Ground Game Disappears Against Mississippi State

After rushing for only eight yards against Mississippi State, the question is what happened to the Georgia ground game.
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During head coach Kirby Smart's press conference Monday, he mentioned how the rest of the team needs to help quarterback JT Daniels for him to be his best. Smart said, "JT needs to get a run game around him to help him reach his full potential."

While Daniels saw plenty of success in his debut with the Dawgs (career-high 401 passing yards), the run game was almost non-existent. Georgia had eight rushing yards on 23 attempts. Although this includes sacks and other tackles for losses, it's by far the fewest rushing yards in a game that Smart has coached at Georgia. 

Georgia came into the Mississippi State game averaging around 170 yards per game and found success running almost every week. The fewest rushing yards they had in a game until Saturday was 121 in the season opener against Arkansas.

Of course, Mississippi State came into the game with the SEC's third-best run defense. They had allowed only 3.5 yards per attempt, while Alabama and Texas A&M were the only teams to rush for more than 150 yards in a game. Their 3-3-5 scheme gives the opposition plenty of trouble. 

So, it could have as much to do with Mississippi State as it does with Georgia's performance up front. 

Smart was right when he said Daniels needs help with the run game if he wants to see his full potential. It was a successful debut for Daniels, and people need to be excited for what's to come, but it was also against a subpar secondary. Mississippi State had given up 256.7 passing yards per game before facing Georgia. They played to shut down the run, and Daniels made them pay with explosive plays through the air. For the majority of the game, Mississippi State stacked the box with seven, sometimes eight players. That left the defensive backs out to dry and Daniels took advantage with consistently good throws.

Will this be good enough for Georgia moving forward? It may be for the rest of the season as the Bulldogs face weaker opponents, but will a game like this past Saturday be good enough against a team like Alabama or other elite opponents? Georgia won't find out this year, but Smart wants his team to be more balanced offensively. Smart knows that if Daniels wants to be his best and this team to be its best, the run game has to be a part of that process.

That being said, here's a look at some of the best teams this year and how balanced they are on offense:

  • Alabama: 182 rushing yards per game; 366.1 passing yards per game
  • Clemson: 148.3 rushing yards per game; 369.4 passing yards per game
  • Ohio State: 233.2 rushing yards per game; 302 passing yards per game
  • Notre Dame: 233.5 rushing yards per game; 228.6 passing yards per game
  • Florida: 144.7 rushing yards per game; 377.6 passing yards per game

Those are five of the top six AP-ranked teams. For the majority of those teams, it appears that each team will rush for at least 150 yards per game while remaining explosive through the air. If Georgia wants to finish near the top of the rankings each season, it's going to take more balanced production than 401 passing yards and eight rushing yards like it was against Mississippi State.