Georgia Three Keys: Mississippi State


The Georgia Bulldogs not only reaffirmed their place as the No. 1 team in the nation with their convincing win over Tennessee this past weekend.

By Matt Zemek

Far more than that, they established themselves as the best program in college football at the moment.

Of course, Alabama and Clemson have been the best programs in college football over the past seven years. The Crimson Tide and the Tigers have met in three of the past seven national championship games and in four of the past eight College Football Playoffs. All eight College Football Playoffs have had at least one of those two schools involved.

Yet, it was hard to ignore the powerful symbolism of this past Saturday, Nov. 5. After Georgia disposed of Tennessee, Alabama and Clemson both lost in prime time. Alabama lost its second game of the season, and Clemson – which was less than convincing against Wake Forest and Syracuse earlier this year – was flattened by a Notre Dame team which had lost to Marshall and Stanford.

Alabama and Clemson might both miss the playoff in the same season. Georgia, meanwhile, looks like the best team in the country and a clear favorite to repeat as national champion. If UGA pulls off the back-to-back title run, it would definitely push aside Alabama as the ultimate powerhouse program in college football. There’s a lot for Georgia to pursue in the coming weeks, starting with this road game against Mississippi State. Here’s what UGA has to focus on:

1 – Mentally regroup

Though the game wasn’t close in the fourth quarter, Georgia still put forth a lot of effort and energy against Tennessee. Kirby Smart needs to make sure the fuel tank is full and that players do not come out emotionally flat against Mississippi State. Everything starts with finding refreshment and the ability to start over. Winners, not just losers, need to wipe the slate clean after the previous week’s game.

2 – Smashmouth

Auburn does not have a formidable offense or a top-tier running game, but in the second half of its comeback against Mississippi State last week, Auburn was able to run the ball consistently and expose the left side of the MSU defensive line. Georgia should feel confident that its offensive line can lean on Mississippi State’s defensive front, gaining the upper hand in the trenches and setting up play-action after hammering the run with great success. Over 60 minutes, Georgia has to trust that its physical strength will wear down MSU.

3 – Shutting off the deep ball

Georgia’s secondary was brilliant against Tennessee’s receivers. The Dawgs were not beaten over the top on long balls. They dared the Vols to complete dozens upon dozens of short passes and move the ball slowly down the field. Tennessee couldn’t do it. Georgia should take the same approach to the Mike Leach MSU passing game: Dare Mississippi State to throw tons of short passes. Make the bet that MSU won’t be able to finish drives with that strategy. At some point, Mississippi State. As long as Georgia’s secondary doesn’t give up the deep ball, it should be in very good shape in this game.

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