Tonight, Missouri faces its most substantial test of the season as they will host no. 1 Georgia under the lights. Coming into this game, Mizzou sits at 2-2 with wins over Louisiana Tech and Abilene Christian. The Tigers fell to Kansas State in week two by 28 points and lost dramatically last week to Auburn, after a rare miss from Harrison Mevis and a fumble at the goal line from Nathaniel Peat.
Georgia currently sits atop the CFB landscape as the no. 1 team in the country. Georgia decimated Oregon in week one, instantly proving that the Bulldogs have seemingly not regressed. Big wins over Samford and South Carolina led them to 3-0 and a minute scare against Kent State last week has led them to 4-0.
The Bulldogs are led by senior quarterback, Stetson Bennett. Bennett has been efficient as expected, completing 75% of his passes for 1,224 yards, 5 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. Bennett has a plethora of weapons, most notably sophomore tight end, Brock Bowers. Bowers has cemented himself as one of the top-notch tight ends in the country already and is putting together quite the season. Through four games, Bowers has amassed 15 receptions, for 276 yards, and two touchdowns. Most impressively, Bowers is averaging a whopping 18 yards per catch. Bennett also has a few other dangerous weapons, such as WR Ladd McConkey, TE Darnell Washington, and RB Kenny McIntosh. To sum it up, it doesn’t matter where Georgia’s weapons line up, they can and typically will find a way to hurt you.
To add to this, you can’t talk about the Georgia Bulldogs without talking about its extraordinary defense. Other than its slip-up last week against Kent State, Georgia has held its opponents to less than ten points in 3 of its 4 games, which has virtually eliminated its opponent’s chances of pulling off the upset. The Georgia defense is led by Smael Mondon Jr, who is leading in tackles with 17. Freshman DB Malaki Starks has been crucial in the secondary, putting up 17 tackles, and two interceptions. Despite the loss of Dan Lanning after he went on to take the head job at Oregon, the defense still seems to be one of the best in the country.
I’m sure after reading all of this, you may be thinking to yourself, “How in the world can Mizzou even keep this competitive?” Fair enough. Truth be told, Georgia is a much more talented team and they are coming off a national championship with no sign of faltering. But, the good old statement: “Any given Saturday.”, still rings true to this day. So, there is a chance that Missouri can accomplish the unfathomable, but the question is how?
- Protect the QB: Let’s start out with the obvious. For Missouri to even have a fighting chance in this game, the Tigers’ offensive line is going to have to play its best game of the season. So far, Brady Cook has been sacked six times and we have already reached the point of mass panic with the offensive line. Zeke Powell suffered a season-ending injury last week and overall, the entire line has been underwhelming at best. The run game for Missouri has been largely ineffective and inconsistent, so there is a LARGE chance that Missouri will have to pass the ball a good majority of the time. If there is a certain number you can slap on for a goal in this game, Brady Cook should only be sacked once, maybe twice for a chance in this game. Cook has had his struggles but given time in the pocket, he has shown flashes.
2. Contain Bowers and Washington: The Missouri secondary has been fairly efficient so far this year, but this will be a major step-up in competition. Stetson Bennett has been one of the best quarterbacks so far in the SEC and as previously mentioned, he’s got some serious weapons. Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington play a vital role in the UGA offense, as they aren’t shy to utilize the TE position. For Missouri to heighten its chances of staying in this game, it will have to take away the primary targets and force Bennett into utilizing his secondary options. Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw will have their work cut out for them, but they have proven that they can indeed hold their own. As long as Missouri makes Bennett target the outside of the field more often than not, Missouri might be able to pull this off.
3. Win the turnover battle: I’ll keep this short and sweet. Missouri is going to have to do everything in its power to force Georgia into untimely mistakes, as well as get a tad lucky. To beat the #1 team in the country, everything will have to go the Tigers’ way. I’m talking fumbles, muffed punts, tipped interceptions, etc. Blake Baker has some intriguing blitz packages and I’m positive that he will throw everything at the Georgia offense in hopes that the Tigers can steal a few possessions. While every point I have listed is crucial in hopes of knocking off the Bulldogs... this may be the most important.
On Saturday night, Missouri has the chance to shock the world. While the chances may be incredibly slim, it can be done. Just for the fun of it, I’m picking Missouri to win this game. Every dog has its day and Saturday night, Missouri will have its day.