Game Plan Predictions
MSU Offense vs. UGA Defense
Mississippi State has the mentality that it can bully anyone into submission. It's not hard to develop this thinking when you are a physical running team that enjoys punishing defenses. The reality, however, is that the 2011 MSU team is much different than they were in 2010. Expect the Bulldogs to attack the perimeter of Georgia's defensive line with outside zone plays and power. UGA has been effective in stuffing the run between the tackles this year, but more vulnerable on the edges. Running backs Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins will be used early and often to stretch the UGA defense and create opportunities for quarterback Chris Relf to use the play action pass or zone keep. Also expect quick passes to the outside to their running backs as both Ballard and Perkins are tied for the team lead in receptions.
MSU's goal will be to dominate time of possession and get points. They believe that if they can keep their defense fresh, they can hold the Dawgs under 20 points and have a good chance to escape the Classic City with a win.
UGA Defense vs. MSU Offense
After being physically whipped in 2010 by MSU, UGA has an agenda in 2011. Georgia's assignment is clear, but far from easy. They must stop the running game combo of Ballard, Perkins, and Relf. If they can do that, this could turn into a one sided affair.
Expect UGA to stuff the box and play a ton of man coverage. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has complete confidence that his corners, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith, and Sanders Commings, can handle the MSU receivers in press coverage. This will allow him to commit eight or more defenders to the run and cause problems for MSU head coach Dan Mullen.
Expect UGA to force the issue when Mississippi State has to operate in long yardage situations. These situations give Grantham an opportunity to get creative and force Relf into making mistakes. The UGA defensive staff knows that MSU has trouble sustaining drives when they are forced to go to the air, so make Relf into a pocket passer.
MSU Defense vs. UGA Offense
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson likes to bring pressure from a variety of angles and UGA's pass protections struggles have him licking his chops. MSU must bring pressure to get to the passer due to a lack of pass rush from the defensive end position, and UGA has struggled in blitz pick up all season.
Expect MSU's aggressive approach to give UGA quarterback Aaron Murray issues early. Once they pressure the sophomore signal caller, expect them to disguise blitzes and coverages to force Murray into situations where he could struggle to read the defense.
Also expect MSU to crowd the box early. They have had struggles stopping the run in their previous two SEC contests, but both times the struggles occurred early. They will want to buck that trend to keep UGA from getting out to a fast start.
UGA Offense vs. MSU Defense
Conventional wisdom would expect the offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's squad to come out and attack the Bulldogs early with the ground game, but that might not be the case. Bobo knows that he can ruin any sort of MSU game plan by stretching their defense with the big play. Expect UGA to attack MSU cornerback Corey Broomfield and safety Wade Bonner with early attempts down the field. If the Dawgs can connect, it will open the entire playbook for the offense.
Whether that works or not, expect UGA to settle into their usual attempts at a balanced offense. They will want to keep freshman phenom Isaiah Crowell involved as their primary back and use the run game to set up the play action pass. Expect spread formations on early downs to create space for Crowell, while also giving Murray the opportunity to check into a short and efficient passes to stay ahead of the chains.
Mississippi State is a gritty and physical football team, but they are thin and more vulnerable defensively than most people realize. They also struggle to sustain long drives on offense. UGA's kickoff coverage and punt coverage will be key in this game as they will want to force the Bulldogs to drive long distances to score. Head coach Mark Richt has reevaluated the coverage personnel and UGA should be better than they were last week against Ole Miss. MSU will be ready. UGA will be better. Final Score: Russ's Dawgs 20 - Bully's Bulldogs 10.
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