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The Missouri recipe for beating Georgia: deep balls and a happy turnover margin.


NCAA Football: Missouri at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Bill: Alright, Tramel, you have the floor. Tell me how Missouri beats Georgia tomorrow.

Tramel: It’s elementary, my friend. Here are the four things that Missouri must do in order to leave Athens victorious.

1. Drew Lock and the receivers have to be in sync on the deep balls

2. Missouri has to force a minimum of two turnovers while committing none themselves

2a. Those turnovers must result in at least 10 points for Missouri

3. The defense cannot allow any play to result in 30+ yards

4. No more special teams blunders

After accomplishing these “simple” tasks, Missouri will leave Athens with newfound hope and a signature win to hang their hats on.

Bill: Oh, is that all? Easy peasy!

I mostly agree with the list — break even on special teams, force turnovers (which usually comes from stopping the run and forcing a freshman to pass), and connect on some big plays. I don’t think there’s going to be any sort of short passing success; if you can’t block defensive backs on the perimeter against Kentucky or South Carolina (and Mizzou couldn’t), you probably can’t against UGA.

Football is a funny game, and I’m sure this recipe would pan out a few times out of a hundred (six times, to be exact), but ... yeah. Georgia’s really good. Better than Kentucky, South Carolina, and Purdue, and maybe Auburn. So odds are pretty good that we know where this is heading.

Not to slide into Moral Victory Territory, but as unlikely as this sounds ... let’s assume for a moment that Mizzou doesn’t win. What do you need to see from the Tigers to lead you to believe that a) wins over Idaho and UConn are forthcoming, and b) Mizzou still has a shot at winning a game or two in November?

Side question: what player do you hope to see good things from on Saturday, win or no win?

Tramel: If by some chance you are correct and Missouri doesn't win, I need to see Drew Lock and the defense put together back-to-back respectable performances.

Before you and all the other angry Mizzou fans attack me for thinking that Missouri’s defense played well last week, please allow me the opportunity to explain myself:

You must look at things in perspective when you are grading this defense. The defense is similar to a child, and as you know babies don’t become adults overnight. Similarly, this defense won’t become great in one week. It takes development, and growth happens in stages.

So instead of focusing on what the defense didn’t do (for example, prevent Kentucky from scoring 40 points), let us look at what they did do.

Barry Odom’s boys forced the Wildcats to punt three times, kick four field goals, and finally forced the ever-elusive turnover when Cale Garrett came up with an impressive interception. Pessimistic fans will say that it’s pathetic to view those as major accomplishments, but as I said earlier, you should look at this defense in the proper lighting.

What we saw versus Kentucky was unlike anything we’ve seen from the Tigers against a power 5 opponent this season. If Missouri can at the very least duplicate, ideally improve upon, that performance the Tigers should have a chance. EMPHASIS ON SHOULD.

Which brings us to Drew Lock.

Lock displayed his huge arm versus Kentucky as he dropped bombs into the open arms of Emanuel Hall, Johnathon Johnson and J’Mon Moore for TDs. We had yet to see Lock perform that way versus a P5 opponent this year, and we definitely haven’t seen it two weeks in a row. If Lock and the defense can accomplish those tasks, a “win” can still be taken from the loss.

The player that I’d like to see do good things is defensive end Jordan Harold. He has an excellent story, went from D2 player to D1 starter and captain in a two-year span, but this isn’t Rudy. The off the field stuff is awesome, but if it doesn’t translate to the field, none of that stuff really matters. Hopefully, that changes against Georgia.

Bill: I see the Mizzou defense as a puzzle with missing pieces. Some were strong against Kentucky — Terez Hall continued his hot streak (though I sure wish he could’ve held onto that pick at the end of the first half), Cale Garrett held onto that tricky pick, and Terry Beckner Jr. and fellow tackles did pretty well outside of the one long run. BUT ... the puzzle is indeed missing pieces.

With that in mind, I think I would be semi-satisfied on Saturday if DeMarkus Acy and Ronnell Perkins played well. And maybe one of the freshman DBs (Ulmer?) sees the field more and plays well. I’m comfortable with where Mizzou’s linebacking corps should be next year. Tackles, too. But it would be very comforting to see some of the young DBs starting to figure things out.

So. Offense. After a lovely performance against UK, what’s your guess re: total carries and yards for Ish Witter?

Tramel: Ish Witter is every coach’s dream: a hardworking player who often seems to be in the right place at the right time. Last week, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel went with the hot hand instead of sticking to the predetermined substitutions. Mizzou reaped the benefits as Witter did his thang versus Kentucky, rushing for 139 yards on 17 carries. The redshirt senior’s performance essentially told his critics to shut the hell up with all that talk about freshman Larry Rountree III taking his carries away.

If you rewatch Witter’s carries, Ish really just did what he was supposed to do. Witter took what the defense allowed. He didn’t juke anyone out or break tackles, that’s not his style.

Since that isn’t his style, I expect his workload to drop back to the 7-10 carry workload. Against Georgia, Mizzou will need a running back that can go out and get his. The Tigers will need a back with homerun potential.....aka Damarea Crockett.

Ish’s lighter workload will have more to do with what Crockett can do than what Witter can’t.

Bill: Yeah, I actually meant to ask about Witter and Crockett combined, so thanks for covering for me.

So far this year, Witter and Crockett have gained at least five yards on exactly 50 percent of their carries. Considering Crockett took a knock in Week 2 that seemed to linger for at least a game or two, that’s a pretty nice average.

Meanwhile, UGA has faced four power conference teams (Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt) and a succession of solid backs — ND’s Josh Adams, MSU’s Aeris Williams, UT’s John Kelly, VU’s Ralph Webb — and in those four games, opposing running backs have gained at least four yards ... 24 percent of the time. Yikes.

If Mizzou wins this game, Crockett and Witter combined for at least 20 carries and gained at least five yards on seven or eight of them, a.k.a. at least 35-40 percent. That has been too much to ask for any UGA opponent thus far, but it’s a requirement here. It would provide a baseline of efficiency that I’m guessing the short passing game will not, and it could force the safeties to pay just enough attention to the run game that those deep balls we keep mentioning become slightly more likely to reach their target.

It’s kind of funny: the recipe for a Mizzou win here is pretty easy to describe. It’s also almost impossible to execute.

Tramel: Unfortunately, I fail to see the comedy in this, Mr. Connelly. All I know is that impossible is a mindset. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Barry has all the WILL in the world and if Missouri follows my keys they will find a WAY to beat Georgia 33-27.

Bill: I’d be thrilled to be incorrect.