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Missouri-Georgia could be decided by the battle between the Dawgs’ OL and #DLineZou

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Mizzou’s defensive front has underachieved a bit so far in 2016. Now would be a pretty good time for a breakout.

NCAA Football: North Carolina vs Georgia Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk about Missouri’s missing pass rush, the biggest goal for the Tiger defensive front against Georgia on Saturday will be in stopping the run. Or at least slowing it down.

Offense

Quarterback

  • Greyson Lambert (6’5, 234, Sr.) — 7-for-11 (64%), 56 yards, 3 sacks (3.2 yards/att) OR
  • Jacob Eason (6’5, 235, Fr.) — 19-for-32 (59%), 335 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks (9.6 yards/att)
  • Brice Ramsey (6’3, 210, Jr.)

New Georgia head coach inherited a tricky QB situation. Jacob Eason is an all-world blue-chipper who could eventually become a star. But few true freshmen own the world the moment they step on campus. Eason was in for spring ball but couldn’t secure the starting job outright in fall camp.

So the Dawgs have been attempting to work him in slowly. He started against Georgia, but senior Greyson Lambert has still been asked to man the battle stations during “game management” situations. (He hasn’t really acquitted himself all that well.)

It’s obvious where this race is headed. Despite inconsistency, Eason is averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt and has given everybody plenty of glimpses of the golden arm that will one day lead the Dawgs’ offense. The question is how many glimpses he’s ready to give on Saturday night. He was amazingly all-or-nothing against Nicholls State — on passing downs, he was 5-for-13 (nothing) for 121 yards (all). A little bit of a pass rush could certainly help in those situations, but the big question for UGA is, simply, how many passing downs will the Dawgs face? If Mizzou isn’t slowing the run game down, the answer will pretty clearly be “Not many.”

Nicholls v Georgia
Jacob Eason
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Backfield

Running Back

  • Nick Chubb (5’10, 228, Jr.) — 52 carries, 302 yards (5.8), 3 TD; 2 targets, 1 catch, 12 yards (6.0 per target)
  • Brendan Douglas (5’11, 213, Sr.) -- 4 carries, 28 yards (7.0); 2 targets, 2 catches, 24 yards (12.0) OR
  • Sony Michel (5’11, 222, Jr.) -- 3 carries, 3 yards (1.0); 2 targets, 2 catches, 5 yards (2.5)

Freshman Brian Herrien is not listed on the depth chart with the return of Sony Michel from injury, but Herrien has 15 carries for 106 yards so far; I assume he’ll see the field, too.

Fullback

  • Christian Payne (6’1, 242, Jr.) — 1 target, 0 catches
  • Glenn Welch (6’3, 238, Jr.)

It’s really hard to figure out any lasting impression of Georgia so far. Heading into 2016, I was considering the Dawgs an SEC East co-favorite with Tennessee, and after they came back to beat UNC, I was further convinced of that. And then they almost lost to Nicholls. I thought a healthy Nick Chubb would be nearly unstoppable, and this was backed up by his 32-carry, 222-yard night against the Tar Heels; and then he carried 20 times for 80 yards against the Colonels.

Georgia was just not dialed in against Nicholls, and it’s skewing basically every impression I have. Regardless, Chubb is phenomenal. We’ll have to wait and see whether UGA’s struggles last week were because of a total lack of motivation or underlying inconsistencies.

NCAA Football: North Carolina vs Georgia
Nick Chubb
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Receiving Corps

WR

  • Terry Godwin (5’11, 185, So.) -- 5 targets, 4 catches, 70 yards (14.0 per target)
  • Michael Chigbu (6’2, 213, So.) -- 8 targets, 5 catches, 47 yards (5.9)
  • Riley Ridley (6’2, 197, Fr.) -- 1 target, 0 catches

WR

  • Jayson Stanley (6’2, 207, So.)
  • Reggie Davis (6’0, 170, Jr.) -- 4 targets, 2 catches, 20 yards (5.0) OR
  • Isaiah McKenzie (5’8, 175, Jr.) — 8 targets, 8 catches, 183 yards (22.9), 2 TD; 4 carries, 37 yards (9.3)

TE

  • Jeb Blazevich (6’5, 242, Jr.)
  • Charlie Woerner (6’5, 251, Fr.) — 5 targets, 2 catches, 30 yards (6.0) OR
  • Isaac Nauta (6’4, 246, Fr.) -- 3 targets, 0 catches OR
  • Jackson Harris (6’6, 247, So.)

The most intriguing part of UGA’s offensive depth chart has to be the receiver position. Junior Isaiah McKenzie has been electric so far; against UNC, he caught six of six passes for 122 yards. Against Nicholls, however, he caught only two passes, and then he was listed third on the depth chart this week. Whether he’s in the dog house or needing some sort of motivational ploy, he’s the most dangerous player the Dawgs have in the receiving corps. The less playing time he receivers, the better.

Former blue-chipper Terry Godwin has been solid as well. He caught three of three passes for 47 yards against Nicholls. Otherwise, the other four wideouts listed above have caught just seven of 13 passes for 67 yards.

I’ve been very confused by the lack of production from the tight end position. I really like UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, and I assumed that, with a freshman QB so heavily involved, he would be having Eason rely on efficiency options. And since UGA has at least three intriguing TEs, I thought they would be involved pretty heavily. They have not. And to the extent that they have (eight targets), they haven’t produced (two catches). Maybe that will change in Columbia.

NCAA Football: Georgia Spring Game
Terry Godwin
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive line

LT

  • Tyler Catalina (6’6, 314, Sr.) -- 35 career starts (33 at Rhode Island, 2 at Georgia)

LG

  • Isaiah Wynn (6’2, 285, Jr.) -- 16 career starts
  • Dyshon Sims (6’4, 309, Jr.) -- 1 career start

C

  • Brandon Kublanow (6’3, 293, Sr.) — 27 career starts

RG

  • Lamont Gaillard (6’2, 301, So.) -- 2 career starts

RT

  • Greg Pyke (6’6, 325, Sr.) — 25 career starts
  • Kendall Baker (6’6, 305, So.)

The line has been a major concern thus far. It allowed four sacks against UNC, and while Nick Chubb did gain 200-plus rushing yards in that game, his opportunity rate (percentage of carries over 5 yards) was a pretty average 38 percent. Against Nicholls, it was up to 45 percent, and UGA QBs were sacked only once, but ... that’s Nicholls. As quiet as Missouri’s defensive line has been so far, I’m guessing the Tigers still have an advantage over the Colonels there.

We’ve seen a lot of headlines this week regarding the defensive line’s lack of production. If #DLineZou shows up on Saturday, however, all is forgiven. The battle between UGA’s offensive line and Mizzou’s defensive line might be the most important in the game.

NCAA Football: Florida at Georgia
Isaiah Wynn
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports