Georgia lost its best pass-rusher, a duo of inside linebackers, and an entire secondary this past offseason; yet, they’re still one of the best defenses in the country in 2018.
The Bulldogs rank seventh overall in total defense, giving up an average of just 258.7 yards per game. They’re excel at defending the pass, allowing just 157.7 passing yards per game (19th in FBS).
One reason for that is senior cornerback Deandre Baker, who forwent entering the 2017 NFL Draft to finish up his final year at Georgia. Baker recorded the fourth-most stops in college football last year with 44, and added nine pass-breakups and three interceptions to his total.
The preseason AP First-Team All-American has lived up to the hype thus far, nabbing two interceptions in the Bulldogs’ first three games — one against South Carolina and the other against Middle Tennessee.
Baker will surely match up with Missouri star wide receiver Emanuel Hall, who ranks second in football with 143.3 receiving yards per game and a trio of touchdowns. It’s important to note Hall’s production was limited, as he played through a groin injury in the second half of last week’s win over Purdue.
While Baker very well could hinder Hall from having yet another big game, Missouri is deep at wide receiver. True freshman Jalen Knox balled out last week, snagging five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers’ second-leading receiver was just a three-star recruit in high school and is defying expectations many set for him as a freshman. Knox continues to get better each week and could be someone to watch for Saturday against Georgia.
Aside from Hall and Knox, there are still three or four solid receiving options for Drew Lock to go after. Wide receiver Johnathon Johnson (14 rec, 149 yds, 3 TD) and tight end Albert Okuwegbunam (14 rec, 100 yds, 2 TD) are two more weapons for Lock to utilize, posing a difficult task for a newly-put-together Georgia secondary.
Looking at the numbers, there’s a good amount of hope Lock can have an efficient game Saturday. The Bulldogs have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.6 percent of their passes so far. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley completed 30 of 47 (63.8 percent), while Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill went 19-for-29 (65.5 percent) in their team’s respective losses to the Bulldogs.
Although Lock’s track record against ranked teams isn’t where it should be for a quarterback of his stature, his game seems to have matured a good amount this year. He’s a much more efficient passer, looks poised in the pocket, and hardly ever stares his receivers down. Continuing to spread the ball out to all his targets will be key in taking advantage of this Georgia secondary.
If Lock can do that, an upset could be on Missouri’s hands early Saturday afternoon.