A coworker came up to me this week and said, “Mississippi State a favorite over Georgia? Really!!??”
OK, so it’s only a 1-point spread, which basically means a toss-up, but yeah, as Georgia prepares to enter Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field in Starkville Saturday night for one of those rare SEC battles of the Bulldogs, there’s no denying it: Things have gotten ugly. It’s a match between the only two teams in the conference to both have two conference losses already, battling to keep from being declared irrelevant in their division race before September is even over.
Still, I’m always up for a little good-natured smack talk, so I asked my friend Harvey, the only Mississippi State grad I know, for his take on this week’s game.
As Harvey noted, since the two schools don’t play all that often, “there isn’t the kind of venom” between the two fan bases that you get with a division rivalry. But we’ve got that whole who-are-the-real-Bulldogs thing going. Although bulldogs have been part of MSU’s tradition since early in the 20th century, the bulldog didn’t become the school’s official mascot until 1961. Before that they were the Maroons. (My high school team also was formerly known as the Maroons but switched to the Trojans. Seems no one wants to be called a Maroon.)
I asked Harvey how it felt to be the “other” Bulldogs in the SEC.
His reply: “Actually there are no other Bulldogs other than MSU. To this day, when I hear Bulldogs I don’t think of UGA first. It’s like Carolina trying to call themselves USC. Any true SEC fan knows there’s only one group of Bulldogs and they where the maroon and white. Gooooooo Dawgs, Sic ’em!”
Aren’t delusional college football fans fun?
As for the game itself, Harvey first tried to blind me with science by predicting, “We’re going to win because I predicted after looking at the schedule we’d be 2-2 after facing Memphis, Auburn, LSU and Georgia, and Georgia is our last hope to make that prediction come true.”
Yeah, well,my preseason prediction for Mark Richt’s Dawgs was 10-2, and so there’s no margin for error left on our side, either.
Anyway, Harvey continued with a summation of where the Maroon Bulldogs stand: “Even though our record may not see improvements this season, the team is a much better team, veteran O-line, one of the best young defensive coordinators in the country and even though they’ve struggled, the QBs are the best we’ve been a that position in the last 6-8 years. The atmosphere is going to be wild. The game sold out about 2 weeks ago and the cowbells will rule.”
It’s not all blue skies, though, for MSU fans. “Quarterback is the biggest worry,” Harvey said. “Five interceptions last week. The best thrower is a redshirt freshman and the starter can’t throw that well especially down the middle of the field. They don’t turn the ball over, we win. Dogs 24, UGA 16.”
Sorry, Harvey, but I think that score’s more likely to be flipped. True, MSU has a pretty stout secondary, but they’re susceptible up the middle, Georgia’s getting Caleb King back and the UGA offensive line is overdue to finally put it all together. Plus, State has only gotten four sacks so far this season, so Aaron Murray’s likely to be able to stay upright and with his helmet on.
I will admit the prospect of Todd Grantham’s unpredictable troops facing Dan Mullen’s spread option offense worries me a tad, especially when Chris Relf, the running quarterback, is taking the snaps. But they don’t have a big, punishing tailback, MSU’s offensive line also has been disappointing so far, and they don’t have much of a downfield passing attack, so Georgia can pretty well load up the box to stop the run. And then things can get interesting, as both Relf and State’s other QB, Tyler Russell, have shown a propensity for throwing picks. Georgia has the decided edge in special teams, too.
So when the last cowbell has clanged Saturday night, I think the true and proper Bulldogs will be victorious.
Over a bunch of Maroons.
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