Georgia Bulldogs vs. Missouri Tigers: Complete Game Preview
Georgia looks to bounce back from injuries this Saturday, while Missouri tries to improve to 6-0.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Oct. 12
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 9, via 5Dimes
The Program examines how Tennessee's goal-line fumble saved Georgia's season and therefore added significance to this weekend's matchup with Missouri.
Georgia Keys to Victory
For the first time all season, offensive composure is a bit of a concern for the Georgia Bulldogs. Missouri's offense is expected to score points and keep things exciting, and Georgia will need to keep up. That's a lofty calling for a team that is missing three of its best receivers (Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett, Justin Scott-Wesley) and its two best running backs (Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall).
Aaron Murray must keep his team calm while orchestrating scoring drives without his best playmakers.
Over the past three games, Georgia has registered nine sacks and 21 tackles for loss. If the Bulldogs want to disrupt the Missouri offense, getting to quarterback James Franklin will be crucial. Last year, the Dawgs' defense sacked Franklin just twice but managed to hurry him nine additional times. A few early hits could bring back bad memories for the senior signal-caller.
Missouri Keys to Victory
Already this season, Missouri has scored on eight plays of greater than 35 yards. These scoring strikes have come in a variety of ways:
- Rushing touchdowns of 45, 51 and 68 yards.
- Passing touchdowns of 37, 45 and 68 yards.
- Interception returns of 49 and 70 yards.
If Missouri can hit on a few home run plays it will dishearten the Georgia defense and add pressure to Georgia's depleted offense.
Georgia has shown several deficiencies within special teams. Most obviously, two teams (North Texas and Tennessee) have blocked Bulldog punts and recovered them for touchdowns. If Missouri can make a play with its special teams unit (Georgia has also allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown), the Bulldogs may begin to crack.
Players to Watch for Georgia
It's almost trite to merely identify Aaron Murray as a key player in this game, but in some regards this may be Murray's toughest task to date. Missouri's defense is hardly great, but with two true freshmen playing running back and only one returning starter lined up at receiver, Murray may have to be a little more creative than normal this week.
He showed some of that creativity with a 57-yard run last week against Tennessee. Georgia won't be looking for Murray to make too many plays with his feet, but his role will be more complicated than in weeks past.
Conley began to emerge as a true freshman in 2011 and was a key contributor at the receiver position last year for the Bulldogs. But in just five games this season he has already caught as many balls as he did last year. Conley leads the team in receptions and receiving yards already, but he will be in high demand given the recent loss of Scott-Wesley and Bennett to injury.
Drew was one of the nation's most highly coveted recruits in the class of 2011, but he struggled to produce in his first two seasons as he waited behind loads of NFL talent. In the last two weeks Drew has registered more quarterback sacks (3) than his first two seasons combined. Drew will play a vital role in pursuing Missouri quarterback James Franklin.
Players to Watch for Missouri
This season, Franklin has quietly put together a statistical record that nearly mirrors that of Johnny Manziel. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has accounted for 1803 total yards of offense and 17 touchdowns while throwing four interceptions and leading his team to a 4-1 record. Franklin has accounted for 1685 yards and 15 TDs while throwing three interceptions and marching Mizzou to a 5-0 mark.
To be clear: Franklin is not a player of Manziel's caliber. But, he possesses a similar skill set that could drive Georgia mad, especially if his arm is hot and he has room to scramble.
Missouri has three running backs who are more than capable of getting things done on the ground:
- Russell Hansbrough: 48 carries, 379 yards, 3 TDs
- Henry Josey: 54 carries, 307 yards, 6 TDs
- Marcus Murphy: 35 carries, 293 yards, 4 TDs
As Tennessee demonstrated last week, the Georgia defense is still very much susceptible to a power running game. Production on the ground will limit the time that Missouri's defense is on the field against a still solid Georgia offense.
What They Are Saying
Freshman Running Back J.J. Green Steps Up
J.J. Green was not surprised by his 129-yard effort against Tennessee in the wake of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley injuries. Green told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph, "I always knew I could do that. I've been doing that in practice."
Rantavious Wooten Ready for a Bigger Role
The fifth-year senior who caught two touchdown catches against Tennessee offered the following to ESPN.com's David Ching:
[Receivers coach Tony] Ball always tells me, "Prepare like you are the starter, and you never know, because you're one play away from [being] a starter." So all the guys know that in the room, and I know that myself, and I always had that in the back of my head. Any guy could be the next man up. The coaches have the final decision on that, but at the end of the day, that's what we do, we practice, and we get ready for those types of situations.
Gary Pinkel on Georgia's Injuries
Missouri's head coach told Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wouldn't wish injuries on anyone, but added, "I wouldn't feel really sorry for them. I wouldn't go that far. I say that kiddingly because I know Mark really well and have great respect for him. Nobody likes to go through injuries."
Missouri appears to be much improved over last year, and a good deal of that advancement is a product of being healthy. Conversely, Georgia is struggling to keep players on the field, and with stars like Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley already ruled out and three more starters (Todd Gurley, safety Tray Matthews and punter Collin Barber) questionable, things seem to be falling apart for the Dawgs.
However, even with a number of playmakers out, Georgia still holds a talent advantage over Missouri. Georgia has two decisive edges in this game:
- Home field
- Season experience
The crowd at Sanford Stadium is becoming increasingly hostile thanks to continued success by Georgia in big home games. This will the the Bulldogs' third home game of the season against a Top 25 opponent, and the crowd will be a factor.
Additionally, Georgia holds a clear advantage in previous competition. For the fourth time in six games, Georgia will be playing a ranked opponent this Saturday. Missouri, on the other hand, has not yet played an opponent with a current winning record against Football Bowl Subdivision competition.
Georgia wins this game by 10 points, but it will be close heading into the fourth quarter.