Having previously taken a look at the Ole Miss passing game, we now turn our attention to that traditional staple of Southeastern Conference football, the running game, in a segment we here at Dawg Sports like to call . . . Too Much Information.
Regrettably, Georgia is not as much of a force in the ground game as any of us would like. The 'Dawgs rank ninth in the S.E.C. in rushing offense, averaging 140.8 yards per game on running plays. Starting tailback Thomas Brown has scored a trio of touchdowns, but he has not broken a run longer than 17 yards, he averages only a little over 50 rushing yards per game, and his yards-per-carry average (3.9) represents only a fractional improvement over that of Shaun Chapas (3.8).
There are, however, two huge positives for the Red and Black. The first is the fact that Mississippi's rush defense is porous: Ole Miss ranks tenth in the league in rush defense (192.8 rushing yards per game allowed) and has surrendered the conference's second-most first downs on running plays (47) and most rushing touchdowns (8). Nationally, the Rebels' rush defense ranks 91st in the land, right behind Duke's.
The Bulldogs' second advantage is Knowshon Moreno, who continues to grow into his role as the workhorse of the Georgia backfield. The freshman tailback averages 5.3 yards per carry and his opportunities to take handoffs from Matthew Stafford will only increase as the season progresses. The Red and Black, in short, should be able to run on the Rebels . . . but will Ole Miss be able to move the ball against the 'Dawgs on the ground?
With all due respect to the conference's fifth-leading rusher, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the smart money says the Rebs will be stymied when they try to run the ball. Even though Georgia has gained fewer first downs on running plays (30) than the Classic City Canines have allowed (31), the Bulldogs boast the league's third-best rush defense, limiting the opposition to 109.2 rushing yards per contest.
Mississippi ranks dead last in the S.E.C. in rushing offense, averaging an identical 109.2 rushing yards per game. The Rebs have amassed the league's second-fewest rushing yards (437), fewest first downs off of running plays (25), and fewest rushing touchdowns (1).
To all that good news must, in fairness, be appended the following caveat: Georgia and Ole Miss are more alike than I would care to admit, at least where any single running play is concerned. Whereas the 'Dawgs average 3.7 yards per carry, the Rebels average 3.6. It appears that the Red and Black pick up more yards on the ground simply because they hand it off more often; Mississippi has attempted the S.E.C.'s second-fewest running plays (120), whereas the Bulldogs have run the ball 152 times . . . just two fewer than Arkansas.
Then again, there may be more to it than that. Although Green-Ellis averages 102 rushing yards per game, he has yet to cover more than 34 yards in a single scamper and no other Rebel has picked up as many as 20 yards on a lone carry. Those numbers were tallied in four games versus three teams ranked 55th or worse against the run.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss gives up 4.6 yards per carry---a full three feet for every touch more than the Rebs gain on their own running plays---and Moreno has covered half the field in one run. If given adequate opportunity, the emerging Georgia star could have the best day of his young career on Saturday.
Here's hoping that happens; in the meantime, I'll be back after a while with a few miscellaneous (though, I hope, not extraneous) details regarding this weekend's S.E.C. showdown between the hedges.