Saturday September 24th, 2016

Ole Miss finally managed to hang onto a lead on Saturday, beating Georgia 45-14 after taking a 31-0 lead into halftime. In notching the Rebels’ third-largest margin of victory over a ranked team in program history, Hugh Freeze’s squad looked superior in all phases of the game on Saturday.

1. Ole Miss’s defense finally looks polished—albeit against an inferior offense. 

The Rebels had looked positively sloppy on defense up to this point, blowing massive leads in Week 1 and Week 3, and they’d been suspect against the run. But on Saturday, Ole Miss allowed Georgia 396 yards, including just 176 in the first quarter with the Rebels’ first-team defense in, looking more like the unit we saw in Oxford last season. Georgia was just 4 of 16 on third down, and perhaps the only slightly worrisome defensive stat Ole Miss posted was allowing the Bulldogs to convert two of three fourth down attempts. Still, neither of those conversions led to a score. All in all, Ole Miss forced seven punts, stopped the Bulldogs when they went for it on fourth and eight and snared a 53-yard pick-six. Derrick Jones, the player responsible for that interception return, is a wide receiver who moved to corner this season.

2. Georgia may just not be very good.

I found these two teams’ respective rankings going into Saturday’s game really interesting; a 1-2 Ole Miss was No. 23, and 3-0 Georgia was ranked No. 12. But look a little closer: Ole Miss, despite blowing massive leads against Florida State and Alabama, had competed neck-in-neck with two of college football’s best teams, while Georgia had nearly lost to Nicholls State and Missouri. Against Ole Miss, Georgia’s defense looked lackluster, allowing 510 total yards on somewhat sloppy play—and its offense did it no favors. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason’s passing stats were disappointing, even for a freshman who’s learning as he goes: He completed 44.4% of his throws for 137 yards.

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3. Losing Nick Chubb mid-game is no excuse for Georgia’s offensive woes.

After rushing for an absolutely bananas 222 yards in Week 1 against North Carolina, Chubb has been just O.K. in the three games since, finishing with 80, 63 and 57 yards. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry, down from 8.1 last season, which is to say: So far, he hasn’t been the kind of player who can carry an offense. On Saturday, backups Sony Michel and Brian Herrien combined for 144 yards.

Still, the Bulldogs have to hope Chubb’s ankle injury is nothing serious, which seems to be the case. But the running back has struggled to stay healthy, so every nick and bruise seems like a cause for worry. Chubb has the potential, if healthy, to be one of the best backs in college football, and with an inexperienced quarterback battling accuracy issues, Georgia needs a running game it can rely on. 

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