ATHENS, Ga. -- This was the kind of game Georgia fans dreaded the past few seasons.
You’re feeling good, you’re ranked, you just had one of those so-called “signature wins," and still there’s a sinking sense of doubt. At home, favored to beat another ranked team from the big, bad SEC West, it might all unravel.
But against Mississippi State on Saturday night, that didn’t happen. In fact, far from it. Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was pitch-perfect under center, the defense was absolutely suffocating and No. 11 Georgia beat No. 17 Mississippi State 31-3 at home in Sanford Stadium.
The victory -- starting with a brilliant 59-yard, flea-flicker touchdown on Georgia’s very first offensive possession and punctuated by a couple of key turnovers on defense -- was as good a sign as any that coach Kirby Smart has this program headed in the right direction. It was as dominating a performance as you’ll find between two ranked teams.
Dan Mullen and Mississippi State came into Athens as the hot program, fresh off a 30-point win over then-No. 12 LSU, and they left in search of answers against an opponent that was better in all phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. Nick Fitzgerald, the “it” quarterback in the SEC, was held to 130 total yards and was picked off twice by Georgia’s swarming defense.
No, it appears that the victory at Notre Dame in early September wasn’t a mirage. These Georgia Bulldogs (4-0,1-0 SEC) look to be the real deal. And with Florida and Tennessee struggling, they could be poised to take control of the long-suffering SEC East.
If anything, Smart has the most complete team in the division.
Just look at the offense, where it’s more than the Nick Chubb show. Chubb is a spectacular tailback, of course, rushing for 81 yards and two scores against Mississippi State, but he’s not alone. Co-starter Sony Michel is a home run waiting to happen, and freshman D'Andre Swift has shown big-play ability as well, rushing for 69 yards on 10 carries Saturday night.
But the most pleasant surprise has to be at quarterback, where Fromm has not only filled in admirably for injured Jacob Eason, he’s outdone his predecessor. After a so-so performance at Notre Dame, Fromm had his coming-out party against Mississippi State, completing 9 of 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Eason, even when he gets healthy, isn’t likely to see the field as long as Fromm plays like this.
With those pieces on offense and a defense that’s good at all levels -- defensive line, linebacker and secondary -- it’s easy to call Georgia the favorite to win the East.
Granted, we've been here before. And it is only Week 4. But nonetheless, this feels like a different Georgia team than we’ve seen in years past under former coach Mark Richt.
These Georgia Bulldogs, led by Smart, didn’t slip up at home against Mississippi State. If anything, they made a statement by dominating from start to finish. They dug in, never gave an inch and proved they might be the SEC’s best hope of challenging reigning champion Alabama.