Missouri at Georgia

Sports Xchange

October 11, 2017 at 1:27 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
TV: SEC Network
SERIES: Georgia leads 5-1. The Bulldogs won 28-27 in 2016.
RANKINGS: Georgia No. 4

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tigers

–RB Ish Witter ran for a season-high 139 yards on 17 attempts (8.2 avg.) in the loss to Kentucky. RB Damarea Crockett was almost just as effective, gaining 74 yards on 12 carries (6.2) average. As a team, Mizzou averaged 6.5 yards per carry in the loss.

–WR J’Mon Moore hauled in a season-high seven catches for 86 yards in the loss to the Wildcats. The senior now has 1,793 yards, ranking 10th in school history, and has caught a pass in 22 consecutive games.

–LB Terez Hall had a career-high 10 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, against Kentucky. A junior, Hall’s 6.5 TFLs through five games are already the most for a Mizzou linebacker since current Minnesota Viking Kentrell Brothers had 12 in 2015.

–S Ronnell Perkins made his first start of the season last week against Kentucky and responded with a career-best 10 tackles. He was named to the All-SEC Freshman team in 2016 when he started four of 12 games and finished with 43 tackles and three pass breakups.

Bulldogs

–RB Nick Chubb is the leading rusher in the SEC with 618 yards and last week became the seventh-leading rusher in SEC history, surpassing the 4,000-yard mark (4,042) with his 138-yard effort at Vanderbilt. He is well on pace for the third 1,000-yard rushing season of his career and would have been going for four had a knee injury not limited his 2015 season to six games and 747 yards.

–WR Terry Godwin only has 12 receptions for the Bulldogs this year, but of those 12 catches, five have gone for touchdowns. He is averaging 27.2 yards per catch to lead all FBS teams in the category.

–S J.R. Reed is fitting right in after sitting out 2016 following his transfer from Tulsa. A sophomore, Reed is second behind Smith in tackles with 32 and is fourth on the team in tackles for loss with 3.5. He also has an interception and has broken up three other passes.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Georgia’s task this week comes down to the constant reminder from coaches: Don’t look past your opponent.

The No. 4 Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) will be looking to go to 7-0 for the first time since 2005 when they are host to a struggling Missouri team Saturday. The Tigers (1-4, 0-3 SEC) have lost four in a row. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Sanford Stadium in Athens. The SEC Network will carry the game.

The last time the Bulldogs started off a season with seven consecutive wins is also the last time the Bulldogs won the SEC championship. But coach Kirby Smart is thinking about that or his team rise in the polls from No. 15 in the preseason.

“We don’t talk about what we’re ranked,” Smart said. “We didn’t talk about what we were ranked last week. There’s really no difference because none of it matters. All we talk about is a race.

“The race is after the 50-meter mark and that’s where the race is. I don’t know one person that ever talked about (Justin) Gatlin being ahead of (Usain) Bolt at the 50-meter mark. Nobody cared. They only care about where you finish and they only care about what you do next. That’s our objective — to do what’s next.”

Georgia ranks first in the SEC in total defense (third nationally), allowing just 242.7 yards per game. The Bulldogs are also fifth in the NCAA against the run (86 yards per game) and 10th against the pass (156.7), while the offense is bolstered by a punishing ground attack that ranks 11th in the nation, averaging 268.3 yards per game.

Missouri, meanwhile, is struggling defensively as much — if not more — than of any of the 14 teams in the SEC. The Tigers are allowing 40.0 points per game.

Their only win was over an FCS opponent, Missouri State 72-43 in the season-opener, and last week they dropped a heartbreaking 40-34 decision to Kentucky, a game in which the Tigers overcame a 13-0 deficit to tie the game twice in the second half.

Turnovers again proved costly for Mizzou. The Tigers’ two miscues (both fumbles) were converted into 14 points by Kentucky, but Missouri couldn’t turn its one interception into points.

“All losses are difficult and hard, but this one hurt a little more because our preparation and the fact everybody was buying in,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “We had some very competitive practices going into the bye week, and felt every one of our guys was prepared and invested as a team to be successful.

“We just came up short. It hurts but that is probably a good thing because it shows we’ve got guys who care. We’ve made some progress, we’ve just got to break down a wall.”

As Smart is quick to point out, the Tigers can play some offense.

Led by quarterback Drew Lock, Missouri is averaging 469.8 yards per game (294 yards passing, 175.8 rushing) and averaging 27.2 points per game. But so much of those numbers are boosted by the game against FCS Missouri State. Against four Power Five conference teams, the Tigers are averaging just 16 points.

“My first thing is that I would say people mistake Mizzou,” Smart said. “Mizzou is a very 50/50 balanced team and a lot of the passes you see from Mizzou are RPOs, which are dictated by what the defense does — so they are a designed run with a pass attached.

“They are a very, very good running football team when it comes to execution. They get people out of the box. they spread you out and then they attack you.

“If you do not control the run game, it will be a long night because they will just do that. Now, can they throw the ball vertically down the field? Yes. They throw it well and they have some weapons to do it with.”

Georgia counters with a tenacious front seven, led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who has a team-high 45 tackles.

Missouri will have to deal with a Georgia running game that gashed Vanderbilt for 423 rushing yards, 138 from senior Nick Chubb, who ranks seventh in SEC history with 4,042 yards. Teammate Sony Michel led the way with 150 against the Commodores.

True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has been poised and efficient, completing 57 of 95 passes for 836 yards, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

“They’ve got as good a stable of backs as anybody in the country,” Odom said. “They play tough and physical on the offensive line, and their quarterback is playing well. We’ve got our work cut out.”