ATHENS, Ga. -- Upset-minded Ole Miss (5-3, 2-2 SEC) visits No. 6 Georgia (7-1, 5-1) looking for its first signature win under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze.
Coming off last week’s upset of then-No. 2 Florida, the Bulldogs face a classic trap-game scenario, riding an emotional high with the Rebels, a 14-point underdogs and winners of their last two conference games, coming to town.
The Bulldogs have vowed that they are taking Ole Miss seriously. Their performance on Saturday will reveal whether they actually took a step forward last week and are a more mature club than the one that struggled to maintain its intensity from week to week earlier in the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest UGA-related storylines as we move closer to kickoff:
1. Can Bulldogs duplicate last week’s energy level?
It might be impossible for Georgia to play every week with the intensity that lifted them to a win against Florida. The players say that is their goal. Even if they don’t quite reach it, anything resembling their fire on defense will be immensely valuable. Todd Grantham’s defense struggled to produce consistently early in the season, but in generating six turnovers against Florida, Jarvis Jones and company provided Bulldogs fans with hope that they can still dominate down the stretch.
2. Preparing for pace
Freeze’s high-tempo offense presents a unique concern for the Bulldogs, as first-year quarterback Bo Wallace, tailback Jeff Scott and receiver Donte Moncrief lead an attack that has made enormous strides from last season’s putrid bunch. The Rebels are averaging 32.4 points and 430 yards per game, so the Bulldogs can’t afford to play like the defense that struggled two weeks ago against Kentucky. They must be prepared to make responsible plays and then quickly line up to make them over and over again.
3. Expect the unexpected
A former high school coach, Freeze has already shown off his gambler’s spirit. He’s not above running the occasional trick play or bringing in reserve quarterback Barry Brunetti on a short-yardage play. Georgia has a tendency to play overly aggressive defense at times, so the Bulldogs must guard against falling into a Rebels trap. They got burned by such a play last season at Ole Miss when a reverse pass led to a wide-open touchdown.
4. Murray looks to bounce back
The last time Aaron Murray had a subpar game, he bounced back in a big way. He went from a career-low 109 yards in a loss to South Carolina to a career-high 427 yards against Kentucky in the very next game. Murray had an awful first half with three interceptions against Florida, but Ole Miss’ youthful defense is not in the Gators’ class. Murray will have opportunities to post solid passing numbers if he can avoid the crippling mistakes that plagued him a week ago.
5. Turnover time
Georgia generated just 10 turnovers in its first seven games and then, oddly enough, managed six takeaways last week against a Florida team that had been remarkably stingy about committing turnovers. The Rebels have no such bragging rights (with 17 turnovers, they are tied with Tennessee for the third most in the SEC), so Georgia needs to keep up last week’s trend. In Ole Miss’ games against the top teams it has faced -- Alabama, Texas and Texas A&M -- the Rebels turned the ball over eight times and totaled seven takeaways (six of which came against Texas A&M alone).