Georgia overcomes Mississippi State, another impressive step on climb to SEC Championship Game

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) celebrates his 4-yard touchdown run with teammates during the second quarter against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium, Saturday, November 12, 2022, in Starkville, Mississippi. Jason Getz /

The majority of faces, names and numbers changed, but the standard has not.

Georgia flexed its muscle with a 45-19 win at Mississippi State on Saturday night, recording its 10th straight road win in running its record to 10-0.

The win clinches a spot in the SEC Championship Game for UGA, which will face LSU at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Atlanta.

It was more of an uphill climb to reach the league championship game this season, but that only served to make it more impressive.

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Many expected Georgia to remain strong under Kirby Smart’s guidance, but few would have predicted this reloaded team hold the No. 1 ranking in this fashion.

LSU, with first-year coach Brian Kelly, is perhaps an even bigger surprise.

Kelly has managed his team to an 8-2 mark, scoring a 13-10 win over Arkansas that, combined with Alabama’s 30-24 win over Ole Miss clinched the West Division.

Kelly has done an impressive drive in re-setting the culture after Ed Orgeron’s exit.

Senior transfer Jayden Daniels has proven an elusive and efficient quarterback for the Tigers, though he doesn’t have the sort of arm talent to be a great threat to Georgia.

Of course, there are still two games remaining for Coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs — at Kentucky next Saturday, and then at home against Georgia Tech.

But there’s no reason to believe Georgia won’t roll over both opponents provided it doesn’t shoot itself in the foot.

The win over Mississippi State didn’t come as easy as the final score indicated.

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The Bulldogs had to overcome two Stetson Bennett interceptions and a questionable roughing the punter in the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t until Kamari Lassiter took down Jo’quavious Marks on fourth-and-1 at the UGA 9-yard line with 9:51 left — with an impressive open-field tackle — that it seemed like UGA was in good shape.

Kendall Milton’s 34-yard touchdown run with 2:04 left was the final nail in the coffin for the Maroon Bulldogs, who were previously unbeaten at home this season.

The win was a microcosm of the season in the sense that Georgia looked exceptionally strong at its best, and yet, still capable of making the sort of mistakes that can get a team beat.

Smart, no doubt, will be back in the office Sunday breaking it all down, chipping away at what can only be considered a masterpiece season.

No coach has ever lost 15 players in one NFL Draft, much less in an era where rules enabled 13 capable transfers like Georgia also lost.

And yet, these Bulldogs look like the best team in the nation when they are playing their best football.

There will be plenty of talk about potential College Football Playoff opponents, but there are no teams that would seem to measure up when Georgia is at its best.

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