Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) vs. Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. (No TV, Radio: 940-AM)
Stadium: Sanford Stadium (92,746)
Kickoff weather: High of 83, low of 55; 10 percent chance of rain
Series: Georgia leads 29-12-1
Last meeting: Georgia won 14-9 in Oxford in 2006
Odds: Georgia favored by 15 points
Injuries: Georgia: Out: WR A.J. Bryant (knee); Doubtful: OL Scott Haverkamp; Questionable: S Rowdy Francis (hamstring). Ole Miss: Out: LB Jonathan Cornell (shoulder); Probable: WR Dexter McCluster (shoulder), DE Greg Hardy (shoulder).
Knowshon Moreno has led the Bulldogs in rushing every game of his Georgia career and is the safe bet to do so again this week. However, his performance last week against Alabama proved he still has things to learn about finishing runs, Coach Mark Richt said. Moreno has put that effort behind him, he said. The Rebels rush defense is 91st in the country. Ole Miss will be led by senior BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who gained 135 yards against Georgia last year. Green-Ellis had only 37 yards on 11 carries last week, but Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron thinks that was an aberration. “I think you’re going to see a little better BenJarvus this week,” Orgeron said. Green-Ellis is averaging 102 yards per game, and the Bulldogs haven’t allowed an opposing player to gain more than 80 on the ground this year.
Georgia’s passing game is in the middle of the pack in the SEC (sixth) and the nation (57th) at 223.2 yards per game. There are some signs of improvement. The offensive line is blocking a little better, and three of its receivers – Sean Bailey, Mohamed Massaquoi and Mikey Henderson – had the best or close to the best games of their careers. The good news is the Rebels are 105th in the country in pass defense. Ole Miss’ passing game is much-improved behind senior quarterback Seth Adams. The Rebels threw for 310 yards last week against Florida and have an underrated wide receiving corps, particularly if Dexter McCluster plays. McCluster had a long touchdown catch against the Bulldogs last year but was lost of the season the next game and hasn’t played in his year’s first four games. If he is teamed with Mike Wallace and Marshay Green, Georgia’s secondary will have its hands full.
Edge: Ole Miss
The Bulldogs are second in the SEC and 16th in the country in yards allowed (282.5) and have been consistently good on defense all season. Cornerback Asher Allen showed last week that he may be ready to become a star. Allen led the Bulldogs with 11 tackles, more than he had in the first three games combined. “He’s reacting more quickly to things,” Richt said. “He just really understands what he’s doing over there.” Orgeron said he sees a different type of athlete on defense when he looks at Georgia’s game film this year, and he meant it as a compliment. Defense was the Rebels’ strength last season, but not anymore. All-Everything linebacker Patrick Willis is gone, and Ole Miss is last in the SEC and 107th in the nation in yards allowed (476.2). That doesn’t mean there’s not talent on that side of the ball. Defensive end Greg Hardy has more tackles than any defensive lineman in the conference, and linebacker Ashlee Palmer is second overall in the tackles in the league.
Place-kicker Brandon Coutu has nothing to worry about after missing two kicks against Alabama next week. Georgia’s coaches have complete faith in him and aren’t even considering a change at the position. “I get nervous when a kicker just yanks it,” Richt said. “When you get the yips as a kicker then I get the yips as a coach and it might be time to make a change.” The Bulldogs shored up their kickoff coverage last week, holding Alabama to a long return of 16 yards. This week it will be Ole Miss that is looking to tighten the screws in that area. It is 12th in the SEC with a net kickoff average of 33.2 yards, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rebels try to keep the ball away from Thomas Brown. “That’ll be interesting to see what they do,” Richt said. The Rebels’ kickoff and punter returner, Green, doesn’t have great numbers but worries Georgia. “He’s fearless back there, very talented guy,” Richt said.