ATHENS, Ga. -- At 4-0, following Saturday night's 31-3 dismantling of previously undefeated Mississippi State at Sanford Stadium, Georgia isn't Alabama, but in college football, who is? OK, Clemson, and that's about it. Even so, looking several months ahead to the SEC championship game in Atlanta, you wouldn't produce giggles in Las Vegas these days by putting a bunch of pennies on Alabama from the West and Georgia from the East.
Let's start with the East. Scandal-ridden Florida is losing players by the moment, Tennessee could barely whip UMass, South Carolina was lucky to survive lowly Louisiana Tech and Vanderbilt is still Vanderbilt and Kentucky is still Kentucky until proven otherwise.
That leaves Georgia, which is loaded throughout its roster, and to hear these Bulldogs tell it, they've got enough going for them to make the Crimson Tide queasy someday.
"We're going to keep playing Georgia football, both defensively and offensively, and that means we're going to be physical and fast and keep pounding people each time we're on the field," said Georgia outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who often puts a crushing play where his mouth is. "We realize that each play has a life of its own. You come out there and make a stop, but if you live off of that, they can come out and bomb you and score on the next play. So you keep moving forward, and you keep playing football. We got 24 hours to celebrate this victory, and then we're back in the lab, and we're back in the weight room, studying the next opponent."
For Georgia, that's the suddenly fragile Volunteers in Tennessee. Which means these Bulldogs are headed for a 5-0 start.
As for the West, it's Alabama, period. Mississippi State was mentioned in whispers as a sleeper in the division, especially after shocking LSU last week with a 37-7 victory, and there was this: If you've done the improbable once during a college football season, you sort of figure you can do it again.
Yeah, well. Even though both teams with the same "Bulldogs" nickname faced each other with 3-0 records inside of Georgia's extremely loud and overwhelmingly red home of 92,000, No. 17 Mississippi State wasn't going to beat No. 11 Georgia. Not with all of that speed and strength everywhere for the Bulldogs from around here. It also didn't help Mississippi State's cause along the way to humiliation that Georgia has an offense, too.
Jake Fromm looked nothing like a true freshman making his third collegiate start, and Georgia kept doing what Georgia teams always do: running and running some more. Not only that, Georgia did so with something old in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both preparing to sprint from Between the Hedges after this season toward NFL glory, and with something new in the likes of freshman D'Andre Swift, auditioning here and there as the heir apparent next season to tailback greatness at the school of Herschel Walker, Terrell Davis, Rodney Hampton, Todd Gurley and others.
With apologies to Michel, the current owner of that spot of Walker, Davis, Hampton, Gurley and others is Chubb, who entered the Mississippi State game with 3,714 career rushing yards to rank fifth among active players and first in the SEC. He used every bit of his 5-foot-10 and 225 yards on this humid night to torture anything in maroon and white in his way. His first touchdown run of seven yards in the first quarter hinted of a blowout to come when Georgia took a 14-0 lead. Then came his 23-yard gallop to the end zone on his Bulldogs' opening drive of the second half for a 21-3 advantage.
Everything Chubb did after that was extra while rushing for just 81 yards overall, but each of those yards were huge, and he also had all of those other helpers among his gifted teammates.
There was Fromm, for instance. Georgia wide receiver Terry Godwin thought about his teammate completing nine of 12 passes (including eight in a row) for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Then Godwin said, "He's an awesome guy, and he's a terrific quarterback. Even when times get tough, he's out there smiling, and he's just that calm, cool, collected guy that everybody knows. For him to come out here and put on the show that he did and make the plays and make the changes that he did, he helped us come out with the W. It makes my job very easy, because him back there knowing the coverages, knowing when to change the plays, knowing what to change them to, that just gives us momentum."
So it didn't matter that Mississippi State's blowout of what was the nation's No. 11 team at the time in LSU was the largest margin of victory by MSU over an Associated Press ranked opponent in 75 years. Surely if those other Bulldogs could do that, you might think, then surely they could end their nine-game losing streak within these city limits, and they also could defeat Georgia for just the second time in the past 12 meetings between the two. Uh, no, and it became obvious in the early going that none of those ugly trends involving Georgia would stop for Mississippi State.
How early was all of that obvious? The first play of the game. Soon after all-everything quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw a pass in the right flat for Mississippi State to Aeris Williams, Carter smacked the running back for a six-yard loss. The noise was deafening in the aftermath, and we're talking about from the crowd and from the tackle.
Not surprisingly, Mississippi State did nothing after that on its first series, but Georgia did a lot within minutes. For one, the hometown Bulldogs called a flea-flicker on their opening play, and there was Fromm, floating a pass downfield to a wide-open Godwin for a 59-yard touchdown. On Georgia's next possession, there were long runs from Swift (12 yards) and Chubb (16 yards), and then came Fromm's 21-yard pass to Godwin before Chubb's seven-yard touchdown run pushed Georgia's advantage to 14-0.
Game over. Or so it seemed.
That's because Mississippi State kept showing a pulse in spurs, but it didn't matter, because Georgia is just better. You know, better than anybody in the SEC this side of Tuscaloosa.