The celebration is over for the No. 17 Mississippi State Bulldogs, who have gone from unranked underdogs to sudden dark horses in the SEC West.
A 37-7 beat down of then No. 12 LSU last week at home has put many on notice that MSU could contend in the SEC this season. To continue to do that, however, they’ve got to win a game on the road in Athens, Ga., this weekend and the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (3-0, 0-0) stand in their way.
“We’re going on the road into a tough environment against an excellent football team,” Dan Mullen said. “This week we come back and it’s your first SEC road game. It adds different challenges to the picture. There’s some uniqueness in it.”
MSU and UGA split decisions in 2010 and ‘11 when both home teams were able to pull off wins. No one but the coaches were here for those games so this is something new to everyone on the team.
Georgia has been without starting quarterback Jacob Eason since he was injured in the first game of the season and freshman Jake Fromm has thrown for 449 yards and five touchdowns in wins over Notre Dame and Samford.
With the talent at every position being as good as good as it is anywhere in the country, Mullen doesn’t really concern himself with who is behind center. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel present enough of a problem with their combined 450 yards and six touchdowns rushing.
Add in head coach Kirby Smart's defense and there is clearly a challenge ahead.
“They do a lot well. They have big, athletic guys on defense. They can play you multiple fronts on the defensive line and they have the personnel that fits those fronts,” Mullen said. “The other side of the ball, they have two of the top running backs in the country and both of them have a different style. Quarterback, one five star went in and out and another one came in.”
Bulldogs earn SEC Honors
After a big weekend win, MSU saw more accolades pour in in the form of individual awards.
The SEC announced on Monday morning that Fitzgerald was named Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 180 yards and two scores on 15-of-23 passing and rushing 14 times for 88 yards and two more touchdowns.
Fitzgerald is now second in MSU history with 55 total touchdowns. He trails only Dak Prescott in that category at 114.
Additionally, MSU also had sophomore left guard Darryl Williams honored for his performance and named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. Williams helped pave the way for 285 rushing yards in the 37-7 defeat.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons earned the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the second-consecutive time becoming the first player to do that at MSU since Preston Smith’s three consecutive honors in 2014. Simmons had a career-high seven tackles and 1.5 sacks. The Noxubee County alum is having a huge start to the year and is tied for second on the team in tackles with 17 and leads the team with his 2.5 sacks.
Mullen said that the Bulldogs left the LSU game “blessed” with just some bumps and bruises and didn’t see any significant injuries.
There are still three players that are up in the air over the next few weeks. Defensive lineman Cory Thomas and wide receiver Gabe Myles each missed the LSU game and had their legs in casts at the game on Saturday with foot injuries.
Myles appears to be less serious according to Mullen’s comments and will be questionable for this week. Thomas is out this week and could be for several weeks as he heals.
Another questionable athlete is receiver Malik Dear. After tearing his ACL in the spring, Dear has been working to get back this season without redshirting. Dear was cleared to play last week but didn’t get in the game. This week will again represent a decision for Mullen and his receiver.
“We’ll see how it goes. He practiced at the end of last week,” Mullen said. “He’s medically cleared to play, our question is at what percentage he is. We’ll see how he feels, how he’s moving and all of that stuff.”
Who: Mississippi State vs. Georgia
When: 6 p.m., Saturday
Where: Athens, Ga.
Radio: 1580 AM