Georgia vs. Michigan State - Outback Bowl Preview & Prediction
A year ago at this time, I was pondering the direction of the Georgia football program. Would there be major changes? What is going to happen to Mark Richt? How long until Georgia would be back to the level we had gotten used to under Coach Richt?
Well, a year later, we know those answers. In one season, Mark Richt went from being a coach on the hot seat to the coach on the sideline of the SEC Championship Game. Although Georgia will only be raising an SEC East banner next year, coming off a 6-7 season, it is pretty remarkable the job Coach Richt has done. However, one last hurdle stands in the way of Georgia having a good season and a great season - #17 Michigan State.
This season, I paid a ton of attention to the Spartans. For some reason, MSU's style of football was very appealing to me. They have a very, very tough defense. The Spartans have the #5 ranked defense in the nation, only gives up a little over 17 points a game, gives up barely over 100 rushing yards per game, and about 170 yards passing per game. Pretty salty if you ask me. That is exactly what Mark Richt had to say about Michigan State's defense:
Georgia's offense, which finished third in the SEC averaging 413.8 yards, may have a tough time regrouping against a Michigan State defense that finished fifth in the country allowing 272.7 yards per game.
The Spartans are led by first-team All-America defensive lineman Jerel Worthy -- Michigan State's first first-team All-American on the defensive line since the late Bubba Smith in 1966.
"They've got a couple of really big guys up front that can push the pocket into the quarterback's face," Richt said. "If you run the ball well, then you tend to have less third-and-long situations. If you play-action pass, you might get a linebacker out of position."
This game looks about as even of a match-up as you could ask for. Just look at the tale of the tape:
- Rushing Offense: Georgia - 41st / Michigan State - 77th
- Passing Offense: Georgia - 48th / Michigan State - 49th
- Total Offense: Georgia - 39th / Michigan State - 59th
- Points Scored: Georgia - 33rd / Michigan State - 37th
- Rushing Defense: Georgia - 11th / Michigan State - 12th
- Passing Defense: Georgia - 7th / Michigan State - 11th
- Total Defense: Georgia - 3rd / Michigan State - 5th
- Scoring Defense: Georgia - 16th / Michigan State - 9th
On both sides of the ball, Georgia and Michigan State have areas where they are better than the other. On one sideline, you've got a Georgia defense led by tons of future NFL talent and a Georgia offense led by Tampa natives, Aaron Murray and Orson Charles - on the other, you've got a Michigan State defense that is led by Jerel Worthy and an offense led by senior playmakers, QB Kirk Cousins and WR B.J. Cunningham.
What Georgia Needs to do to Win:
I see this game being tight through out. Both teams will try to establish the run and open up the passing game by making the defenses play 7 men in the box constantly. Georgia will absolutely need 100 yards or more from their running backs to have a successful day. Aaron Murray could find some holes in the MSU defense with Orson Charles being a big mismatch for the MSU secondary.
On defense, Georgia just needs to continue to play relentlessly and disciplined. Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham are good players, but they are not great. This will not be the LSU team Georgia saw a while back, however, they will be a challenge. Georgia needs to create turnovers on defense to give Georgia's offense the short field to score on the stingy MSU defense.
How it Will Play Out:
MSU and Georgia are both coming off of tough losses in their conference championship game. Both are looking to prove something. Georgia wants to prove they belong and Michigan State wants to prove that the SEC is not as tough as it is perceived. In my opinion, I see this being a close game with turnovers and short field scores being the difference. Aaron Murray has gotten much better as of late - especially in the red zone. If Georgia's defense can force Kirk Cousins to through into some disguised coverage on 3rd or 2nd and long, they could get some turnovers in MSU territory that will lead to Georgia's victory.
Georgia - 27 / Michigan State - 13