Georgia is the fourth (4th) best defense according SP+. The best defense the Missouri Tigers offense has gone up against this year, so far, was the 24th ranked South Carolina unit. Against the Gamecock defense, the Tiger offense performed at the 25th percentile and only had a quarterly success rate over 40% in the second quarter. And now, they face a defense much, much better than that with either a hobbled Kelly Bryant or backup Taylor Powell. Sports are fun!
Tyler Clark - SR: 10.5 tackles/3.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks
Devonte Wyatt - JR: 8.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs
Michael Barnett - R-SR: 10 tackles/0.5 TFLs
Jordan Davis - SO: 5.5 tackles/1.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks
Malik Herring - JR: 8 tackles/1.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks
David Marshall - SR: 4.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs
Jermaine Johnson - JR; 8 tackles/2 TFLs/1.5 sacks/1 PBU
Walter Grant - JR: 6 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack
Azeez Ojulari - R-FR: 17 tackles/5 TFLs/4.5 sacks
Nolan Smith - FR: 7 tackles/1.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks
Tae Crowder - R-SR: 24.5 tackles/3 TFLs/1 PBU
Quay Walker - SO: 12.5 tackles/2.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks
Monty Rice - JR: 35 tackles/0.5 TFLs/2 PBUs
Nakobe Dean - FR: 8.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 FF
Eric Stokes - R-SO: 18.5 tackles/1 TFL/1 sack/8 PBUs/1 FF
Tyrique Stevenson - FR: 5 tackles/2 PBUs
J.R. Reed - R-SR: 27 tackles/2 TFLs/0.5 sacks/4 PBUs/1 INT/1 FF
Tyrique McGhee - SR: x
Richard LeCounte - JR: 25 tackles/2 TFLs/2 PBUs/1 INT
Lewis Cine - FR: x
D.J. Daniel - JR: 16 tackles/1 TFL/3 PBUs
Tyson Campbell - SO: 4.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/3 PBUs
Rodrigo Blankenship - R-SR: 31-31 PATs/15-17 FGs (88.2%)
Jake Camarda - SO: 24 punts/47 avg/6 touch backs/3 fair catches/9 down inside 20
Brian Herrien - SR: 4 returns/22 avg/2 fair catches
Tyler Simmons - SR: 8 returns/16.8 avg/3 fair catches
Bad news: regardless of if it is healthy Kelly Bryant, injured Kelly Bryant, or young Taylor Powell, I just don’t think the Tigers are going to find a lot of success against this Georgia defense. Just like yesterday, I scoured the advanced metrics to see if there were any cracks in the wall. There weren’t. So, instead, I’ll cite a few things that the Tigers must do to keep pace.
As in, stay away from them! Missouri has shown a propensity of forgetting how to football on third down the past few games, and the Georgia defense excels in third down defense— 10th in long, 40th in medium, 26th in short. However, 66.3% of opponent first downs come on first and second down against this Georgia defense, so there are opportunities to move the ball enough to avoid third downs. The main point, however, is to just hold the ball for a decent amount of time to give the Tiger defense a break. If Mizzou logs 2 or 3 three-and-outs early-on it’s going to wear out and demoralize the defense and cause the dam to break. Staying ahead of the chains, avoiding third downs or keeping the yardage minimal, and playing the field position game will be key in trying to straight up beat this defense.
As in, don’t commit them! South Carolina beat Georgia earlier this year by not committing a single turnover while benefiting from four of them. If the Tiger offense kills a drive by handing a superior opponent the ball more than once this game will, essentially, be over. Unless the Missouri offense can magically start connecting down field on big plays, utilize the run game successfully, and break some tackles, the focus should be to limit possessions, slow the tempo down, play the field position game, and make the safe choice on every play. It’s boring and ugly but its the best way to limit the effect that superior talent has on turning the game.
As in, don’t give them the opportunity! The ‘Dawgs defense ranks 70th in stuff rate, 72nd in sack rate, and 38th in completion rate. If you remember the Alabama defenses of 5-8 years ago, they weren’t super disruptive or havoc-y, they just operated like an amoebic cloud that swarmed quickly and limited the impact of the play rather than jumping pass routes or crashing into the backfield. Kirby Smart has brought that style to Athens and, safe to say, it’s working. It’s a safe way of playing defense and the talent on hand lets them do it effectively; therefore, if there are a lot of havoc-plays being logged by the Bulldogs, then that’s a good indicator that the Missouri offense is outclassed and will be effectively limited for most of the game.
Friends, I have a confession: I have no faith in the Tigers pulling off an upset. Georgia is just so much better, the Tigers have been so incredibly bad the past few weeks, and Georgia will not be sleeping on this game. They’ve already been upset at home and can clinch the East with a win over Missouri, so they’ll be on high alert and ready to pounce. The Tigers need to play a perfect game and lean on its defense to put a shaky offense in good positions. Can it happen? Yes! Will it? We’ll find out...