MSU at No. 11 Georgia
WHERE: Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium
WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
RECORDS: Mississippi State 2-4, Georgia 4-2
TV/RADIO: SEC Network (Dave Neal, D.J. Shockley, Lauren Sisler); Georgia Bulldog Network: (Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle); Sirius/XM/Internet: 81/81/81
Although the Bulldogs’ recent loss to Florida took a lot of the luster off the 2020 campaign, Saturday night’s game against Mississippi State is not without some intrigue.
For Georgia, that intrigue centers around quarterback, where J.T. Daniels is expected to make his Bulldog debut.
It has been a slow rehab process for the Southern Cal transfer, who's been working to get his mobility back to the point where offensive coordinator Todd Monken is comfortable putting him in the game.
Apparently, that time is now.
Multiple sources confirm that Daniels has received most of—if not all of—the reps with the first team. Head coach Kirby Smart, on the other hand, has remained coy as to whether or not that means he’ll be getting the call on Saturday.
In a perfect world, the former five-star would fulfill the fondest hopes of every fan.
Five-star commit Brock Vandagriff intends on arriving shortly as an early enrollee, and while his future is obviously bright, there's no question Smart and Monken would like to have a proven veteran to lean on next fall.
But the game is also big for other reasons.
You always want to finish the season strong, and Georgia certainly has the opportunity to do that. The Bulldogs will be heavily favored to win their remaining four games (assuming the Missouri game is in fact rescheduled) along with a yet-to-be-determined bowl.
Contrary to what some might think, the Bulldogs appear excited about the opportunity.
In a day when more and more players are opting out, seeing this week’s tweet by Richard LeCounte that he hopes to play despite his recent accident, speaks to the desire the rest of his teammates have toward finishing the year on as positive a note as they can.
Three keys for Georgia
Get Daniels settled in quickly: No, Smart hasn't announced his starter, but if it's Daniels, getting him off to a good start will be imperative. Everything we've heard about the Southern Cal transfer is that he’s a player who welcomes big situations, but you’d still have to think there will be at least a few nerves during what is expected to be his Bulldog debut. We believe George Pickens will be back after missing the past two games, so that will help. But ultimately helping Daniels—or whoever the quarterback will be—will be tops on Saturday’s list.
Get pressure on MSU’s quarterbacks: Whether it's K.J. Costello or Will Rogers, creating havoc with either is the top goal for the Bulldog D. The Maroon average over 50 passing attempts per game, but haven't always been effective as indicated by the fact the two quarterbacks have combined for 14 interceptions in the team’s two games.
Eliminate explosive plays: We're talking about the Bulldogs' defense here. Both Florida and Alabama exposed Georgia’s secondary, connecting on a number of back-breaking explosives that ruined any opportunity the Bulldogs might have had in those games. The way offenses are set up now, you're not going to stop them all. But Georgia has given up more than they should, and that needs to stop.
WR George Pickens (pec): Probable; has practiced all week and is expected to play
DL Jordan Davis (elbow): Doubtful. Smart didn't sound very promising when talking about Davis earlier this week.
RB Kenny McIntosh (knee): Probable. McIntosh has practiced all week and appears in line to play.
RB Kendall Milton (knee): Out. Milton will miss a couple more games after straining his MCL against Florida.
DL Julian Rochester (knee): Out. Rochester is out for the year with a torn ACL.
LB Trezman Marshall (shoulder): Out. Marshall is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, per sources.
WR Arian Smith: (knee): Questionable. Smith dressed out and traveled to Jacksonville, but did not get into the game.
DB Richard LeCounte (concussion): Out. LeCounte remains out following his motorcycle accident, but tweeted this week he hopes to return before the end of the year.
DL Warren Brinson (concussion): Questionable. Smart said Brinson is cleared to play, but it's uncertain if he will.
DB Lewis Cine (concussion): Probable. Cine has been cleared for over a week and is expected to play.
This and that
…It's homecoming at Georgia. Since 1922, Georgia is 78-18-2 in Homecoming contests. This year, the Bulldogs welcome Mississippi State to Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium, and the SEC West’s Bulldogs will be the Homecoming foe for just the second time. Georgia won the first Homecoming matchup by a score of 27-0 that came in 1950.
…Redshirt sophomore Zamir White leads the running game with a team-high 97 carries for 509 yards and seven touchdowns. He left Jacksonville, Fla., with his second straight 100-yard rushing game after going for 107 yards on seven carries versus Florida, highlighted by his 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game.
…Eric Stokes is the third Bulldog to return two picks for scores in the same season. In fact, both Jake Scott (W, 35-14 @ Kentucky, 1968) and Darryl Gamble (W, 52-38 @ LSU, 2008) had their pair in the same game.
…Georgia tops the SEC and ranks fourth nationally in Rushing Defense (82.8 ypg). The Bulldogs have allowed a pair of 100-yd. rushers this year (UA’s Najee Harris, 152; UK’s Chris Rodriguez, 108). The aforementioned pair gained a combined 260, while the rest of the Dogs’ opponents have combined to rush for 237 yards.
…Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers became just the seventh true freshman in program history to start a game at quarterback when he did so against Vanderbilt. Rogers threw for 226 yards, the most by a Bulldog true freshman in his first career start, and completed 35 passes, the most by a freshman in school history.
…MSU running back Jo'quavious Marks ranks second nationally among freshmen with 38 receptions this season, which is a Bulldog single-season record for both freshmen and running backs. Marks would need 58 catches to crack the MSU single-season top 10.
It's been a while since we've seen an Air Raid offense pay a visit to Sanford Stadium, but that's what we'll see Saturday night against Mississippi State. Georgia fans will tell you that's not the biggest storyline in this game. No, the centerpiece narrative is quarterback JT Daniels, who's expected to make his Bulldog debut. Bulldog fans have been pining for this to happen for weeks. While it's impossible to predict exactly how Daniels will fare, now that he is apparently ready physically, it's time for Kirby Smart and Todd Monken to show us what he can do. Prediction: Georgia 35, Mississippi State 7.