NCAAF Game Preview: Mississippi St vs. Georgia - Date: 9/23/2017 Sep 19, 2017 ATHENS, Ga. -- When the season began, not many saw Saturday night's matchup between Mississippi State and Georgia as a red-letter game in the SEC. Yet, that's exactly what it is. Both sets of Bulldogs enter play at Sanford Stadium with 3-0 marks, with Mississippi State ranked 17th and 1-0 in the SEC after last week's 37-7 rout of LSU. No. 11 Georgia will be playing its SEC opener. "I think they're a very physical team. They always are," Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. "(Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen) seems to always find really good quarterbacks, especially dual-threat guys. He's known for developing those type of guys. He's done a good job with their overall program. " Mullen's Bulldogs are first in scoring (47. 7 points) and scoring defense (9. 3 points per game) in the SEC. Junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald leads an offense that has outscored its opponents 143-28, completing 43 of 70 passes for 543 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 240 yards and five scores. "He's very smart, very knowledgeable, knows how to attack protections. He's a guy that's constantly working on getting better. He's got these guys believing and playing really hard, really physical," Smart said. "They've got some good players. Got some big guys up front. They're playing hard. He's got some fast guys. They just seem like they have a lot of guys they play. They use them well. They use them to their strengths. " Aeris Williams paces the Mississippi State ground game with 336 yards on 48 carries and one touchdown, but the focus is on Fitzgerald, a Georgia native who will have to be able to handle his emotions playing in his home state for the first time. "We'll see. I'll see if he looks weird or gives me silly looks," Mullen said. "He better get his emotions in check because we're playing a very athletic defense. Watching the film will straighten out those emotions pretty quickly. " Defense has certainly been Georgia's calling card. Hot Sports Handicappers. The Bulldogs are allowing 14. 3 points per game and an average of just 71 yards on the ground. No team has rushed for more than 100 yards against Georgia through three games. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson is a force in the middle of the line, with outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter (three sacks) and middle linebacker Roquan Smith (team-high 19 tackles) being key playmakers. "They've got big, athletic guys on defense. They can play in multiple fronts on the defensive line and play you with personnel that fits each of those fronts," Mullen said. "They can play in 3-4 with 3-4 personnel, 4-3 with 4-3 personnel or nickel with nickel personnel with a five-star player at each of those positions. They're pretty darn good. " Offensively for Georgia, true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm is expected to start for the third straight week, although Game 1 starter Jacob Eason is back practicing after returning to workouts on Monday. Fromm has completed 34 of 57 passes for 449 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception. More good news for the Bulldogs: Smart is expected to welcome back running back Sony Michel, who was held out of Saturday's game against Samford after tweaking his ankle late in the contest at Notre Dame. He'll team with fellow senior Nick Chubb, who is coming off a 131-yard effort against Samford and leads Georgia in rushing with 44 carries for 290 yards and four touchdowns. Although Saturday's game marks just the second meeting between the schools since 2011, Georgia and Mississippi State are relatively familiar with each other. Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham served in the same capacity at Georgia from 2010-2013. Former Bulldog letterman Christian Robinson is a graduate assistant inside linebackers coach at MSU, while offensive line coach D. J. Looney worked as a grad assistant at Georgia last year. Adding to the intrigue, Mississippi State safety Jonathan Abram played with Georgia in 2015 before transferring and ultimately joining MSU before this season. Advantage Mississippi State? Mullen doesn't necessarily believe so. "You watch the film and say they're running this defense, and he says, 'Yeah, they're running that defense. ' You say, 'Thanks, I saw that on film already,'" Mullen said. "I don't think it gives us a big advantage. "
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