After taking the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings, Georgia will look to prove it belongs there against Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC), which was third in the initial CFP rankings, is coming off a dominating, 27-13 home win last week over then-No. 1 Tennessee, which fell to No. 5.
Mississippi State (6-3, 3-3) defeated visiting Auburn 39-33 in overtime last week to end a two-game slide.
Georgia can win its fifth SEC East title in the past six years with a win over Mississippi State or a victory next week at No. 24 Kentucky. Georgia also advances to the SEC title game if Tennessee loses any of its three remaining league games, beginning with Saturday’s contest against visiting Missouri.
While Mississippi State outgained Auburn 370-331 in total yards and squandered an 21-point lead against the Tigers, Georgia’s performance against Tennessee showed why it’s are regarded as the country’s most complete team.
Tennessee entered its game against Georgia leading the country in total offense (553 yards per game) and points (49.4 per game), but the Volunteers mustered just 289 yards and 13 points — with their lone touchdown coming in the final five minutes.
Georgia ranks second nationally in scoring defense (10.78 ppg) and is tied for fourth in total defense (265.6 ypg), sixth in rushing defense (86.4 ypg) and tied for sixth in first downs allowed (126).
On offense, Georgia is first in red-zone scoring percentage (.980), third in total offense (514.2 ypg), 10th in passing offense (320.2 ypg) and 11th in scoring offense (40.1 ppg).
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Tight end Brock Bowers has 34 receptions for 574 yards with three touchdowns for Georgia, while Ladd McConkey has 38 catches for 507 yards and three touchdowns. Kenny McIntosh has been a threat out of the backfield with 31 receptions for 322 yards and a score in addition to rushing for 384 yards and six scores on 79 carries.
Daijun Edwards is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, having rushed for 486 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, asked what it would take to beat the nation’s top-ranked team, said, “Focus on what you do and have discipline. The hardest thing is to get the message to everyone. It’s easy to say it, but everyone has to buy it and believe it. Just worry about what you do, worry about your job.”
Mississippi State’s defense, which features cornerback Emmanuel Forbes and his SEC-high five interceptions, has given up at least 24 points in five of six league games this season.
However, Mississippi State has been much better on offense.
Behind Will Rogers, who has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for an SEC-leading 2,912 yards and 26 touchdowns against just five interceptions, Mississippi State is eighth in passing offense (325.6) and 11th in red-zone scoring percentage (.926).
Rara Thomas has 36 receptions for 540 yards and five scores for Mississippi State. Dillon Johnson (71 carries, 406 yards, 3 TDs) and Jo’quavious Marks (77 carries, 357 yards, 7 TDs) lead an improved rushing attack.
“They’re really gashing people running the ball this year,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I think that’s the biggest difference — they are committed to running the ball and being physical up front.
“People have the wrong demeanor when they go to play this team that, ‘Oh, man, I’m going to go out here and pass rush and get all these sacks.’ They’re not going to let you do that.”
Georgia has won 12 of the past 13 meetings between the teams, including a 31-24 home win in the latest matchup, in 2020.
–Field Level Media