Facing its biggest test of the 2017 season so far, the Georgia Bulldogs made a statement with a dominating 31-3 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday.
Both teams came into Sanford Stadium undefeated at 3-0, but Georgia quickly asserted its will with a 59-yard Jake Fromm touchdown pass to Terry Godwin on its first offensive play that set the tone for the rest of the game.
SEC Network @SECNetwork
FLEA FLICKER! Fromm ➡️ Godwin. Just like that... 7️⃣-0️⃣ @FootballUGA. https://t.co/YMH0bGHmTu2017-9-23 23:21:02
Since Fromm took over as Georgia's starting quarterback when Jacob Eason injured his knee in the season opener, he hasn't been asked to do much. The freshman's career high for attempts was 29 in a 20-19 victory over Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs coaching staff didn't exactly take the reins off Fromm against Mississippi State. He only threw 12 passes, completing nine, but made the most of his opportunities with a career-high 201 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia's rushing attack did a lot of the heavy lifting. Star running back Nick Chubb led the way with two scores and 81 yards on 15 carries. The entire team racked up 203 yards on the ground.
ESPN's Peter Burns thinks Fromm's play is making things difficult for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart for whenever Eason is ready to return:
Peter Burns @PeterBurnsESPN
Each and every week he looks smoother and smoother. Going to be hard to keep Jake Fromm off the field for UGA even with a healthy Eason.2017-9-24 00:01:04
Coming into Saturday's game, Fromm was certainly making an impression on his teammates with his work over the previous three weeks.
"I'm so proud of him," Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich told David Paschall of the Times Free Press. "He is an awesome guy, and he has a crazy, hard work ethic. He just wants to be the leader of this team, and I think he's not afraid to step up and do that. I think he's not afraid to take chances, and he's not afraid to put himself out there."
Brad Logan of Gridiron Now had some fun with Fromm's current standing on Georgia's quarterback depth chart:
Brad Logan @BradLoganCOTE
Live look at Jacob Eason after watching Jake Fromm tonight. https://t.co/SOlZFlnuJH2017-9-24 01:23:45
While Georgia's quarterback situation will ultimately figure itself out, Saturday was about the Bulldogs sending a message to the rest of the SEC on defense.
Mississippi State came into this matchup off a dominant 37-7 win over LSU, prompting Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated to say head coach Dan Mullen's team was the second-best team in the SEC after Alabama.
Smart, who comes from the Alabama coaching tree after serving as the team's defensive coordinator from 2008-15, has built his team in the mold of Nick Saban's group. His defense completely stymied what Mississippi State wanted to do on offense, allowing just 280 total yards.
Bonnie Bernstein @BonnieBernstein
Georgia defense = LEGIT Kirby Smart startin to put his stamp on this #Bulldogs program. #MSUvsUGA2017-9-24 01:15:44
Edward Aschoff @AschoffESPN
Dominant win for Kirby Smart over a Mississippi State team that had some swag coming in. Easily the best team in the SEC not named Bama2017-9-24 02:15:59
Mississippi State's passing game was a non-factor throughout the night. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who had seven touchdowns and one interception in the first three games, threw two picks and had 83 yards through the air.
Dr. Saturday @YahooDrSaturday
This is not Nick Fitzgerald’s best night2017-9-24 01:22:14
Smart came into a good situation when Georgia hired him in December 2015. The program won at least eight games in each of the previous five seasons, including four seasons with at least 10 wins during that span.
Now that Smart and his staff have gone through a full recruiting cycle to bring in players who fit their scheme—and continued to develop talent already in place from the Mark Richt era—Georgia looks like a dominant force in the SEC.
Next week's game on the road at Tennessee will be another litmus test for Georgia. The Volunteers beat Georgia in Athens, 34-31, last year after scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State has a chance to salvage this difficult part of its schedule with a road game against Auburn next Saturday. If it can get two wins in a three-week span against LSU, Georgia and Auburn, Mullen will have his team's confidence back on the right track with an off week scheduled for Oct. 7.