Photo: USA Today Sports
#25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0) at #7 Georgia (4-1, 3-0)
Saturday, Oct 12th, Noon EST, ESPN
Line: Georgia by 8 (and falling)
Last year, Georgia welcomed Missouri to the SEC by giving them a 21 point loss in their debut. Truth isn't always in the numbers as that game was a lot closer than the 41-20 final score indicated. The Bulldogs actually trailed in the third quarter before scoring the last 24 points of the game behind a monster game by Jarvis Jones.
So far this year Georgia has played the toughest schedule in the Nation and it's taking it's toll on the Bulldogs. The Dawgs stand at 4-1 but have now lost three of their top offensive weapons to season ending injuries. WR Malcolm Mitchell (40 rec in 2012), WR Justin Scott-Wesley (2nd leading receiver in 2013) and RB Keith Marshall (49 ypg in 2013) must now be replaced with the "next man up". Aaron Murray has stepped up this year with two clutch game-winning drives but can he continue to do so throughout the season?
Are the Missouri Tigers a paper Tiger? That's the big question coming into this game. Missouri has gotten off to a 5-0 start with victories against Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State and Vanderbilt. Not exactly a who's who of college football even though the Indiana win could be better than we think. For the Tigers, this is not only their first big game of the season but it's also their first big road game of the season. Missouri hopes to make a statement in Athens on Saturday.
For Georgia to win: Todd Gurley is listed as "doubtful" and despite Keith Marshall's season ending injury against Tennessee, the Georgia coaching staff has said they will not "push" Gurley to get back into the line-up this weekend. If Georgia has Gurley, then it's all about pounding the rock against a Missouri team that hasn't played a team yet this year that can run the football and then building off of that with the play-action pass. If there is no Gurley, then this is Aaron Murray's game and look for him to spread the ball around to Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Arthur Lynch and a bunch of guys who you probably have never heard of before. On defense, Georgia needs to contain the Missouri run (like they did to LSU) and force James Franklin to beat them with his arm.
For Missouri to win: Georgia has proved susceptible on Special Teams so that's a key area for the Tigers to focus on. Can the Tigers gain a significant advantage over a team that has had given up two blocked punts and a kick-off return for a TD. In addition to winning Special Teams, Missouri needs to get on the scoreboard quickly and put pressure on a Georgia team that is quite young and inexperienced in some key places (14 underclassmen on the two deep on defense and will be very inexperienced at RB and WR). The last key for Missouri is forcing Georgia into third down situations. The Georgia offense is converting on just 36.92% this season (only Kentucky and Mississippi State are worse in the SEC).
Key Player (Georgia): Aaron Murray. Todd Gurley's status is in doubt and if he does play it's not likely that he will get his normal workhorse type load. That leaves the ball firmly in the hands of Murray. Murray will be working with a decimated receiving corps that will be without Mitchell, Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett. One of Murray's strengths is spreading the ball around and that means that he will need to work the ball to Chris Conley (20 rec), Rantavious Wooten (6 rec and 2 TD against Tennessee) as well as some of the younger receivers and get the TE and FBs involved (which he didn't in the last game). Murray is a red-shirt senior who has grown into one of the top QBs in the Nation. This is his team and he will need to carry them to victory on Saturday.
Key Player (Missouri): Henry Josie. What is different about this year's game and the 2012 Georgia/Missouri game? After rushing for 116 ypg in 2011, before suffering an injury, Josie had to sit out Mizzou's SEC debut last season as he rehabbed his injury. This year, Josie has been gradually getting worked into the line-up as he's averaging a little over 10 carries per game and he's running for 61 ypg but he's yet to have that break-out performance. Last year, Mizzou ran for just 102 yards on 2.6 ypc against Georgia. Josie will be the wildcard this season.
Key Stat: So far this season Georgia has played three top ten teams. Missouri is yet to play anybody ranked in the top 25. Will the battles favor Georgia or have they wounded them too much heading into this showdown of top 25 teams?