It is Friday, so it is time once again for us to examine the Georgia Bulldogs’ Saturday matchup, which this week takes the form of a home game against the Mississippi St. Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for noon, which is bad news for you if you plan on tailgating, though it hopefully will prove to be good news for the home team, which will be taking on an opponent from the central time zone that will be playing at 11:00 a.m. body standard time.
Here, for your entertainment and possible edification, are a few morsels of historical and statistical minutiae, compiled for a segment which we like to think offers neither a dash of detail nor a dollop of data, but, rather, provides . . . Too Much Information:
Georgia leads the all-time series with Mississippi State, 16-6, and last year’s loss in Starkville broke a nine-game winning streak by our Bulldogs over their Bulldogs, dating back to the Red and Black’s last loss in 1974. The Classic City Canines are 9-1 against the Magnolia State Mongrels in Sanford Stadium, where Georgia has not lost to Mississippi State since 1956 . . . which, by the way, also happened to be the last (and only) year the Athenians lost a second straight series meeting to MSU.
Thanks to last weekend’s outcome in Oxford, 2011 marks the ninth autumn in which Georgia plays Mississippi State in a season in which the Red and Black beat Ole Miss. The Eastern Division Bulldogs were 7-1 over the Western Division Bulldogs in the previous eight such campaigns, including a 3-0 mark when the Classic City Canines faced the two Magnolia State schools in consecutive outings.
In games decided by seven or fewer points, Georgia holds a 6-2 series edge on Mississippi State, with the Red and Black’s last loss in a nailbiter coming in Jackson in 1970. Our Bulldogs have never lost a single-score game to their Bulldogs in Athens.
The Georgia secondary should be able to keep the Mississippi State passing game in check. This weekend’s home team ranks second in the SEC in pass defense, and the visitors average almost 50 fewer aerial yards per outing than their hosts. No MSU player ranks among the top 20 in the league in receiving yards per game, perhaps due to the fact that the Starkville squad’s top pass-catching threat is freshman Jameon Lewis.
Where Georgia will be tested, of course, is on the ground, as Vick Ballard’s 101.75 rushing yards per game very nearly match Isaiah Crowell’s 102.75 mark. Still, the Athenians’ stingy defense is conceding only 270 yards per contest, placing them fifth in the conference in total D, and Mississippi State stands at ninth in the SEC in points per game. The 31.3 ticks on the scoreboard averaged by the Western Division Bulldogs drop to 20.0 points per game against conference competition. Besides, EA Sports says we’ll win the game.
Mississippi State, which ranks third in the SEC in rushing offense, has scored eight touchdowns on the ground this year, of which seven came on the road . . . and all eight came against unranked opponents.
Georgia has held Mississippi State to 24 or fewer points in nine of the last ten meetings between the two sets of SEC Bulldogs, including each of the last six. The Red and Black are allowing an average of 23.3 points per game.
As tankertoad noted, Mississippi State fields a physical team, which causes me some concern, as the Red and Black will need to match their guests’ intensity and stand up under the relentless pounding they are assured of receiving. After last year’s embarrassment in Starkville, though, there is little chance the home team will be overlooking the Mississippians, and the Georgia coaches and players know this game is critical to the preservation of every hope they have, from contending for the Eastern Division championship to earning a respectable bowl bid to saving Mark Richt’s job.
The Red and Black rank fifth in the SEC in scoring, and their 37.3 average points per game shrink only to 34.5 points per contest in conference outings. The Georgia defense is much improved from a year ago, and Mississippi State is apt to find that there is a world of difference between facing the Classic City Canines in a night game in Starkville and taking them on in a noon game in Athens. Although the final score I predicted earlier in the week likely lowballed the total number of points that will be scored, I suspect I got the final margin about right.
My Prediction: Georgia 35, Mississippi State 21.