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MSU, UGA to Match Strengths

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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This showdown of strengths will feature some of college football's top talents.

Saturday night in Athens, something will have to give. In primetime pairing featuring top 20 teams, the SEC's top rushing offense is set to collide with the league's second-ranked rush defense; whichever side wins that matchup is likely to win the game. This showdown of strengths will feature some of college football's top talents.

Fresh off a 37-7 triumph over LSU, Mississippi State has burst onto the national scene with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as a Heisman Trophy candidate. A Georgia-native, Fitzgerald has 12 total touchdowns in three games. Running back Aeris Williams is the leading rusher in the SEC West, with 336 yards. Fitzgerald and Williams combined for 234 yards against the Tigers, more than Georgia has surrendered all season. Punishing, powerful runners behind a dominant front line led by Martinas Rankin, Fitzgerald and Williams are listed at 230 and 217 pounds, respectively.

Georgia's defense has taken the next step in year two under head coach Kirby Smart and coordinator Mel Tucker. The front seven may be the game's best and has the numbers to back it up; the Bulldogs' last two opponents, Notre Dame and Samford, have run 60 times for 77 yards. The interior tandem of Trenton Thompson at tackle and Roquan Smith at linebacker is all-everything, with the likes of Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter coming hard off the edge. Three games into last fall, Georgia had ten tackles for loss; this year, the unit has 22.

Currently, Mississippi State is averaging 6.47 yards per carry, while Georgia is allowing just 2.32. In terms of total rushing yards gained and yards given up per game, these two Bulldogs both rank in the national top five.     

In what will likely be a hard-fought, physical football game, the winner Saturday will emerge as the top early contender to Alabama in the SEC.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports