No. 9 Ole Miss angling for SEC-shifting upset at No. 2 Georgia

Field Level Media

November 10, 2023 at 8:46 pm.

No. 2 Georgia can clinch the Southeastern Conference East division title by defeating No. 9 Ole Miss on Saturday night in Athens, Ga.

A victory also would keep the Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC) on track to play for a third consecutive national championship.

“Every win in the SEC is critical,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “It’s critical for them. They’re in the hunt. They’re in the hunt for the West, they’re in the hunt for the playoffs, they’re in the hunt for all the goals and aspirations they have.”

The Rebels (8-1, 5-1) have won five straight since a loss to Alabama and can still win the West if they win out and someone knocks off the Crimson Tide. If they keep winning, a berth in the College Football Playoff would be possible, but there’s no time to look ahead while focusing on this week’s challenge.

“I feel like we’re a group full of week-to-week guys,” Ole Miss defensive end Jared Ivey said. “Every week is the biggest game. We try to keep that mindset and take that mindset into every single week, (and) keep the same preparation no matter who the opponent is.”

The SEC contenders cleared difficult tests last week. Georgia held off then-No. 12 Missouri, 30-21, and Ole Miss survived against Texas A&M, 38-35.

The 21 points that Missouri scored matched the most points allowed by the Bulldogs this season. They’ll be facing a Rebels team that is third in the SEC in scoring (38.78 points per game) and total offense (478.89 yards per game).

Ole Miss features one of the top sets of skill players in the country, led by dual-threat quarterback Jaxson Dart, wide receiver Tre Harris and running backs Quinshon Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV.

“They look for matchups,” Smart said. “(They’re) looking for every opportunity (they) can to get a high percentage matchup in (their) favor. It’s easier to do when you’ve got big, good wideouts and a quarterback that can get them the ball and you have the ability to run the ball. … It’s the package of what they do, everything together, not one thing, that complements each other.”

One of the SEC teams that is ranked ahead of Ole Miss offensively is Georgia, which is second in scoring (39.33) and yards (493). It’s unclear if star tight end Brock Bowers will be available because of an ankle injury. Smart told “The Pat McAfee Show” on Friday that Bowers will be a game-time decision.

“They have a lot of great players,” Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said of the Bulldogs. “These guys are as great as advertised. When they have to really rise up, they do. This isn’t their first rodeo of playing in big games.”

Kiffin said his team faces a “gigantic challenge” against a team that has the longest winning streak in the country (26 games) and hasn’t lost at home in its past 28 games. Kiffin and Smart are familiar with the approach of their counterpart this week. They were coordinators — Smart on defense, Kiffin on offense — under Nick Saban before taking head-coaching jobs elsewhere.

“Not a lot of answers out there on how to beat these guys at home,” Kiffin said.

The Rebels coach noted that the last head coach to beat the Bulldogs in Athens isn’t going to offer any advice. Will Muschamp was South Carolina’s head coach when the visiting Gamecocks beat Georgia 20-17 in double overtime on Oct. 12, 2019. He’s now Smart’s co-defensive coordinator.