No. 13 Georgia begins their five-week long road streak this Saturday in Columbia against No. 23 Missouri. The Bulldogs are 4-0 at home but 0-1 on the road. Missouri is 4-1 overall and 1-0 in SEC play. This game has become a rivalry over “grown man football” and the victor of this game will have implications in the open SEC East.
This weekend Georgia needs a quick start. In their only trip to Missouri two years ago, the Bulldogs pulled out a win in the second half. The Dawgs began slowly and won thanks to defensive star, Jarvis Jones. The Dawg’s have been heavily depending on Heisman Hopeful Todd Gurley to get them the yards they need. Unfortunately, Gurley is now indefinitely suspended and will be ineligible for tomorrow’s game. So, it is key that Georgia starts out strong against this ranked Missouri team and limit their turnovers.
Gurley was suspended by the university while the NCAA pursues an investigation for a violation of player-benefit policies. Sources say that Gurley signed 80 autographs for $400, and if they find evidence he will likely miss substantial time and his Heisman chances will be drastically diminished.
Even with Gurley out, Missouri needs to focus on stopping Georgia’s run game. Georgia still has the likes of Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Isaiah McKenzie, and even Brendan Douglas. There is no shortage on Georgia’s depth in the running back position. Against South Carolina, the Tiger defense held South Carolina’s powerful tailback Mike Davis to 104 yards on 22 carries. They need to do the same against Georgia if they wish to stay in the game.
However, with Gurley gone, Georgia may depend more on their passing game than usual. The Dawgs’ last game used back up red shirt freshman Brice Ramsey in their third offensive series and head coach Mark Richt said it is definitely a possibility they continue to use him. With wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell back, the Dawgs have that deep field threat they need and have been missing all season. Last time Mitchell faced Missouri, oddly enough, he was lining up as a defensive back. This year in his niche position, he can help the Dawgs out tremendously in an area that needs attention.
Missouri also has a talented and dynamic running back of their own. Although he is no Gurley, Russell Hansbrough has already accumulated over 400 rushing yards and six touchdowns on only 67 carries. Hansbrough will be heavily relied upon early in the game while the Tigers adjust to the Georgia defense. The Tigers lack depth at the receiver position amongst others and their offensive line is mediocre. Missouri can count on wide receiver Bud Sasser to put up some numbers though. Sasser has quietly been climbing as one of the top five in the SEC. However, it is still clear they’re dominant in defense.
Although Missouri’s great Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are now in the NFL, the Tigers’ consistently formidable pass rush remains strong. Shane Ray and Markus Golden have shown immense skill and carry loads of potential, with Ray often being listed as a top NFL prospect for the coming draft.
“[they] may even be better prospects,” head coach Gary Pinkel said, when comparing Ray and Golden to Sam and Ealy.
Ray is scary as he comes off that edge. In just five games, he has accounted for eight sacks and 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. That kind of pressure from Ray on Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason screams trouble for the Bulldogs.
If Georgia wins, they will vault into the rest of the season with a lot of momentum to win the SEC East, while Missouri will trek on to Florida in hopes of still being a contender. If Missouri wins, it will be quite an upset and the Tigers will have a shot at the SEC East. Overall, its hard to see what winning this game means in a crowded divisional race to Atlanta.
Tune in tomorrow, Saturday, October 11 on CBS at 12:00 PM EST.
*Section Photo credit to Ed Zurga, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Dale Zanine, USA Today Sports