Georgia Bulldogs vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction

Mizzou is stout up front. That could pose a problem for Nick Chubb and Georgia's running game.

Georgia and Missouri were both polar opposites from their usual selves in week two. The Bulldogs, on one hand, followed up an impressive neutral site win over North Carolina in their opener with a lackluster showing against Nicholls State, narrowly escaping 26-24. The 'Dawgs had three turnovers and managed only 167 rushing yards with arguably the SEC's best running back. Still, a win is a win.

 

Mizzou, on the other hand, piled up nearly 650 yards of offense and scored 61 points, something it hasn't done in a long time. The Tigers were playing a pretty inferior Eastern Michigan team, but that's still quite an achievement for Missouri's offense and it should build confidence. Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock was phenomenal, throwing for 450 yards and tying a school record with five touchdown passes.

 

This week's matchup should be interesting. Many are picking Mizzou to score the upset in Columbia. The Tigers match up pretty well in this game and could certainly disrupt the line of scrimmage at the least. Plus, if Lock looks anything like he did last week, Georgia's secondary could be in big trouble. Still, the 'Dawgs are more talented and have aspirations of getting to the SEC Championship Game in December.

 

Georgia won last year's defensive struggle in Athens, 9-6. That should bode well for a Missouri team with an improved offense at home. However, since the teams began playing every year when Mizzou joined the SEC in 2012, the Tigers haven't had much luck against Georgia at home. The 'Dawgs have won three of the four meetings overall since 2012, and have won by at least 21 each time in Columbia.

 

Georgia at Missouri

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Georgia -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Drew Lock vs. Georgia's Secondary

The fact that Lock threw for 450 yards last week is extremely impressive. Forget the competition. Missouri has needed a boost like that on offense for so long. Maybe all it needed was that spark. Let's not forget that this team went a month without scoring a touchdown last season. Now that the confidence is there, it will be interesting to see if the Tigers can keep it up. Georgia was prolific in the secondary last year, finishing first in the SEC in pass defense. The Bulldogs allowed only 156.5 yards per game through the air and haven't fallen off that mark at all so far in 2016. Georgia's defensive backfield will be one of the biggest challenges for Missouri's air attack, so if the Tigers can find success in this one, watch out SEC East.

 

2. UGA's Quarterbacks

Georgia still hasn't decided on its quarterback. True freshman Jacob Eason started against Nicholls State and wasn't terrible, but he didn't play nearly at the level he's capable of. He completed a little more than half of his passes against the Colonels and threw a costly interception. However, he did throw for more than 200 yards. Greyson Lambert hasn't played much this season but he has been efficient in limited snaps. At some point, one of these guys needs to emerge with a big game through the air. Georgia's pass protection will need to be at its best to protect its quarterbacks in this game. Missouri's defensive line is full of capable pass rushers, but if Eason and/or Lambert have time, there should be opportunities to make plays through the air.

 

3. Nick Chubb vs. Mizzou's Front Seven

Speaking of that Mizzou defensive line... this is the key matchup of the game, and it also could be the Tigers' biggest advantage. Missouri has arguably one of the SEC's best front sevens. Sure, Alabama is deeper but when looking at just the starters, wow. Between Charles Harris and Terry Beckner Jr. on the line and Michael Scherer at linebacker, Mizzou is hard to penetrate up front. But Nick Chubb is a force at running back. Georgia didn't have him in this game last year and only rushed for 120 yards. You have to think Chubb will be ready to make a statement after last week's performance. How much of a difference will his presence on the field make?

 

Final Analysis

 

Missouri may be equipped to stop Georgia at the line of scrimmage and the Tigers also may be equipped to get after Georgia's quarterbacks. Good defense wins you games. That's why this is such a popular upset pick this week. However, what many are overlooking is the fact that Georgia is equipped to shut down opposing passing attacks. As great as Lock looked last week against Eastern Michigan, it's hard to envision he'll have the same success against the 'Dawgs. And he's the heartbeat of that offense right now. So if Georgia shuts down Lock, this one is over. Defense is great — and yes, it still wins championships — but you have to score points too, and I don't see Mizzou scoring as many on Georgia.

 

Prediction: Georgia 24, Missouri 16   

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

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