Five projections or predictions as Georgia heads to Ole Miss for a Saturday (early) afternoon showdown:
1. Does Georgia’s running game improve?
Yes, but only a little bit. Ole Miss’ has been susceptible to the run, though a lot of defenses would be when going up against Florida State and Alabama’s running attack. Then again, Georgia has Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The guess here is that Georgia coaches have done enough tinkering, both with the scheme and the play calls, that they’ll get more production out of the run game. But there’s also only so much they can do, so a lot will depend on just how much Chubb and Michel are able to do themselves.
2. Which quarterback has the better day: Chad Kelly or Jacob Eason?
Kelly, by a decent amount. Eason will put up good numbers, too: Think in the area of 250-300 yards, and a couple of touchdowns. But he also has two very good tailbacks beside him. Kelly doesn’t, so he’ll put up more gaudy numbers, but he’ll also do some damage running the ball. Georgia’s secondary will benefit from having seen the spread last week, but Kelly is better than Drew Lock, at least right now, and his mobility will allow him to scramble and extend plays. And drives. Plus, Ole Miss won’t suddenly go conservative, as Missouri did in the second half last week.
3. Does one of the outside linebackers finally get a sack?
Yes. Even though Chad Kelly is a mobile quarterback, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy are just due.
Not that they profess to care. Lorenzo Carter claimed this week that “sacks aren’t really our goal. Our goal is to affect the quarterback and make sure to get him off our spot, make sure we execute our defense. That’s how the coaches have told us to, so that’s what we’re doing.”
But Carter was then reminded that he was the same guy who last year said “more sacks mean more money.” And neither he nor Bellamy has a sack yet.
“Yeah. More sacks do mean more money,” Carter said, smiling. “Hey. But as long as we keep winning, more wins equals more money, too.”
4. What may be the deciding match-up of the game?
Ole Miss TE Evan Engram vs. whoever Georgia puts on him. Engram had 138 yards and a touchdown on nine catches last week. Does Georgia put an inside linebacker (Roquan Smith, Natrez Patrick, Reggie Carter) on him? Does it take Lorenzo Carter or Bellamy away from blitzing to guard Engram – and thus give Kelly more time to throw? Or does it put an undersized defensive back on him? Or does it zone him up, and hope that works out? The presence of a receiving-threat at tight end prevents Georgia from just copying its gameplan from the Missouri game. Engram’s presence alone may free the other receivers to get open. But if Georgia can take him out of the game, it will be a huge help.
5. Ole Miss is favored by 7. Does Georgia cover the spread?
No. But that’s said with a severe amount of internal waffling.
We know about Ole Miss: It’s played two very good teams, and lost to both after leading both by 21. So we know they’re a good team that’s not great, and has trouble finishing.
We don’t know about Georgia yet: It’s 3-0, but was behind in the third quarter of every game, barely survived an FCS team, and needed a fourth-down Eason pass – and a midfield fumble – to win at Missouri. So is this a mark of a budding great team that is finding itself? Or is it a team due to lose to the better teams on its schedule? We’re about to find out.
Things in Georgia’s favor: The 11 a.m. local start will tamp down enthusiasm in Oxford. Chubb and Michel are due to erupt, and Eason will be even more comfortable in his third start.
But why we pick Ole Miss: Desperation. Ole Miss, at 1-2, already needs to save its season. It’s desperate, and should play that way. Should.