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Missouri vs. Georgia Football Prediction and Preview

Zamir White, Georgia Bulldogs Football

Zamir White and the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs look to stay undefeated against a Tigers team that may be without their starting quarterback

No surprise to anyone that the first edition of the College Football Playoff rankings featured the Georgia Bulldogs as the No. 1 team in the country, who will look to continue their unbeaten season on Saturday against the Missouri Tigers.

The Dawgs (8-0, 6-0 SEC) remained undefeated after blowing out rival Florida last weekend, and as has been the case for much of the season, it was the defense that led the way, forcing three miscues by the Gator offense that led to three touchdowns during a 12-play sequence. With a win and a loss by Kentucky (at home vs. Tennessee), Georgia will wrap up the SEC East Division title, but their sights are set on goals much higher than that.

Missouri (4-4, 1-3) notched its first conference win of the year last week against Vanderbilt but needed a career-high 254 rushing yards from star running back Tyler Badie to get the nine-point victory. The Tigers don't have many issues scoring this season, ranking sixth in the SEC at 34.8 points per game, but the defense is having trouble stopping anyone on the ground, including allowing a nation-worst 284 rushing yards per contest.

Missouri at No. 1 Georgia

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Georgia -38

When Missouri Has the Ball

During head coach Eli Drinkwitz's press conference on Tuesday, he was apparently asked 11 different times by reporters about who his starting quarterback would be this weekend. And by the end of the presser, we still don't have any clarity. Starting quarterback Connor Bazelak suffered a soft tissue injury in the win over Vanderbilt and was replaced on the final two drives by true freshman Tyler Macon. Drinkwitz didn't hint at who would start in place of Bazelak should he miss Saturday, nor did he confirm whether or not Bazelak would be able to practice this week. In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter against the No. 2 pass defense in the country, which has surrendered just three touchdown passes all season — the fewest in the nation.

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Whoever starts at quarterback will have one safety blanket to lean on in Badie, who has been one of the best offensive players in the country this season, averaging 124 yards per game on the ground. He's also first on the Tigers with 40 receptions and four receiving touchdowns. Primarily a third-down back in his first three seasons, Badie packed on weight this offseason knowing he would be counted on as the team's bell-cow ball carrier, and the work has paid off. Georgia will have to account for Badie in the passing game, but running room could be hard to come by for the senior, as the Bulldogs are second nationally in rushing defense and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all year.

When Georgia Has the Ball

It's a similar situation for Georgia, as we must wait to see if it will be Stetson Bennett or JT Daniels who starts at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Asked earlier this week if Bennett will start again, head coach Kirby Smart gave a non-answer, stating that he's pleased where both quarterbacks are at and that both doing a great job. Daniels has not played since Week 4 after suffering a muscle strain, but he has ramped up his reps with the first-team offense during practices over the last few weeks. Bennett has played well in relief but has limitations as a passer, and those showed against Florida last Saturday with two interceptions. Daniels probably won't be needed for this game, but for Georgia to accomplish its lofty goals by the end of the season, the former USC transfer needs to be the guy under center.

All that said, Georgia may not even have to throw the ball against Missouri on Saturday, as the Tigers are fielding one of the worst rush defenses in program history. How bad has it been? Try 283 rushing yards per game allowed, with every team running for at least 174. There also are the 22 rushing touchdowns yielded and the 6.26 yards per carry allowed. When FCS Southeast Missouri State is averaging eight yards a carry against you, that means major problems. We'll likely see Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, and probably fifth-stringer Sevaughn Clark each getting a few carries on Saturday. And given the way the season has played out, don't be surprised if all of them are successful churning out yards against this defensive front.

Final Analysis

This has the feel of a trap game for Georgia. Not that there is any shot of the Bulldogs losing to Missouri at home, but the matchup is sandwiched between last week's rivalry game with Florida and another one the following week when the Dawgs go to Knoxville to play Tennessee. Will the Tigers have Georgia's full attention? Even so, there's still just a minimal chance that Missouri pulls off the upset here, and that drops to zero if Bazelak does not play.

Prediction: Georgia 45, Missouri 10

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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.