football Edit

Five questions with's Anthony Dasher

MORE: Freeze updates injuries and available players's Anthony Dasher and's Neal McCready exchanged five questions and answers each in advance of Saturday's meeting between No. 12 Georgia and No. 23 Ole Miss in Oxford (11 a.m., ESPN).

Georgia running back Nick Chubb fights for yardage during the Bulldogs' win over Missouri last weekend in Columbia, Mo. (USA Today Sports)

McCready: From the outside looking in, it appears Kirby Smart is trying to turn Georgia into Alabama East. It almost looks forced. How's Smart done in putting his own personal stamp on his alma mater in Year One?

Dasher: There are certainly some similarities, there's no doubt about that. The problem for Georgia right now, however, is the Bulldogs don't have the same Jimmy's and Joe's that the Crimson Tide has, and that's a going to take a few recruiting cycles for Georgia to start making that happen. That's to say that Georgia doesn't have good players, it does. They just don't have enough of him. But back to your question. From an infrastructure perspective, Smart has set things up pretty much what you hear about with Nick Saban at Alabama, from the amount of staffers, all the way to how he conducts his practice, which includes spending much of his time with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, much like Saban did when Smart was the DC in Tuscaloosa. Like Saban, the one thing he wants to see from his players is effort, intensity and to get a little better each day. Not to say that all coaches don't adhere to this line of thinking, but in the case of Georgia, which in the past has struggled living up to its hype, this is something a bit new. Otherwise, Smart has even taken on some of the same mannerisms as Saban. Press conferences can occasionally get a bit prickly, assistants aren't allowed to speak and only a handful of players (sans freshmen) are made available for interviews (where have we heard that before?). To conclude, he's done a very good job of putting his stamp on the program. Now he has to win - and win big.

McCready: It's obviously Jacob Eason's offense. How much of a confidence-builder was the comeback drive to beat Missouri on Saturday night for the young quarterback?

Dasher: It was huge. When Jacob got to campus as an early enrollee he was probably around 215-220 pounds. Today he's at least 235 and at 6-foot-6, boasts the strongest arm I've seen for a Georgia quarterback since Matthew Stafford. He's still going to make freshman mistakes, but so far, when he has, those errors haven't been repeated. Otherwise, I've been impressed with his poise and seems to be doing a better job of managing the huddle every game he plays. But for all the confidence that final drive and 4th-and-10 touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie gave Eason, it also showed his teammates that he can truly be counted on with the game is on the line. I fully expect Eason to continue to mature and grow as the season moves along.

McCready: Nick Chubb's story is phenomenal. Are you shocked he's come back as effectively as he has? What's the latest on Sony Michel?

Dasher: Stunned. When the injury took place, I questioned whether he would ever play football again, and even when he did begin to rehab, I had serious reservations he would be ready for the start of the season, and if he was, would in no way, shape or form resemble the same back. Shows what I know. While Chubb may be a tick slower than he was before the injury, he's definitely running just as hard and with just as much purpose. Unfortunately for the season, Georgia's run blocking has left a ton to be desired the past two weeks with Nicholls and Missouri both putting eight or nine in the box thus holding Chubb to under 100 yards rushing in back to back games. The emergence of Eason should ultimately force teams to re-think this strategy, but the OL still needs to pick it up for the Bulldogs to best utilize what is their their best offensive weapon in Chubb against and Ole Miss defensive front which has struggled against the run. If the Bulldogs want to be competitive and perhaps have a chance to win the game, this is going to be a must. As far as Sony Michel goes, he wound up only missing one game after breaking his arm in a July ATV accident, but is 100 percent and will play integral role for Georgia this weekend as a running back, but will also be utilized as a pass catcher coming out of the back field or in the slot as a receiver.

McCready: Ole Miss has a ton of weapons in its passing attack. Can the Bulldogs get to Chad Kelly on Saturday? If not, how do you feel that secondary will hold up against the Rebels' tempo and multiple downfield strikes?

Dasher: Personally, I see Chad having a field day, 300-plus yards and at least three touchdowns. Smart and Tucker are huge believes in man coverage, but so far a lack of technique, etc has allowed opposing to have a field day against the Bulldog secondary. Georgia was extremely fortunate against another up-tempo team in North Carolina -as twice receivers got behind the secondary and were wide open for easy scores and if not for two great individual efforts by Nickel Maurice Smith, formerly of Alabama, it would have spelled bad news for the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome. Last week against Missouri, the Tigers' tempo also gave the Bulldogs some problems, but nothing like Kelly will give them Saturday. His ability to make plays with his legs is huge, and that's going to severally put a crimp into any pass rush plans for Georgia, which only has three sacks in three games.

McCready: It's obviously a huge game for Ole Miss. Georgia, meanwhile, gets Tennessee at home next weekend, and if the Bulldogs are unbeaten when the Vols roll into Athens, they'll have a chance to grab the Eastern Division by the proverbial horns. Is there any chance Georgia gets caught looking ahead to Tennessee and what kind of game do you expect in Oxford?

