No. 1 Georgia expects major test from No. 14 Missouri

Field Level Media

October 30, 2023 at 6:08 pm.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart wants to make certain his No. 1-ranked Bulldogs respect the tenacious defense of their next opponent, No. 14 Missouri.

“One of the best defenses we’ve played against since we’ve been here,” Smart said. “They were just dominant. Just love the style of play they have. They’re aggressive, get after you.”

“Unique” was the buzzword from Smart on Monday as he discussed the Tigers, who nearly pulled the upset on their home field in Columbia on Oct. 1, 2022, but lost a 19-12 lead in the fourth quarter and fell 26-22. Missouri travels to Athens, Ga., for Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs.

Missouri (7-1) enters rested off of its bye week. The Tigers’ lone loss this season came against LSU, 49-39, on Oct. 7. Missouri led that game 32-27 at the start of the fourth quarter.

“We thought they were really good last year when we went to play them, and that proved to be true,” Smart said.

Because of the combination of experience and success Missouri has, the Bulldogs are expecting a slim margin for error.

Georgia ranks seventh in the country in points allowed — 14.75 per game — and Missouri (52nd) gives up 23.25 points per game. The Bulldogs are eighth in total defense (272.1 yards per game); Missouri is 37th (338.2 yards per game).

“You do your best to stop the things they do well. You talk about weapons — their quarterback is a weapon. And (they have) a very unique run game that is kind of unmatched in the SEC. When you add all that in, it’s a recipe for being explosive and scoring points,” Smart said of Missouri. “They’re not easy to stop with an accurate quarterback and explosive, athletic skill players.”

Missouri senior quarterback Brady Cook is 11th and one spot ahead of Georgia’s Carson Beck in passing efficiency in the nation this season. Cook has 15 touchdown passes and three interceptions.

“It starts with quarterback. … You’ve got a good quarterback, you’ve got a chance,” Smart said.

Smart is counting on Beck to continue making the right decisions and keeping Georgia out of problem scenarios.

“He’s bright, played a lot of snaps, and more experienced than he’s getting credit for. He’s got all the trades of a guy who can win a game with his arm, and mind and his feet if he has to,” Smart said. “Just continuing to improve is the goal.”

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