Georgia Tech-Mississippi State: Bulldogs Look To Bounce Back against ACC

The ACC and SEC BlogSenior Analyst IOctober 1, 2009

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Quarterback Tyson Lee #16 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs leads the huddle during the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech travels to Starkville, Miss. on Saturday night for an ACC-SEC clash against Mississippi State.

Last year, Georgia Tech crushed Mississippi State in Atlanta 38-7 behind 500 yards of total offense led by backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw.

Mississippi State has not beaten a non-conference BCS opponent since 2000. But with renewed confidence, the Bulldogs have revenge on their mind.

As mentioned, Georgia Tech defeated Mississippi State handily last year, but out-gained them only by 91 yards. The Bulldogs had four turnovers to aid the Yellow Jackets, who gained 438 yards on the ground, their second-highest total of the season.

MSU passed for 299 yards, their highest total of the season.

The Bulldogs are coming off a near-win over a Top-10 LSU team after being stopped on four straight plays at the Tigers' goal line.

Mississippi State lost 30-26. They out gained LSU 374 to 263 and got nine more first downs.

Georgia Tech is also coming off a dominating performance, but one that actually translated into a win.

They beat previously ranked and unbeaten North Carolina 24-7.

The Yellow Jackets out-gained UNC 406 to 154, including 317 to 17 on the ground. Georgia Tech had 24 first downs to the Tar Heels' eight while holding the ball for nearly 42 minutes.

Five Areas Key to Victory

1. Quarterback

Both teams use spread-option offenses (Mississippi State in the shotgun, Georgia Tech under center), so neither quarterback is going to have great passing stats.
Georgia Tech is heavy run and Josh Nesbitt is just 22 of 51 passing for 446 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But he is the second-leading rusher on the team with 77 yards per game. The junior throws the ball just 12 times per game on average.
Mississippi State's Tyson Lee is completing 49 percent of his passes, throwing for three touchdowns and two interceptions. Lee played against Georgia Tech last year in Atlanta and helped the Bulldogs compile 299 passing yards passing. But this is Lee's first year in Dan Mullen's offense.
Edge: Georgia Tech

2. Line Of Scrimmage
Georgia Tech is averaging a little over five yards per carry and 260 yards rushing per game. Their opponents have sacked the quarterback just three times. But Georgia Tech does not pass often. The Yellow Jacket defense is giving up 106 yards per game on the ground and has failed to get much of a consistent pass rush. They have seven sacks on the season, led by defensive end Derrick Morgan's five-and-a-half.
Mississippi State goes for 4.26 yards per carry and just under 200 yards per game on the ground. The offensive line has done a respectable job protecting Lee, allowing just three sacks on the season. The defensive front is giving up about 130 yards per game, but that number is greatly inflated by a 390-yard output by Auburn. Miss State has sacked opposing quarterbacks five times in 2009.

Slight Edge: Georgia Tech

3. Coaching
Paul Johnson is in his second year in Atlanta, continuing to implement his version of the spread-option offense. His staff remained intact from year one to year two, with many of the offensive staff coming down from his previous stop at the Naval Academy.
Dan Mullen was Florida's offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer (as he was at Utah) and is in his first year in Starkville. Mullen kept two of Sly Croom's assistants and brought one assistant with him from Florida. In just four games you can see a remarkable turnaround on offense from the Bulldogs.
Slight Edge: Georgia Tech

4. Turnovers
Georgia Tech is plus-two in turnover margin this season. All of their turnovers have come in three home games. Five of Georgia Tech's seven takeaways are interceptions.
The Bulldogs are minus-two in turnovers this season and were minus-four last week against LSU.
Fumbles plagued Georgia Tech last year, but they have not lost a fumble since the opener.
Slight Edge: Georgia Tech

5. Intangibles/Special Teams
Mississippi State is playing at home just one week after a narrow defeat to perennial SEC power LSU. The Bulldogs also will have revenge on their minds after a 31-point defeat to Georgia Tech in Atlanta last year.
Georgia Tech is coming off a dominating performance last week and playing on the road at night. The Yellow Jackets have had trouble in the kicking game, replacing their previous starter last week. Also, Georgia Tech is just 6-for-17 on touchdown conversions in the red zone this season.

Edge: Miss State

I think this game is going to be tougher than expected for the ranked Yellow Jackets to pull off.
Dan Mullen nearly had two SEC wins for the Bulldogs leaving September if not for a great play by LSU.
Both defenses are familiar with the offenses, so I think it will come down to coaching and talent, which Georgia Tech has more of right now.

Georgia Tech 31, Mississippi State 27
Mississippi State covers +5.5


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