The story of the week in Athens is injuries, as the team lost several players in their difficult win over Tennessee last Saturday. However, they have a tough task at hand (no matter who takes the field on offense) against the 25th-ranked Missouri Tigers, so let’s take a look at what to expect Between the Hedges.
Opponent: Missouri Tigers (5-0, 1-0 in SEC)
Time/TV: Noon, ESPN
Georgia Offense vs. Missouri Defense
As we stated above, the Georgia offense is decimated by injuries at the moment. Both Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley have been ruled out for the season, Michael Bennett had surgery with no definite timetable for returning, and even Todd Gurley has been considered doubtful for Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, the Bulldogs still have Aaron Murray.
Georgia enters the game with some of the best offensive numbers in the country, and while Gurley may be the best player on the unit, Murray is unquestionably the most valuable. The senior QB is completing 65% of his passes, has a 14-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and is averaging over 300 yards per game in the air. In short, he’s pretty good.
He’ll be flanked by two freshmen in the backfield (if Gurley can’t go) as JJ Green and Brendan Douglas will get the carries. Green was electric in the Tennessee game, toting the rock 17 times for 129 yards, and there didn’t seem to be that much of a drop-off from Gurley/Marshall to the young back. Douglas got 10 touches against Tennessee, but only averaged 2.5 yards per carry, and it’s fairly clear, both from pedigree and performance, that Green is the one to watch here.
Through the air, Georgia is down to Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley as their primary receivers, but as long as both guys remain upright, they should be satisfactory. Both guys have performed extremely well when called upon this season, and that duo, along with Arthur Lynch, is going to have a lot on their plate.
Missouri’s defense has been solid in points allowed this season (22.4 per game, good for 41st in the country), but they’re also allowing over 400 yards of total offense on average, and that could be an issue. They are in the bottom tier nationally among passing defenses (291.8 yards per game), and that should translate into a monster day from the Heisman candidate in Aaron Murray, no matter who he is forced to throw the ball to.
Georgia Defense vs. Missouri Offense
Compared to the other side of the ball, this looks like a massive challenge for the Bulldogs. Missouri enters the game ranked in the top-35 nationally in both passing and rushing yards (7th in total offense), and the Tigers are averaging over 46 points per game. Granted, their schedule has included virtually no one, but they did manage to hang 45+ points on two “major conference” teams in Indiana and Vanderbilt.
Quarterback James Franklin seems like he’s been on campus forever, but he’s been fantastic this year. In 5 games, he has over 1,400 yards through the air, 278 yards on the ground, and 15 total touchdowns against only 3 interceptions. This is a large jump in competition for him, however, as Georgia will present athletes (read: speed) that he hasn’t encountered thus far in 2013.
The Bulldog defense still ranks 95th in the country in points allowed (32.2 per game), but when you take on offenses like Clemson and LSU, that taints things a bit. Still, the injury bug has bitten Georgia on defense a bit in recent days as well (although nothing like the offense), and Missouri is capable of putting up 30+ points, even on the road.
Because Georgia is playing at home, there is a certain level of comfort in this spot. However, Missouri’s offense makes this a very dangerous game for the Bulldogs, and they simply can’t afford another loss of any kind to stay alive in the National Championship discussion. Look for Aaron Murray to have yet another fantastic day, while the defense struggles to keep things under control. I’d expect a game played in the 30′s and 40′s with Georgia finishing with a semi-comfortable victory.
Stay tuned for post-game coverage, and a live game thread that will open on Saturday morning. Check it out!