NO. 6 GEORGIA VS. OLE MISS
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Records: Georgia 7-1 (5-1 SEC), Ole Miss 5-3 (2-2)
Last week: Georgia beat Florida 17-9. Ole Miss beat Arkansas 30-27
What’s the Story? With a 17-9 win last week against then-No. 2 Florida, Georgia not only posted its first back-to-back wins against the hated Gators for the first time since 1988-89, it put itself in position to defend its SEC East title. The Bulldogs need only to defeat Ole Miss and an atrocious Auburn team next week to return to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.
But Ole Miss is a vastly improved bunch from the 2-10 club that got coach Houston Nutt fired a season ago. First-year coach Hugh Freeze’s team played Alabama and Texas A&M competitively and is coming off consecutive SEC wins against Auburn and Arkansas. A steep talent differential makes the Rebels two-touchdown underdogs, but Georgia can’t afford to take them lightly.
Five headlines: Check out our recap of this week’s biggest storylines from Thursday.
Players to watch:
1. Jarvis Jones: Barrels of ink have already been spilled over Jones’ legacy-cementing performance last week against Florida. He was a one-man wrecking crew in harassing Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel and generating turnovers all over the field. That’s the Jones that Georgia fans came to know and love before injuries slowed him for much of the last month. Now that he’s back, his presence alone makes Georgia’s defense substantially better.
2. Todd Gurley: Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would probably like to control the clock to help keep the Bulldogs’ defense rested as it faces Ole Miss’ high-tempo offense. Bobo’s greatest weapon in that effort is Gurley’s physical running behind an offensive line that took a step forward last week against Florida. Gurley should be able to move the chains against a defense that ranks ninth in the SEC against the run (148 yards per game).
3. John Jenkins: The senior nose guard/defensive end had one of his best outings of the season last week against Florida, but he rolled his ankle earlier this week in practice. The Bulldogs could use him in the hybrid role he has been playing lately, as he is obviously one of Georgia’s most difficult defensive linemen for opposing offensive lines to move. A key factor for Georgia’s defense, should Jenkins play, will be how much the injured ankle affects his mobility.
1. Bo Wallace: The junior college transfer has led the Rebels’ offensive improvement by providing stability at quarterback. Wallace set career highs with 29 completions and 37 passing attempts last week against Arkansas and ranks fifth in the SEC in total offense at 239 yards per game. His run-pass skills will require the Bulldogs to play with discipline on defense.
2. Jeff Scott: The quick 5-foot-7 scatback is fifth in the SEC with 87.4 rushing yards per game (113 carries for 612 yards, six TDs) and is also a receiving threat out of the backfield. Georgia held Scott in check last season with just 34 rushing yards and would greatly help its chances on Saturday by shutting down the Rebels’ rushing attack again.
3. Denzel Nkemdiche: The Georgian, a redshirt freshman linebacker, is also known as the brother of the nation’s most sought-after recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who will visit for Saturday’s game. Denzel is in the midst of a highly productive season himself, leading the Rebels with 52 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Georgia’s pass rushers vs. Ole Miss’ offensive line
Jones and freshman Jordan Jenkins led a revived pass rush last week, helping generate six turnovers by the Gators. A remotely similar effort against Ole Miss would be valuable, as the Rebels are prone to allowing sacks (they’re 11th in the SEC, having allowed 22 in eight games) and committing turnovers (they’re tied for 11th in the league with 17 giveaways).
By the Numbers
1. 22. Jones has already accumulated 22 sacks in his UGA career despite playing in only 20 games thus far. That total places him seventh on Georgia’s career list. He leads the nation with 2.33 tackles for loss per game and 0.83 forced fumbles per game and is second with 1.42 sacks per game.
2. 71-17-2. UGA will celebrate homecoming on Saturday, an occasion on which Georgia owns a 71-17-2 record dating back to 1922. The Bulldogs have never hosted Ole Miss for homecoming.
3. 2009. By beating Auburn and Arkansas, Ole Miss has won back-to-back SEC games for the first time since 2009. The win against Auburn snapped a 16-game losing streak against conference opponents.
On Deck: Georgia visits slumping Auburn (1-7, 0-6) next Saturday at 7 p.m. Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt (4-4, 2-3).