October 1, 2011
Overall Record: 16-6-0
Last 10 Meetings: 9-1
Richt vs. Mississippi State: 2-1
Dan Mullen certainly did a great job getting State to the biggest bowl they've played at in years. Just think what the Bulldogs would have been like had they found a way to lure Cam Newton to their campus.
But was State's record an indication of how good they were in the grand scheme of things? Yes and no. You are what your record is, but State had some wins that look great on paper in the history books, but they defeated two programs – Florida and Georgia – which had their worst seasons in more than a decade. Michigan? Terrible.
That's not to say that State had a poor year – they didn't. But if they couldn't win the SEC West in a season where they had what turned out to be national champion Auburn on the ropes they will never win it – at least not as the West currently stands. LSU and Alabama routine the Bulldogs – those games were competitive, but never in doubt. A play here and there and State would have had a losing season. But plays win games, and winning games makes a difference.
When State arrives in Athens it will be with the hard-nosed attitude they've had since Mullen arrived. Skill? State doesn't have as much as most normal SEC teams, but they've adapted their style of play – ugly – for what fits them best.
State player to watch:
Chris Reif is a big-bodied quarterback. He is an able, above average runner. And he's not afraid to take a hit – not afraid to work for the tough yards. But these facts should not define who Reif is as a quarterback. He can throw the ball. And he can throw the ball well. In 2010 – his first season as the full-time starter – Reif completed over 58 percent of his passes. While Reif threw the ball 20 times or less in 10 of the Bulldogs 13 games last year, he steadily gained the confidence of coach Dan Mullen as the year played out. By season's end, in the Gator Bowl against Michigan, Reif threw for three scores and 281 yards behind a 78 percent completion clip. Expect more passing, along with those familiar running plays, in 2011 as Reif looks to build on last season's campaign.
What the Dawgs must do:
Fight. Georgia has to have a particular mindset coming into the State game. State is not as good as Georgia, but that didn't prevent State from winning last season. Then again, Georgia did all it could do to limit itself offensively when in the red zone. Still, Georgia needs to think of the State game the same way they would an Auburn game – that it will be a physical game in which players will leave the gridiron spent. State may not be great, but they come to play – and that can't always be said of recent Georgia teams.
Inside the numbers:
State will have to figure out linebacker in the offseason. All three of their senior linebackers are gone. That's a problem.
Non-existent. When Georgia starts going head-to-head with State for a recruit that's when you know the Dawgs are in trouble. State is one of the lowest consistent recruiting teams in the SEC, and really should never be on the same level as Georgia in recruiting.
Last year's prediction:
Concentrate. It is easy to take a game off or lose mental focus when playing in front of such a small crowd. State is still an SEC school, and therefore has SEC athletes. If the Dawgs lose focus for a moment they could be in a real fight with the other Dogs.
That didn't happen. Witness the game-changing plays in the first half: Washuan Ealey with another critical fumble on the goal line; a penalty wiping out a Kris Durham touchdown headed into the half. It was one of many games Georgia lost in the fourth quarter last season.