The last time the No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs lost was nearly two calendar years ago against Alabama in the SEC Championship game.
It’s a pretty preposterous streak in this day and age of Name, Image and Likeness in the ultra-competitive SEC to boot. But then there’s the regular season win streak dating back to the Covid-shortened 2020 season when Florida beat the Bulldogs, 44-28, in the neutral site tradition World’s Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, Fla.
No. 9 Ole Miss (8-1, 5-1 SEC) will not have the benefit of homefield or even a neutral field for that matter when it enters Sanford Stadium on Saturday against No. 2 Georgia (9-0, 6-0 SEC).
And the last time the Bulldogs lost ‘Tween the Hedges? Way back in 2019 when the scrappy and un-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks knocked off No. 3 Georgia, 20-17. Then there’s the history between the two programs - Georgia holds an 18-4-1 home record against Ole Miss. The last time the Rebels beat the Bulldogs in Athens was in 1996, though with conference expansion it is not an annual rivalry game. That ‘96 version of Georgia included a sophomore safety by the name of none other than... Kirby Smart. Surely, he’s drank enough cold beers over the years to have forgotten about that loss, right?
When these two teams last played, it was the year of our Lord 2016. Chad Kelly was the quarterback at Ole Miss and damned if he didn’t put a wheelbarrow load of points on Georgia and first year head coach Kirby Smart. The Rebels won that day 45-14, but surely the SEC with the most 5-year-old haircut has forgotten all about that, right? RIGHT?!
So can Ole Miss really go into Athens, face thousands of grown men crawling on all fours and barking, and come away with a win? Here’s four things that absolutely have to happen for this upset to become a reality.
Pocket Pressure on Dart
Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart has to have time to find his receivers and avoid a Georgia defense that is top 5 or maybe even the best in the country. When Dart is sent running for his life, this offense is just not anywhere near as effective. The recent hit to the Ole Miss offensive line is an injury to starter Micah Pettus, so keeping Dart’s jersey clean on Saturday has likely become just that much harder for the Rebels.
If Dart is seen outside of the pocket running to the sideline or throwing across his body trying to create, it will lead to some mistakes, which he has mostly limited this season. This leads to the next thing Ole Miss has to get done against Georgia for an upset.
Win the Turnover Margin
I know, I know. Really insightful stuff here.
But it is one of those tried and true rules for college football. Turnovers for a road team give it the chance to do anything. It’s further accentuated by the Rebels when you look at its road games thus far.
- At Auburn - 28-21 W; 0 turnover margin
- At Alabama - 24-10 L; 0 turnover margin
- At Tulane - 37-20 W; +1 turnover margin
Had the Rebels won the turnover margin against Auburn, the game would not have been at all close, and it’s possible winning the margin against Alabama changes that game as well. The offense works so well with a short field the Rebels could grab momentum with a couple timely turnovers to keep its dream of an upset alive. It will not be easy, however, as the Bulldogs last top 25 home game against Missouri was a +2 TO margin in favor of Georgia.
Running back Quinshon Judkins has seemingly found his rhythm as SEC play has gotten into full swing. He has topped 100 yards in four of his last five conference games after starting the first four games of the season with 60 yards or less.
Judkins’ success running the football will be absolutely crucial to opening up the offense for Ole Miss. Second string back Ulysses Bentley can absolutely fly when he gets into open space, but that space does not exist without Judkins getting attention from opposing defenses. It’s been like a broken record saying this, but coaches have to come up with creative ways to get QJ4 the ball.
Fourth and Go
If you want to know why Missouri really lost to Georgia last week, it’s because on two possessions coaches decided to go for a field goal instead of just playing for chaos. No team is going to beat the Bulldogs in Sanford Stadium kicking field goals or not taking chances on fourth down. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said this week his team was “playing with house money” and that “no one expects them to win.”
That’s the kind of mentality teams have to have when an unlikely upset is in the works. Go for it on fourth down, create as many sustained drives as possible, steal a possession whatever way possible - it could mean the difference between another moral victory and one of the most shocking college football wins this decade.