Dasher: I don't see there being any chance of that, although the Bulldogs certainly got caught with their drawers down against Nicholls. That won't happen against Ole Miss, a team I can assure you Kirby Smart has a very healthy respect for and I believe the players do as well. I'm looking for a high-scoring affair as well. In a perfect world, Georgia would rely on its running game and I'm sure will attempt to do so, because the longer the Bulldogs have the ball, the longer Kelly and company are on the sideline. This is liable to be Georgia's best defense of the day. At the same time, Georgia saw how Florida State was able to take advantage of the Rebels with the short- to mid-range passing game and the Bulldogs do have a very talented group of young tight ends with junior Jeb Blazevich (a former Ole Miss recruit), along with former five-star freshman Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner. Both Nauta and Woerner are in the 6-5, 250-range but both are very good runners, especially Woerner, who has actually been used as a slot receiver by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (10) leads the Rebels' offense onto the field in the second quarter of last weekend's 48-43 loss to Alabama. Kelly and the Rebels entertain Georgia Saturday in Oxford. Photo by USA Today Sports.

Dasher: Coming off a tough season-opener against FSU and an emotional game last week against Alabama, how do you see Ole Miss responding, especially with the early start?

McCready: Ole Miss has had an emotional start, losing three key players (and probably four) _ cornerback Ken Webster, running back Eric Swinney, wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and likely defensive end Fadol Brown _ for the season and then blowing two different three-touchdown leads. The Florida State loss resonated for days inside the program. For whatever reason, I haven't sensed that following the loss to Alabama. I expect a pretty emotional Ole Miss team to take the field Saturday morning, one eager to get on a roll. This is a critical game for Ole Miss. If the Rebels win, they get Memphis in a week and then a bye before consecutive trips to Arkansas and LSU. The Hogs play Alabama the week before they host Ole Miss, and the Rebels always play well at LSU, for whatever reason. A loss to Georgia, however, sends this season off the rails before the calendar turns to October. I suspect Ole Miss will play with a distinct sense of purpose.

Dasher: Obviously injuries have hit the Rebels hard, but how much of a concern is the secondary right now?

McCready: Losing Webster was a killer for the the secondary. He was their best cover corner. He was the guy who could get on an island, hold his own and let defensive coordinator Dave Wommack compensate for the weaker links in other ways. With Webster gone, the Rebels have gone young. Jalen Julius played pretty well against Alabama and another freshman, Jaylon Jones, showed signs of the lights coming on as well. At safety, Ole Miss is young but talented. They're vulnerable back there, but on Saturday, they performed fairly well in coverage. They had some run-fit issues that were very costly, and it's something Ole Miss must clean up before playing a balanced, talented offense like Georgia's.

Dasher: Talent aside, what makes Chad Kelly a special quarterback?

McCready: Kelly is a competitor. He's a leader. His team respects him. He's tough. He's physical. He's going to play in the NFL, likely well, for years. Most of his mistakes are from trying too hard to make something happen. He can make every throw. Saturday's game will be fun. In a league full of bad quarterbacks, it will be fun to watch two guys with serious arm talent sling it.

Dasher: Where is Ole Miss’ running game as compared to last year? Better? Worse?

McCready: Running game? Is that the name of a movie? I'm confused. Ole Miss' running game is a mess. Before losing Swinney, the Rebels lost Jordan Wilkins to an academic administrative snafu. Yeah, that happened at a Power Five program. Can you imagine Hugh Freeze's blood pressure when someone dropped that news on him. Akeem Judd is a great kid, and he has his moments, but he's never going to be an elite SEC running back. Eugene Brazley, his backup, isn't as talented as Judd. Freshman D'Vaughn Pennamon is eventually going to get a look, and I won't be surprised if he has a bigger role against Georgia. However, Kelly is Ole Miss' best rushing threat, and when it matters, I think Ole Miss is going to just say "Screw it" and start throwing the thing all over the field in a high-tempo offense and let the chips fall where they may.

Dasher: Not asking for a final score prediction, but how do you see this game playing out? What kind of game do you think we’re going to see?

McCready: I think we're going to see a lot of points. I think Ole Miss can score on anyone. That passing game presents problems because Ole Miss has so many weapons at receiver and Kelly does a strong job of reading the field. On the other side, I'm not convinced Ole Miss can slow Nick Chubb and Co., and I think that young secondary is going to make mistakes with its eyes and be very vulnerable to the big play. Jacob Eason could have a really good day, as I think he's a better quarterback than Deondre Francois or Jalen Hurts. It'll come down to turnovers. The team that wins the turnover battle is going to have a strong chance of winning. The heat will be an issue as well and could work in Georgia's favor. If Ole Miss' defense can't get off the field and Georgia puts together some time-consuming scoring drives, it's bad news for the Rebels. On the other hand, I think Kelly, Evan Engram and Co. could have a field day. In the end, I think it's a high-scoring affair that likely isn't settled until the final minutes.