While this weekend’s showdown between SEC unbeatens Alabama and Florida may be the one getting all the national attention, Mississippi State and Georgia will have plenty to play for in their own right when they meet up “between the hedges” on Saturday.
After having started the season ranked in the top 20, both Mississippi State and Georgia find themselves sitting at 2-2 with a number of SEC heavyweights still remaining on the schedule. Both teams have already dropped at least one closely-contested SEC game (Mississippi State was stopped at the goal line in the closing seconds of a 41-34 loss to Auburn and Georgia gave up 3 touchdowns off turnovers and special teams in a 45-42 loss to South Carolina). Neither team can afford another gut-wrenching defeat if they plan on making any noise in the uber competitive SEC this season.
The two teams have come to a crossroads, and this game could easily be the type that will make-or-break their respective seasons. For Mississippi State, a third loss would muddy the potential bowl outlook for them with South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas still remaining on their schedule. As for Georgia, a win could continue the momentum they have gained after two straight victories over Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss, all while keeping them in the hunt for the SEC Eastern division.
Much is at stake for both sides and emotions will no doubt be running high when they take the field at noon eastern time on Saturday. The fate of Georgia head coach Mark Richt has been a hot-button topic for years now, and the pressure on him to win is at an all all-time high following a disappointing 6-7 season a year ago. There’s also no shortage of expectations in Starkville, where an upstart Mississippi State team was expected to springboard off a 9-4 season that culminated in an impressive 52-14 romp of Michigan in the Gator Bowl.
The drama will unfold at Sanford Stadium, the on-campus playing venue of the Georgia Bulldogs. Best known by the name “between the hedges” due to the privet hedges that stand around the field, the 92,746-seat stadium is the 8th-largest non-racing stadium in the United States. Sanford Stadium’s famous hedges have encircled the field since the stadium’s very first game against Yale in 1929. The idea to plant the hedges around the field came from Charlie Martin, Business Manager of the UGA Athletic Department. He received inspiration for the idea after seeing a hedge of roses in the stadium during his visit to the Rose Bowl.
You won’t ever go to a University of Georgia football game without seeing their beloved mascot, Uga. From a long lineage of English Bulldogs owned by Sonny Seiler, Uga has been leading the “Dawgs” to victory since 1956. Bearing a spiked collar and red jersey with a varsity letter for each game, Uga always puts his paw on the pre-game ceremonies. To date, there have been eight dogs to carry the name “Uga,” with each one being a descendent of the original Uga and son of its predecessor.
“Ringing of the bell” is another Georgia football tradition that is very popular amongst the Georgia faithful. The school’s Chapel Bell, located near the stadium, has always been the first thing to run to after a Georgia victory. In the early stages of this tradition, freshmen were obligated to run out to the bell and ring it until midnight. Today, fans, students, alumni, and players all join in and ring it as they pass to announce a Georgia win.
Whether it’s a Mississippi State upset that re-asserts them as a dangerous team in the SEC West, or a Georgia statement victory that solidifies them as a serious contender for the SEC East title, there is plenty to see in this “something’s gotta give” battle of fledging SEC foes.