Since joining the Southeastern Conference, the Missouri Tigers are 1-1 against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs beat them in their house two years ago, and Missouri took care of business in Sanford Stadium last season.
Interesting to note, the winner of this game the past two seasons has gone on to win the SEC East. Whether or not this is the start of a trend could be seen this year.
In both recent games, the losing team has been without key members of the team due to injury. Which of course means, both sides have whined that “you wouldn’t have won if we had….”. I say, injuries are part of football. Deal with it.
This year the game is back in Missouri, on Oct. 11, and the Bulldogs will have faced a much tougher schedule to that point, taking on Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers open their season with South Dakota State, Toledo, UCF, Indiana and South Carolina.
Georgia is going to bring their A-game to Columbia, Mo., and if they do they could be solidly in front of the SEC East at the midway point of the season.
Missouri Key Departures
OFFENSE: James Franklin-QB, Marcus Lucas-WR, L’Damian Washington-WR, Eric Waters-TE, Justin Britt-OT, Max Copeland-OG, Dorial Green-Beckham-WR, Henry Josey-TB
DEFENSE: Michael Sam-DE, Donovan Bonner-SLB, Andrew Wilson-MLB, E.J. Gaines-CB, Randy Ponder-CB, Matt White-FS, Kony Ealy-DE
Missouri graduated practically an entire team, many of them All-Conference players. They showed they could win games without James Franklin under center, but who is QB Maty Mauk going to throw the ball to this year? Almost the entire WR/TE corps is gone, and Green-Beckham – who was dismissed from the team – was by far the Tigers’ biggest threat.
An improved (although depleted) Georgia defense should be able to put the brakes on Missouri’s offense.
Defensively, the Tigers really got hit hard. Losing Michael Sam and Kony Ealy means basically losing their excellent pass rush from both ends, and their secondary – which was terrible last year – doesn’t look to be any better.
Missouri Key Returning Players
OFFENSE: Maty Mauk – QB, Bud Sasser – WR, Mitch Morse – OT, Evan Boehm – C, Connor McGovern – OT
DEFENSE: Matt Hoch – NT, Markus Golden – DE, Lucas Vincent – DT, Kentrell Brothers – LB, Braylon Webb – SS, Ian Simon – FS
The Tigers will be glad to have Mauk playing QB, but the offense isn’t going to be nearly as potent as last season. The running game is going to be a big question mark, with junior Russell Hansbrough leading the depth chart at tailback right now. He’s a serviceable back, but not an explosive home run hitter. The wide receiver corps will have a few returning seniors, but none with any starting experience or near the talent of the trio who are now gone. The one thing the Tigers do have is an experienced and quality offensive line, with three starters returning.
Defensively, Markus Golden has been moved from OLB to DE, and will be counted on to become the team’s sack threat. He’s going to do well, and may be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year when its all over, but he doesn’t have much in the way of a supporting cast. The inside of the defensive line is still solid, but the linebackers and cornerbacks could be exploited. It may be a long season for this defense.
Missouri Suspended Players
As if their secondary wasn’t bad enough, both Aarion Penton (CB) and Shaun Rupert (S) were arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession in March, and were suspended indefinitely. Penton is a potential starter at corner, while Rupert is likely 2nd or 3rd team. If their suspensions continue through the season, it will likely only be for a game or two, so they’d probably be able to suit up for the game against Georgia. However, lost time on the field is important, especially at corner, so it may or may not have an impact.
Missouri Possible Impact Incoming Freshman
The Tigers had the 13th ranked recruiting class in the conference for 2014, without a lot in the way of true impact freshman to speak of. 4-star OT Andy Bauer will give Missouri depth, but both starting tackle positions are filled with returning starters. It’s doubtful that Bauer sees much action.
4-star linebacker Brandon Lee will have a good shot at making the first team, and he could provide some help that’s needed in pass support for a very poor secondary. The Tigers have seven defensive backs coming in, but its hard to see any of them providing much of a boost to their poor pass defense.
Mizzou also has several new wide receivers joining the team this fall, but really only 4-star player Nate Brown looks to be a viable starter for this season.
Basically the Tigers have a lot of holes, and just didn’t recruit the firepower to fill many of them.
Outlook for Game
In the last two years, both games have ended up as blowouts. Missouri put Georgia away early last season, and you can probably count on the Bulldogs returning the favor this year. The Tigers simply don’t have the defense in place to deal with all the offensive threats the healthy Bulldogs can bring, and on offense they lack the big play threat that would strike at the Dawgs likely weakness.
A big early lead, and a double-digit victory will keep this newly formed SEC rivalry in favor of the visiting team. Barring any catastrophic injury, its safe to bet on the Dawgs to take this one by at least 14.