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Expert picks for Georgia-Mississippi State
As of Thursday night, Georgia is listed anywhere between a 3½- and 5-point home favorite this weekend against Mississippi State. The other Bulldogs of the SEC will be aiming to score their second upset in as many weeks following a 37-7 demolition of LSU last Saturday. Georgia and State are both on the rise in the SEC, and the winner will get a big boost in terms of confidence as well as its SEC standing.
Both Bulldogs match up well with the other, strength for the strength. State’s offense relies on quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams getting chunks of yardage on the ground. Georgia has the fifth-best run defense in the nation. On the flip side, Georgia wants to pound the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel while Jake Fromm picks his spots through the air. But State’s defense will be well prepared. It ranks 27th nationally in run defense and sixth nationally in passing yards allowed per game. On paper, there isn’t much to separate these two.
So it comes as no surprise that the college football world is generally split on the result of this contest. I looked at the game predictions from some of the most well-regarded experts (and one of the best advanced stats) in college football and compiled them below. Eleven experts predicted Georgia to win outright. Nine picked Mississippi State.
|Sam Khan||ESPN||MSU||Bill Bender||Sporting News||UGA|
|Alex Scarborough||ESPN||MSU||Jerry Palm||CBS Sports||UGA|
|Andy Staple||Sports Illustrated||UGA||Dennis Dodd||CBS Sports||MSU|
|Bruce Feldman||Sports Illustrated||UGA||Tom Fornelli||CBS Sports||UGA|
|Paul Myerberg||USA Today||UGA||Ben Kercehval||CBS Sports||MSU|
|Georgia Schroeder||USA Today||MSU||Barrett Sallee||CBS Sports||UGA|
|Dan Wolken||USA Today||MSU||Chip Patterson||CBS Sports||MSU|
|David Kenyon||Bleacher Report||UGA||Ty Hildenbrandt||Solid Verbal||MSU|
|Mitch Light||Athlon Sports||MSU||Dan Rubenstein||Solid Verbal||UGA|
|Zac Al-Khateeb||Sporting News||UGA||S&P+||SB Nation||UGA|
My pick: Georgia 27, Mississippi State 23
The key to this game for Georgia is to make Fitzgerald beat it with his arm. Considering Georgia has one of the best run defenses in the country and a group of linebackers who could wrangle an oiled pig while blindfolded at midnight, I think it can do that. Fitzgerald will move the ball some, for sure. But as long as the defense bends but doesn’t break and allows more field goal than touchdown opportunities, Georgia will be in a good position to win. Offensively, Georgia needs to pound the ball with Chubb and Michel, keep third downs reasonable for Fromm, eat clock and limit the amount of plays State can run. If Georgia tires out State’s defense, the offense should be able assert itself late and snag the win in the fourth quarter.
Johnathan Abram returns to Athens
One of the side stories this weekend will be the return of State defensive back Johnathan Abram. Abram started four games for Georgia in 2015, but transferred after Mark Richt was fired.
Will Sammon of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Abram and got his thoughts on returning to Athens. The former Georgia safety had some strong words regarding what he wants to do when he gets back between the hedges.
“It will be a great feeling,” Abram said. “To get a chance to go between the hedges but on the opposite side … I mean, I just look forward to going in with my team and, honestly, just beating the brakes off of them.”
One Georgia player had significantly less to say about Abram’s return. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
But Georgia senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter was less eager to talk about it after practice on Wednesday. He was asked if he still stays in touch with Abram and if it will be odd to see him in a different jersey.
“No. And no,” Carter said.
There were a couple moments of awkward silence as reporters waited to see if Carter would elaborate.
“That’s it,” Carter said.
Nick Fitzgerald vs. Jake Fromm
Well, here’s an interesting tweet from CFB Film Room.
Here's a look at the QB battle between Georgia and Mississippi State… pic.twitter.com/4dPUN67t1c
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) September 21, 2017
What does this tell us? Georgia is more likely to make hay by throwing deep than State is. Fitzgerald has issues under pressure, so expect Mel Tucker to bring the heat. State likes to throw short and does well doing so, which means Roquan Smith’s range could be a major factor.
Now or never
The always excellent Matt Brown of Sports on Earth went in deep on why the time is now for Georgia to win the SEC East. He makes a good point about cross-division games hurting Georgia’s chances for an East title early in the SEC slate the last two seasons, which makes this cross-division game with State all the more important.
In both Mark Richt’s final season and Kirby Smart’s first season, Georgia’s SEC title hopes were dealt significant blows in their first cross-division game before even facing either the Vols or Gators. Although the Bulldogs have won three straight against their permanent West opponent, Auburn, later in the season, they’ve stumbled early with a 38-10 humiliation against Alabama under Richt in 2015 and a 45-14 debacle at Ole Miss under Smart in 2016. …
Before it wins the division, though, Georgia needs to reverse its early season fortunes against the other division, which means making its own statement at home against Mississippi State. The first step toward fixing the SEC East — which hasn’t won the conference title since 2008 — is producing a division champion that looks like it earned the title rather than stumbling into it.
The first three weeks have reinforced the belief that Georgia needs to be the team to do it.
Light Up Sanford
You’ve probably noticed the flashlights come out with the playing of Krypton Fanfare before the start of the fourth quarter in all three games this season. “Light Up Sanford” is quickly becoming a thing for night games at Sanford Stadium.
Over at The Telegraph, Wilson Alexander has a fun story on the birth of the budding tradition, including the inside story of how the idea was conceived and implemented by a pair of Redcoat Band members. Check it out.
Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) September 21, 2017
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) September 21, 2017
Georgia's Lorenzo Carter has been on a tear the past two weeks. Can he keep this pace up for the rest of the season? pic.twitter.com/P3rq6j9TaP
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) September 19, 2017
If Mississippi State's line dominates the line of scrimmage like they did vs LSU then Georgia could be in BIG trouble. pic.twitter.com/lbZSmWKVT3
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 20, 2017
Sometimes life requires a leap of faith.
"Moved house, dog has never seen stairs before"
This video legit keeps tickling me pic.twitter.com/MxJcfUP4v4
— Tei (@TeiHusky) September 18, 2017
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