Although I previewed Georgia's next opponent before the season, the game is fast upon us, so it is time to begin breaking down the Mississippi Rebels.
As always, my analysis of the Red and Black's upcoming opponent is designed to provide you not with a dollop of data or a modicum of knowledge, but instead with . . . Too Much Information.
It's generally considered a bad sign if a Google image search for your starting quarterback only turns up pictures of him wearing an opposing team's uniform. (Photograph from Scout.com.)
The Passing Game
The Ole Miss defense has allowed the league's highest tally of first downs on pass plays (43), highest number of touchdown passes (7), and highest completion percentage (66.7%). Mississippi ranks 10th in the S.E.C. in pass defense and last in the conference in pass efficiency defense. Only one Southeastern squad has allowed more completions than the 74 conceded by the Rebs and Ole Miss is one of just two league teams not to have intercepted an opponent's pass this season.
That bodes well for a Bulldog passing attack ranked eighth in the S.E.C. Georgia has attempted the league's third-fewest passes (95) and, between them, the Red and Black quarterbacks have thrown equal numbers of touchdowns and interceptions, at four apiece.
Fortunately, for all the justified criticisms of the Georgia receiving corps, there are six Bulldogs with at least five catches, seven 'Dawgs with at least one catch of 20 yards or more, and nine Classic City Canines averaging at least 14 yards per reception.
The Rebels' passing game has produced the S.E.C.'s third-fewest yards per game (147.0), second-fewest yards per attempt (5.3), and lowest completion percentage (48.6%). Quarterback Brent Schaeffer ranks seventh in the league in passing yards per game, but, among the top nine S.E.C. signal-callers in that category, he has thrown the fewest touchdown passes (3) and the most interceptions (5).
35 of Mississippi's 54 completed passes have gone to just four players, with 24 of them being hauled in by Marshay Green and Dexter McCluster. Green has caught two of the Rebels' three touchdown passes and he is one of two Ole Miss players with a 47-yard reception to his credit. However, only three Rebs average at least 14 yards per catch.
The bottom line is that the Ole Miss offense has attempted 111 passes and the Ole Miss defense has had 111 passes attempted against it . . . but Rebel opponents have completed 20 more passes, thrown four more touchdown passes, and thrown five fewer interceptions against Ed Orgeron's squad than the team from Oxford has managed against them.
Georgia and Mississippi are the only two teams in the Southeastern Conference without a quarterback ranked in the top 10 in the league in passing efficiency.
When Bulldog Nation begins printing its own currency, Brandon Coutu will appear on the 55-dollar bill. Kevin Butler, naturally, will appear on the 60. (Photograph from Athens Banner-Herald.)
The Kicking Game
Special teams are among Mississippi's many weaknesses. The Rebels, who have been forced to punt 22 times in four games, have given up the S.E.C.'s second-highest average return (6.3 yards) and have tallied the league's second-lowest net punting average (34.3 yards).
Placekicker Joshua Shene has attempted just two field goals all year, missing one of them, and he has yet to connect on a three-point try of longer than 26 yards. Green and McCluster each have kickoff returns of 39 yards or longer, yet the Rebels rank just seventh in the league in that category. Ole Miss has the fewest punt returns in the conference (4) and ranks ninth in punt return average (7.2 yards per return).
Obviously, the kicking game is a strength for the 'Dawgs. Georgia ranks first in the S.E.C. in punt returns (22.2 yards per return), second in punting (42.4 net yards per punt), and third in kickoff returns (24.8 yards per return). The Red and Black punt return team has produced two touchdowns this season; no other team in the league has produced even one.
The Bulldogs have blocked a field goal attempt this season and Brandon Coutu has connected on seven of his eight three-point tries, including a 55-yarder, and his lone miss was a 53-yard attempt into the wind.
Mark Richt wins football games. Ed Orgeron frightens small children. To each his own, I suppose.
This remains something of an open question. We know how accomplished Mark Richt is, but Ed Orgeron is still a work in progress.
There can be little doubt that Coach O has upgraded the Rebels' talent level, but it remains to be seen whether he is able to get the most out of his players. The squad from Oxford has gone 4-11 on his watch, including a 1-8 mark in S.E.C. play and a 1-10 mark against B.C.S. conference opponents.
Coach Orgeron's won-lost record does not contain a victory over a Division I-A opponent by a greater margin than six points and nine of his 11 losses were by 10 points or more. The Orgeron's Rebels have given up at least 25 points in eight consecutive outings. It's hard to call that progress.
Meanwhile, Coach Richt's 'Dawgs are off to a 4-0 start for the fourth time in the last five years and he is the first coach in Red and Black history to have won each of his first two games against the Rebels. Georgia's head honcho heads out of town sporting an all-time 20-2 road record . . . and he will take on an opposing coach who is just 3-5 when playing with home field advantage.
Clearly, not all former assistants who came from championship programs sporting a couple of rings and possessing familiarity with multiple Heisman Trophy winners are created equal.
To be continued. . . .