Part of this prediction business is comparing scores, and you can get in trouble doing that. Every game is different with its own issues.
Teams don’t typically stay the same. They get better or worse over the course of the year. I didn’t think Arkansas wins against Auburn and Kentucky were enough to make me thing the Hogs were the top 10 team they’d been rated in preseason, but I thought they were definitely better.
That being said, it was impressive that Ole Miss could go on the road with less than its A game and come out with a win against a good team, not a great team.
Arkansas, by the way, lost a key weapon in tight end Chris Gragg against Ole Miss, and it wouldn’t be a total shocker if it lost this week at home against a high-power Tulsa offense.
Back to the Rebels. This weekend is not a game in which they can play less than the top of their game and expect to win.
There’s lots of talent on this Georgia team, so much so that it’s kind of a head-scratcher when you see a 35-7 loss to South Carolina and a win of only 29-24 over Kentucky. Had the Wildcats recovered a late on-side kick, they might have pulled off a stunner.
For the Rebels to pull off a stunner they’re going to need a little bit of that unfocused Georgia team, not the one that had its best defensive performance of the year as did the Bulldogs last week in a 17-9 win over previously unbeaten Florida.
Ole Miss needs to play turnover-free — something its done only once this season — and needs to revive a run game that was taken away by Arkansas.
If the Rebels can have success with Jeff Scott on the ground, the passing game will be easier for Bo Wallace. For his part, Wallace needs to make the right reads in the run game and get the ball out of his hand quickly to avoid the rush of Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has 8.5 sacks on the season and is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
Defensively, the Rebels are going to have to fit their gaps. They’ve gotten better with that since the Texas game, but fits alone won’t get the job done. After they bunch-up the middle, the Rebels are going to have to be fast enough to catch up with Georgia’s Todd Gurley, the third-leading rusher in the SEC, when he bounces the play outside. That’s been a problem for Ole Miss.
At the end of the day, Georgia’s going to have more talent. That means as good as Ole Miss plays, it’s going to need some help from the Bulldogs. A little hangover from the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party would be a good thing.
I think Georgia realizes how close it is to returning to the SEC championship game, and I don’t expect the Bulldogs to be flat.
But I think the Rebels play a solid game and keep it close.
Prediction: Georgia 28, Ole Miss 24