We are already four weeks into the college football season. It’s hard to believe but soon enough we’ll be at the halfway point. Teams are starting to figure things out and learn more about themselves and we are starting to learn more about them. So far, we have learned that Ole Miss needs to figure out how to hang on to a lead. We also have learned that Georgia doesn’t play very well against inferior opponents.
The Rebels led both Florida State and Alabama by three touchdowns but couldn’t finish the job. Now it’s gut check time. The “streak” against the Crimson Tide is over and Ole Miss is looking to play better down the stretch. Can Hugh Freeze’s team rebound against a solid Bulldogs team after blowing leads against premier opponents it had on the ropes?
Georgia has looked pretty good on defense for the most part this year but the ‘Dawgs face their biggest challenge thus far this weekend in Oxford. They struggled to put away Nicholls State and also had trouble with a not-so-great (though improved) Missouri team. For Georgia to beat Ole Miss, it will have to play much better than it has the past two weeks.
These teams have quite a bit of history but haven’t met since they played consecutive games in 2011 and ‘12. The Bulldogs dominated in both of those games but that was at a time before the resurgence of Ole Miss under Freeze. Georgia leads the all-time series 32-12-1 and has won 10 straight games against the Rebels, a streak that goes back to 1997.
Georgia at Ole Miss
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Ole Miss -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Chad Kelly vs. Georgia’s Secondary
This could be the most important matchup of the game. Georgia’s secondary, as it appeared coming into the season, was pretty stout. The Bulldogs finished first in the SEC in pass defense last season, allowing 156.5 yards per game. That unit was solid in the first two weeks of 2016 as well, but last week... not so much. Missouri’s Drew Lock, a sophomore, torched Georgia for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Still, the ‘Dawgs were able to pick off three of his passes — a crucial difference in the game. Georgia is facing an even tougher challenge this week against Kelly. He has been prolific for Ole Miss, just as expected. In last week’s loss to Alabama, Kelly threw for a whopping 421 yards and three touchdowns. The ‘Dawgs secondary could have its work cut out.
2. Nick Chubb
Luckily for Georgia, Ole Miss lost a ton of talent to the NFL over the offseason and it isn’t quite as strong in the front seven as it has been in recent memory. It will be nice for Georgia’s offensive line to not have to worry about blocking anybody with the last name Nkemdiche. But the Bulldogs need a big performance from Chubb to win this game. Since running over North Carolina for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener, Chubb hasn’t looked great. He ran for 80 yards against Nicholls State and then last week Mizzou’s defense held him to only 63 yards and kept him out of the end zone. Georgia will certainly be hoping for a bounce-back performance from its star running back against the Rebels.
3. Ole Miss’ Competitive Spirit
There is one major determining factor for whether Ole Miss will win this week’s game and it is… Ole Miss. What that means is that it’s all on the Rebels. If these teams line up against each other and both play well, Ole Miss will win by two touchdowns. Basically, Georgia can’t win this game. Ole Miss has to lose it. But it’s going to be really interesting to see how Ole Miss comes out of the locker room this week. That “competitive spirit” the Rebels showed early against Florida State and Alabama made them look like one of the best teams in the country. But this team must learn how to finish. Under Hugh Freeze, they haven’t been able to maintain their focus or intensity over the course of a full season. And this year, that has translated to individual games. Which side of the Rebels will we see against Georgia?
Georgia is still fairly one-dimensional even with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. The ‘Dawgs rely on their running game and right now that running game is underperforming. So is the secondary — a unit that is talented, but obviously susceptible to getting lit up. That’s a bad formula against Ole Miss. However, the Rebels just can’t seem to put a full game together. Could this be the week Ole Miss changes that? I think so. The Rebels will be inspired to play well for four quarters after suffering through the reality of thinking about what could have been. And Chad Kelly is one of the most reliable quarterbacks in college football. He almost always puts on a show. That Georgia secondary is in big trouble this week.