However, the passing offense has not really made any big plays to put any sting into opposing defenses at this time. Do not get me wrong, Murray is the right guy for the long haul as he has a ton of potential. Still, it seems to be a work in progress especially without Green on the outside.
Another troubling statistic that shows that Georgia has some ways to go on offense is that they are averaging just 128 yards rushing as a team so far this season. The Georgia offense has always sported a strong running game. However, starting tailback Wayshaun Ealey missed the first game of the season and has yet to really get any momentum thus far in the year. If the running game could get moving, it would really help the young quarterback out in the passing game by possibly opening up some holes in the opponents secondary.
However, I’m not quite certain that Georgia’s offensive troubles will be fixed this week. The major reason is because on the other side of the field the “other” Bulldogs in Mississippi State have a pretty sporty defensive of their own. The Mississippi State defense has held teams to just 283 yards per game this season and ranks just outside of the top 25 in total defense. The Mississippi State pass defense has been stellar so far this season against some rather average pass offenses, but the defense has also given up some yards against the run up the middle as well. It will be interesting to see if Georgia attempts to attack up the middle and try to establish a ground game against Mississippi State’s susceptible run defense.
On the offense side of the ball, Mississippi State is a rushing oriented offense. Tailbacks Victor Ballard and Robert Elliot have both got a few touches resulting in right at 100 yards on the season for both rushers. Due to the fact the passing offense has been non-existent; the Mississippi State offense tends to keep the ball on the ground. QB Tyler Russell has the best throwing arm but has also thrown 4 picks on the year as he continues to battle inconsistency issues.
QB Chris Relf has actually got the most snaps this season because he is more of a dual threat running quarterback that helps keep ball control in favor of the Mississippi State offense. The offense is rather predictable as they tend to run the ball so often. However, they really need to get some plays in the passing game to open things up for the offense. WR Chad Bumphis is a guy that can make things happen and leads the team with 12 receptions for 155 yards and 2 scores. Mississippi State desperately needs either Relf or Russell to have a solid game throwing the football so the offense can be more productive.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Wow can’t believe this line has opened favoring Mississippi State. Georgia lost to two very solid football teams in South Carolina and Arkansas. While Mississippi State lost to two solid teams in Auburn and LSU as well, that does not mean that this is a level playing field. MSU did not even challenge LSU and Auburn has pulled off a couple close victories against average teams. The difference is night and day. Georgia can shut down the Mississippi State offense and score against their defense. This will be a statement win. Take the Georgia Bulldogs to cover in a BIG way.