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Denzel Nkemdiche had a choice to make. Ole Miss or Georgia. Stay home or branch out.

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He chose the latter.

Nkemdiche was a late addition to the signing class of 2011. He had ground to make up in his coursework. A number of schools backed off recruiting him due to concerns he wouldn't achieve academic eligibility.

But he made his grades. Ole Miss, he says two years later, was there from the beginning.

"When (Ole Miss) did jump on me, they jumped on me and stayed with me through the long run. That played a huge part," he said this week.

And on the first weekend in November of his redshirt freshman season, he'll head back to Georgia, where his team is set to play the Bulldogs on national television at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS.

The Rebels are 5-3 overall and 2-2 in Southeastern Conference games. One more win means bowl eligibility. The No. 7 Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) are up first, with three more conference games to follow.

"Georgia was the first game I circled and put the bull's eye on," Nkemdiche said.

Georgia offered Nkemdiche out of high school, but offered late. Nkemdiche, of Loganville, Ga., had long favored Ole Miss. Again, Ole Miss was there from day one of his recruitment.

The opportunity to forge his path was intriguing.

"I just felt like Athens is right there at home. I'd see the same people from high school every weekend," he said. "I kind of wanted to branch off and see what's out there."

Denzel Nkemdiche
US Presswire

Still, he felt pressure from his hometown. Pressure to stay close to home, to play for the Bulldogs, the banner program of the state.

"It was tough just because of all the pressure from home," Nkemdiche said. "Everybody was telling me ‘C'mon, UGA is right here. I'll be able to come up and see you every weekend.' I just felt like I should go with where I feel is right and make the right decision for me. That's what I did. I feel like I made the right decision."

Nkemdiche wasn't a big Georgia fan.

Actually, his family watched little college football. So, the decision to jump at the school he felt the most comfortable wasn't as difficult as one might think.

"Growing up, I didn't really watch college ball," he said. "I wasn't really into college ball. There was more NFL being shown in our house on Sundays. We weren't into college ball until 10th or 11th grade. That's what all my friends were watching. No more NFL was being watched, really."

He doesn't have friends as much as acquaintances that play for Georgia. Malcolm Mitchell. The Ogletree brothers.

Beating Georgia means the Rebels are bowling. Beating Georgia means showing what the Bulldogs missed on. And, of course, a win means some ammunition for when he goes back home.

The game plan, according to Nkemdiche, begins with Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who enters the game having thrown for 2,064 yards and 17 touchdowns to seven interceptions this season.

The game will mark the second week in a row Ole Miss has faced a highly-touted quarterback. Last week, the Rebels matched up against Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson.

Wilson completed 24 of 43 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 30-27 Ole Miss win.

"They're great quarterbacks, but every great quarterback makes poor decisions. You've got to be able to capitalize on those poor decisions when they do make them," Nkemdiche said.

"That's one thing I got from Saturday that we can take into this Saturday's game. Watching Florida and Georgia play, Aaron Murray made a lot of mistakes. He was kind of shaken up that game, had a lot of turnovers. If he makes that many mistakes, we've got to capitalize."

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