MSU, Georgia sharing more than just mascot

MSU's Dan Mullen
Staff Writer

Mississippi State and Georgia are sharing much more than just a mascot name this season.

The two schools sport identical 3-0 records. Each have a big-time win – Georgia over Notre Dame and MSU over LSU. Both groups are nationally ranked with MSU slotted at No. 17 in the latest Associated Press poll, while Georgia sits at No. 11.

Off the field, there are also similarities. Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and Georgia head man Kirby Smart each have lake houses near each other in the state of Georgia when they spend time in the summer months. The two football minds get the chance to visit each other occasionally in the offseason. Assuming that trend continues next summer, Mullen and Smart will likely have plenty of good things to say about one another’s teams just as they did Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference.

“I have a lot of respect for Dan,” Smart said. “His team is very well improved and defensively they’re doing good things and (MSU quarterback Nick) Fitzgerald is proving to be one of the premier quarterbacks in not only the country, but the SEC as well. We have a great challenge ahead of us.”

Smart had high praise for several key parts of MSU’s game, particularly Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams, who Smart said reminded him of Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell.

Fitzgerald and Williams have helped Mississippi State put up an SEC-best 47.7 points per game this season.

“(Williams) runs behind his pads and he’s really physical,” Smart said. “(Fitzgerald) running the ball obviously complements (Williams) because when you’re putting extra defenders on Nick, you have less defenders for Aeris. They complement each other really well.

“It’s really tough to defend when you have a guy that’s as big as Nick and as fast as Nick that’s able to run the ball. There are certain coverages and defenses that you can’t play so you end up a little more limited and a little more predictable because you have to have people in the box to stop him.”

Not long after Smart poured adulation on MSU, Mullen returned the favor to Georgia.

“They have an awful lot of talent on their football team,” Mullen said. “They have a tremendous amount of talent at every position. There are only 11 guys on the field at the time or 22 on offense and defense, so everybody on their two-deep is a four or five star guy potentially. One four or five star guy comes out and another four or five star guy comes in. You can see that on film. They are an extremely talented football team.”

Mullen and Smart will see whose team can come out on top this Saturday. The battle of the Bulldogs kicks off at 6 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPN.