Keys to the game: Georgia defense vs. Miss St offense

For the purpose of this analysis, we will mostly be ignoring both Bulldog teams’ season openers and concentrate only on the two conference games that each has under its belt.

Despite the flip in record for Georgia in 2010 as opposed to 2009 against South Carolina and Arkansas, Georgia’s defense actually improved when comparing the games from the past two seasons. You could also argue that SC and Arky’s offenses are improved this year compared to last, which offers an even brighter glimmer of hope for the Junkyard D. This transition is going to be a work in progress for much of the season and the irrational portion of the fan base needs to understand this. The results so far have been encouraging as bad habits are being thrown to the wayside as the weeks go by. Even after losing talent to the NFL, etc. and an entire change in defensive philosophy, this is heartening progress.

SC ‘09 SC ‘10 Difference Arky ‘09 Arky ‘10 Difference
Points (Offense) 28 17 -11 41 31 -10
Yards 427 354 -73 485 433 -52

A notable positive is the YPC difference between the two years. Even with the Lattimore debacle, SC averaged just 3.6 YPC as opposed to 3.8 YPC in 2009. The difference is even more drastic looking at the two Arkansas games (3.2 YPC in 2009 to 2.3 YPC in 2010). The improving and surprisingly stout run D is a plus for Georgia going into the SEC slate against some teams with questionable QB play, Tennessee and Florida to be specific.

The yards per pass attempt are another monster. Both SC and Ark improved in YPA against Georgia this year compared to last. We can either chalk that up to improved QB play and maturity for Garcia and Mallet, or we can excuse this in the hopes that our young secondary is merely experiencing some growing pains. We’re going with the former.

Now, onto Mississippi State. First thing we’d like to hit on here is the erratic play of MSU’s offensive line. Many times in MSU’s previous two conference contests, Auburn and LSU defensive linemen were able to waltz through the OL and wreak havoc. Occasionally the guards and tackles stiffened up, but it wasn’t consistent by any means. MSU’s quarterbacks have only been sacked five times through three games, but that can be attributed to the mobility of Chris Relf and Tyler Russell.

Obviously this works out well in favor of the red and black for several reasons. One, the MSU OL is underachieving much like Georgia’s own OL so this will be the most malleable offensive line that we have seen to date this season, with the clear exception of Louisiana-LaFayette. Second, the defensive line play from Georgia appears to be coming into its own after players began to get comfortable with the new scheme and its varying packages. Dan Mullen has talked about the lack of communication among his offensive linemen and the inability to pick up on blitzes. This plays directly into the hands of Todd Grantham who we expect to dial up varying packages to disrupt focus and keep heavy pressure on Relf and Russell. Our front seven will have to be very disciplined and sure-handed to prevent outside runs, toss sweeps, and bubble screens on blitzes. Grantham has a very quick linebacking corps at his disposal to throw at Miss St. All eight sacks recorded this season have come from LBs (Houston, Dent, Washington, Hebron, Robinson). Twenty-four tackles for loss are also quite impressive.

The Mississippi State offense overall was more or less shut down against LSU and Auburn. A majority of the Bulldogs’ running yardage was piled on by the mobile QBs. If we can keep their option attack in check then expect Mullen to air it out. This has generally resulted in miserable failure as MSU is last in the conference with seven tossed INTs. Miss State’s quarterback play in conference is dismal at best. Six INTs, zero TDs, 49.1% completion rate, 122.5 yards per game.

That line alone should swell confidence for even the most pessimistic Dawg fans. We expect the Georgia defensive front to dictate this game and in the cases that MSU manages to eek out some accurate throws, the UGA secondary will be well-poised to handle the young and undersized MSU receivers with only one WR standing taller than 6’ and all of them appear to have SHS (stone-hand syndrome).

Special Teams

When it comes to special teams, MSU has looked very pedestrian in coverage allowing 26.09 yards per kickoff return. A number which puts it at 11th in the SEC. South Carolina and Arkansas rank 4th and 6th, respectively, so expect a dynamic run or two by Georgia’s returnmen tomorrow night. Georgia ranks an impressive 2nd in opponent kickoff returns at 17.57 yards per return.

Miss State is 0-for-1 in field goal attempts this season while Georgia is a perfect 5-for-5. MSU averages 40.92 yards per punt while UGA averages 44.56.

Prediction: Georgia’s defense holds Miss State’s offense to 110 passing yards, 130 rushing yards, 10 points.

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