No, SEC Nation won’t be there, but it’s a rare primetime conference tilt at Faurot Fiel — and a sellout crowd could be expected. Kick-off on Saturday is set for 6:30 p.m. CST on the SEC Network with COMO’s Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst), and Cole Cubelic (sideline reporter) on the call.
While it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Georgia is going to win this game, we’ll talk about it anyway! To get a Georgia perspective, we talked it over with Palmer Thombs from Dawgs HQ of On3 Sports. Here’s the Q and A:
Sammy Stava: Georgia lost a record-breaking 15 players to the NFL Draft last season, but the defending National Champions are still No. 1 for a good reason. Is it possible that this team is better than last year’s?
Palmer Thombs: I do think it’s possible, not probable though. If that is the case, it’s because of the improvements that Georgia has made on the offensive side of the football. Todd Monken is dialing up things the right way right now, and it helps to have a veteran quarterback surrounded by playmakers like Brock Bowers. While the offense has taken leaps and bounds forward, there’s no doubt that the defense has taken a little bit of a step back. That’s not to say that they aren’t talented, but they are young. Last year’s group was experienced and talented. This year’s group is getting there in the experience category with some players in the group (i.e. Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, Chris Smith, Kelee Ringo) already fitting that bill.
SS: Are there any concerns after a 39-22 win last week over Kent State?
PT: To me, and it has seemed like to Kirby Smart too, there really aren’t concerns. When you turn the ball over like Georgia did, you are going to be in games closer on the scoreboard than they should be. That’s just what happened when you give the other team more opportunities that yourself. The Bulldogs have been the beneficiary of that at times. I don’t think that they are 46 points better than Oregon, but the scoreboard said so largely in part due to two turnovers in the first half from Oregon. So, if Georgia doesn’t turn the ball over, it’s probably a lot more than 17 points better than Kent State. And even with the turnovers, there were still missed opportunities. Georgia kicked field goals three times after getting inside the Kent State 20. Mistakes happen, but if you change a couple of those into touchdowns and don’t turn the ball over as many times, there’s not a ton of reason to be concerned.
SS: If there are any, what are the biggest weaknesses on this Georgia team that Mizzou might exploit and make this game somewhat interesting?
PT: It sounds silly to say but it’s hard to find a weakness that Missouri might be able to exploit. I think that there are absolutely areas that could be improved, but to call them a weakness would be an exaggeration. And it might come across as greedy if you are a Georgia fan wanting to see improvement in areas like ‘explosiveness in the run game.’ Georgia’s interior offensive line could absolutely be better, and as a result the run game has been less than stellar at times. That’s been apparent in the red zone. So, if I were to pick one, it would probably be inside pressure. It’s also worth keeping an eye on who lines up at STAR for Georgia. Javon Bullard has started the first four games of the season there and has played well, but he was arrested over the weekend for a DUI. His availability for Saturday is uncertain, so if the Bulldogs have to turn to a second option there - maybe moving pieces around in the secondary to find that replacement - there could be a weaker spot somewhere on the back end of Georgia’s defense.
SS: Is tight end Brock Bowers a legitimate candidate right now for the Heisman Trophy?
PT: I think at this point in time, you have to consider Brock Bowers a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He just does special things. And normally if a tight end were to be considered, his quarterback would be too, but in the case of Bowers, Georgia is getting the ball to him in different ways than just throwing it to him traditionally. Bowers has had multiple touchdowns in two straight games. If he can keep that pace, he’s a contender. He also had two games that Georgia just didn’t use him as much. But when Bowers is being used, there aren’t many players more impactful or better than him in the country which to me means he should be in the conversation for the Heisman.
SS: Georgia leads the all-time series for Mizzou 10-1, but there have been some close calls, most notably with the Bulldogs winning 9-6 in 2015 and 28-27 in 2016. After back-to-back trips to the SEC Championship Game, it’s been a rough stretch for the Tigers to get back to relevancy, but what does the UGA fanbase think of Mizzou being in the SEC?
PT: In all honesty, I don’t know of many Georgia fans that think about Missouri in the SEC all that much. It’s not a road trip that many have made and like you said, the series hasn’t been all that close. Of course, that could change, but Georgia plays so many rivals on an annual basis (Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia Tech) that until the Tigers are back to relevancy like you said, it’s just another game for the Bulldogs.
SS: What is your final score prediction on Saturday? The spread is currently Georgia by 28. How much does UGA win by?
PT: Georgia 41, Missouri 10