Georgia Tech trying to put it all together while hoping Mississippi State doesn't

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Mississippi State's defense, which is holding opponents to 96 rushing yards and 11.7 points per game, will be the best they have faced this season. It should be an interesting matchup, considering the Yellow Jackets rank ninth nationally in rushing offense with 263 yards per game.

"They are very good on defense," he said at Tuesday's press conference. "I think sometimes their offense gets overlooked a little bit, because they do have good skill guys -- they have good personnel. They just haven't put it together yet, and hopefully they will wait a week."

Johnson is hoping the opposite for his team, which has had a little trouble holding onto the ball the past few weeks. The Yellow Jackets have fumbled the ball 11 times this year and lost it seven.

Johnson said after watching film of the Virginia Tech game, one fumble was caused because a defender knocked the ball out with his helmet. Another was a timing issue on the option mesh. (That's when quarterback Josh Nesbitt pivots right after the snap and puts the ball in Jonathan Dwyers gut).

"We have to try to do a lot of things better to keep that from happening," Johnson said. "We have to protect better, use better judgment and all of those things. You just keep working on it. You can't get the ball ripped out of your hands, which is what happened to Boston College a couple times. It is just the stuff you work on everyday.

"Clearly if you lose the turnover battle three to nothing you are not going to win any games. We have to do a much better job taking care of it. We had done a good job of getting some up until the last game, but those things usually come in cycles."

The problem is, Mississipi State ranks sixth nationally with five recovered fumbles this season. Auburn fumbled three times in last week's 3-2 win over the Bulldogs and lost all of them.

Georgia Tech injury report:

Three sophomores who started the season opener -- LBs Brad Jefferson (arm/wrist) and Anthony Barnes (shoulder), and WR Demaryius Thomas (mild concussion) -- did not play last
week at Virginia Tech.

Also out of action last week were CB Martin Frierson (knee), senior OL A.J. Smith (elbow) and sophomore WR Correy Earls (hamstring).

Barnes practiced Monday.

Jefferson, Frierson and Smith have been ruled out for the Mississippi State game.