The #7 Georgia Bulldogs are hurting but are looking to keep it going this Saturday when the #25 Missouri Tigers travel to Athens to take on the Bulldogs at home. This game, which is set to kick off at 12:00 p.m. EST and will be televised on CBS, is the second time these two schools have met as SEC opponents, with the inaugural conference matchup being last year’s 41-20 victory for Georgia.
While last year’s matchup was extremely close until the Tigers’ imploded in the second half, it is clear through five games that Missouri is much improved from last season. Already reaching last year’s five-win mark after last week’s 51-28 dismantling of the Vanderbilt Commodores, longtime head coach Gary Pinkel is looking for a signature SEC victory, and it may very well come against a Georgia squad that was riddled with injuries last week in the squad’s overtime victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.
The key to Missouri’s rejuvenation is none other than senior quarterback James Franklin, who has rebounded from a rough 2012 to provide the Tigers with 1,407 passing yards, a 67.9 completion percentage, thirteen touchdowns, and just three interceptions along with 278 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Just as important to the squad’s success has been sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri’s prize possession from the 2012 recruiting class that leads the team with 364 receiving yards on twenty-three receptions. Green-Beckham also has four touchdowns this season, making it clear that he is already beginning to live up to the enormous hype that surrounded him in high school.
Georgia’s offense is a complete mess at this point due to injuries, as quarterback Aaron Murray will have to play without running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley for the remainder of the season and will be without wide receiver Michael Bennett for at least this game and may also be without running back Todd Gurley, who is listed as doubtful. With so much uncertainty surrounding the entire offense, it will be crucial for the Bulldogs to utilize wide receiver Chris Conley on Saturday. Conley, who most fans remember as the player who caught Aaron Murray’s last pass in the SEC Championship game in December, had been quiet for the majority of the season until last Saturday’s win in Knoxville, when the junior reeled in five receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown. Murray’s only reliable and experienced receivers at this point are Conley and senior Rantavious Wooten, and considering the fact that Missouri’s spread offense is expected to put up their fair share of points, it will be crucial that this duo helps slice through the Tigers’ secondary throughout the game.
Missouri is entering Saturday’s game with a very prolific offense (8th in the nation in points per game, 15th in rushing yards), which means Georgia’s defense absolutely must step up in this matchup. In order for the Bulldogs to be able to slow down Franklin, they will have to pressure him and force turnovers, which was a big part of last year’s game where Georgia outscored Missouri 24-0 in the final quarter and a half of play. Without the likes of Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, John Jenkins, and Bacarri Rambo, this year’s defense has taken a step back, which is understandable, but their struggles have been staggering: through five games the unit ranks 97th in passing yards allowed, 95th in scoring defense, and 66th in total defense with 403 yards allowed per game. Georgia’s best chance at slowing down James Franklin and Missouri’s high-powered offense is to just take the ball away from them, giving Aaron Murray and Co. more opportunities at putting up their own points on the board.
Prediction: Georgia’s offense holds serve with Missouri’s through all four quarters of this game, but the team’s defense just cannot get the Tigers off the field. The Bulldogs tie the game on a 6 yard run by Murray with 1:42 left in the fourth quarter, and with only one timeout for Missouri it looks like the Bulldogs are set to go into overtime for the second straight week. However, Gary Pinkel has other things in mind, and on first and ten from the Missouri 20 James Franklin hits Dorial Green-Beckham for a thirty yard gain, keeping the Tigers’ chances alive. Another big first down keeps the momentum going for Mizzou, which continues unto the Tigers line up for a 48-yard field goal for Andrew Baggett with just two second left in regulation. Baggett connects and the ball splits the goalposts, giving Missouri their biggest SEC victory and ruining Georgia’s chances at a national title run. Final Score Missouri Tigers 31, Georgia Bulldogs 28