As the SEC West continues to dominate the national spotlight, there will be a football game played in Columbia, MO on Saturday that, in large probability, could determine the fate of the SEC East.
The winner of the Missouri/Georgia game will undoubtedly have the inside track to Atlanta, especially considering South Carolina’s recent struggles. With a win, Missouri would have a two-game lead over Georgia and would be staring down the barrel of a schedule that includes only one current top-25 team (Texas A&M). Things certainly got a little easier for Mizzou’s chances on Thursday as Georgia announced that star running back Todd Gurley has been suspended for an alleged NCAA violation. Gurley was the nations’ second-leading rusher heading into the game and was a legitmate candidate to win the Heisman trophy. His loss can not be overstated, as the Bulldogs rely heavily on Gurley and the run game to take pressure off first-year starter Hutson Mason. Backups Nick Chubb (224 yards rushing on 31 carries) and Sony Michel (223 yards on 13 carries) will have to shoulder the load on Saturday as well as for the foreseeable future.
Missouri will look to take advantage of Gurley’s absence, and ride the wave of emotion that the sold-out Faurot Field crowd will be provide. The Tigers very nearly saw their season evaporate into obscurity two weeks ago before fighting back in the final minutes to shock South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium. Quarterback Maty Mauk will have two more weapons at his disposal this week as seniors Darius White and Jimmie Hunt return from injuries and will look to spark an offense that has struggled the past two games. A 2-0 start in conference play, coupled with tie-breakers over both South Carolina and Georgia would be gargantuan for a team that lost at home to Indiana three weeks ago.
- Control the clock. Missouri is given up five 100 yard rushers this season. If Georgia can keep the tempo down and keep the Tiger offense off the field, then the Bulldogs have an excellent chance even without Gurley.
- Don’t turn it over. The Mizzou defense likes to take the ball away from opponents…a lot. They haven’t been able to force one for two games now and that must continue for Georgia to emerge victorious Saturday.
- Hutson Mason. Mason only slings it about 18 times a game. He has been somewhat efficient but is still lacking big plays in the passing game. When he throws it on Saturday, it must hurt Missouri or Georgia will be playing from behind the entire way.
- Rush defense. Mizzou has already given up more 100 yard rushers through five games this season than they did in all of 2013. The Tigers must find a way to get Georgia off the field, especially on third downs, to win this game.
- Good Maty. We’ve seen both good and bad Maty Mauk this season and Saturday is the biggest game of the year for the team and Mauk. He will have his full compliment of receivers and could have a big day against Georgia’s depleted secondary.
- Excel in the moment. A sold-out crowd, national television audience and the possibility of becoming the odds-on favorites to win the SEC East. What could possibly go wrong? Mizzou must own this opportunity.
Missouri 31 Georgia 27. Missouri gets a solid outing from its offense and the absence of Todd Gurley becomes too much for Georgia to overcome as the Tigers win a close on in Columbia.