Middle Tennessee at Georgia

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 5:13 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. ET
SITE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
TV: ESPN2
SERIES: Georgia leads 1-0. The Bulldogs won the only meeting 29-10 in 2003.
RANKINGS: Georgia No. 3

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Blue Raiders

–QB Brent Stockstill has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 25 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak in major college football behind Penn State’s Trace McSorley (30). He has passed for 9,536 yards in his career and is bidding to become just the 11th player in C-USA history to reach 10,000 yards and the third to reach 100 touchdown passes.

–WR Ty Lee had a huge season as a sophomore, catching 79 passes for 955 yards. He enters this game with 151 receptions for 1,703 yards for his career. He has 9 for 49 yards in two games so far in 2018.

–LB Darius Harris entered the season coming off a performance that earned him Most Valuable Player honors in the Camellia Bowl and has lived up to expectations. He leads the Blue Raiders in tackles with 14, two of them sacks.

–LB DQ Thomas is tied with Harris for the team lead in sacks with his two. He has 10 tackles overall and been credited with a quarterback hurry as well.

Bulldogs

–QB Jake Fromm has gotten off to a strong start, having completed 27 of 34 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns. Just a sophomore, Fromm is 14-2 as a starter, including a 5-2 mark versus teams in the Top 25.

–WR Mecole Hardman had a career day at South Carolina, hauling in six catches for 103 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown. It was Georgia’s first 100-yard receiving game since the 2016 Liberty Bowl versus TCU (Isaiah McKenzie, four catches for 103).

–CB Deandre Baker, a preseason All-American, had six tackles, two pass breakups and the team’s first interception of the year, a pick which he brought back 55 yards. Baker actually dropped the football at the South Carolina 1-yard line, but linebacker Juwan Taylor was there to pick it up and step across the goal line for the score.

–S Richard LeCounte made his second consecutive start at South Carolina and led the Bulldogs with a career-high 10 tackles. He also was credited with breaking up a pass.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Georgia is garnering lots of plaudits following last week’s 41-17 victory over Southeastern Conference East rival South Carolina, but coach Kirby Smart scoffs at the notion that the third-ranked Bulldogs should go ahead and pack their bags for Atlanta and the SEC title game.

The Bulldogs (2-0) are host to Middle Tennessee (1-1) Saturday with kickoff at Sanford Stadium in Athens at 7:15 p.m. ET. ESPN has the telecast.

“I really think the approach and the deal is that the pats on the back sometimes are not real,” Smart said. “The pats on the back are all conditional. And we’re not into conditional love, conditional improvement.

“We want to improve unconditionally; we want to be loved unconditionally. And the way you do that is by trusting and believing in your teammates and getting better. And we’re going to try to sell this team today, this week, and every week on getting better, because we can’t control all these outside forces.

“We can’t control what other teams do. We can’t control what people say. All we can control is how we work. And if the leaders buy into that message and understand that we have to get better to get where we want to go, then we usually can do that.”

Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Stockstill certainly respects the job that Smart and the Bulldogs have done.

“They played for the national championship last year. They’re up there at No. 3 this year. They’re projected to win the SEC East and to play for the national title again,” Stockstill said. “Our players are motivated and ready to go.

“They know the type of players, program and atmosphere that we’re going into. But like I’ve said, we’re not going to back down from anybody.”

Despite dropping a 35-7 decision to Vanderbilt in the season-opener, MTSU’s confidence is not necessarily misplaced.

The Blue Raiders traveled to Syracuse last year and beat the Orangemen in the Carrier Dome. They have routinely taken on the best that the Power Five conferences have to offer, although MTSU does come in 0-15 against teams ranked in the Top 25.

Having quarterback Brent Stockstill — yes, he’s the son of the head coach — also helps matters.

The younger Stockstill enters his senior season owning basically every career passing mark at MTSU, holding the top marks in attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, passer rating and passing yards per game. But he knows individual records won’t mean a thing against the Bulldogs.

“We have to play perfect,” he said. “It’s really not an exaggeration. If you want to hang with a team like that, you have to play perfect.

“You have a great plan going in, have the ball bounce your way sometimes, have guys make plays, and, hopefully, you’ll have a chance in the fourth to put one in the end zone and have a chance to win. Hopefully, we’ll have a great week of practice and play perfect this weekend.”

Georgia, meanwhile, will continue trying to play to a standard of its own.

“I certainly coach from the beginning whistle to the end whistle exactly the same all the time,” Smart said. “I don’t think the scoreboard matters. So, if the scoreboard doesn’t matter, why, if we’re down 25, 30, whatever like we were down at Ole Miss (in 2016), should I be coaching different than if we’re up 25, 30 against somebody at home.

“I just don’t see the difference in that, because I believe in what we tell the players, which is playing to that standard, and playing like the scoreboard is not there. So, if you coach the same way, then the expectation for the player that goes in, whether you’re up or down, is exactly the same.”

 

ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

SCARBROUGH'S TAKE

College Fans, Beware The Man in the Bottle.