On Saturday (6:45 P.M., ESPN2) the #7 Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) will invade Faurot Field to take on the Missouri Tigers (1-0) in Missouri's first-ever SEC Conference game. Georgia is coming off of a season-opening 45-23 win over Buffalo.
On Sunday, Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt turned his attention toward Missouri.
"Like everybody else who's playing their first SEC game, we're very excited about it. We know the importance of it," said Coach Richt. "It's a huge game for us, no doubt. We've got our goals, and Missouri has their goals……………………………………… It's going to be a monster game!"
"It's a very historic Saturday for the University of Missouri," said Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel. "Our fans have been waiting for this for a long time……………………………………….. It's the first SEC game, the first conference game in the ZOU, in our stadium. So, it's a very historic game. Oh, and by the way, we're playing a great football team like Georgia! We're excited about having them in here. And, certainly we have great respect for Georgia and the job that Mark Richt has done."
Georgia is one of a few college football programs that enjoy a built-in recruiting advantage, and that recruiting advantage has resulted in a Georgia roster that is very, very talented. At full strength on the field, the Bulldogs are one of the more complete teams in the SEC and in the country. They have tremendous size up front on both sides of the football. They're very fast and athletic, and on offense, they have tremendous skill position players.
Freshman running back Todd Gurley 6'1" 218 had a break-out performance in his first college game against Buffalo, with 100 yards and 2 TDs rushing on just 8 carries, in addition to a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD. He was named the week one SEC Co-Freshman Player of the Week, along with Alabama's T.J. Yeldon.
"Todd Gurley was impressive, no doubt," said Coach Richt. "What people saw in the game was about what we saw every time we scrimmaged. He was a good tackle-breaker, got better speed than you'd think for a big man, and just got a knack for finding it………………………………………… We'd definitely like to see him touch the ball more than he did last game."
Junior QB Aaron Murray 6'1" 210 is one of the SEC's top signal callers. Not known as a runner, Murray is nevertheless capable of picking up yards on the scramble. Against Buffalo, Murray was 15-26-0 passing for 258 yards and 3 TDs, for a passer efficiency rating of 179.12.
Georgia utilizes a lot of I-formation, but will also line up in a pro set. Their objective appears to be to pound the football between the tackles. Gurley is joined at the running back position by fellow freshman Keith Marshall 5'11" 216 (10carries for 46 yards rushing), and sophomore Ken Malcome 6'0" 224 (6 carries for 42 yards rushing).
Play action constitutes a large part of Georgia's passing game. Against Buffalo, Gurley and company found plenty of room to run, and when Murray faked the handoff, he had a lot of time in the pocket to survey the field.
"I'm very impressed with Aaron Murray," said Coach Pinkel. "He's a very experienced player. They're utilizing his ability. He can throw. He's good at throwing the long ball. Then, the people he's got around him are playmakers. They make plays and they run after the catch. And, they've got great speed."
Murray is throwing the football to a very talented group, headlined by senior flanker Tavarres King 6'1" 200 (6 receptions for 117 yards and 1 TD), sophomore Michael Bennett 6'3" 204 (5 receptions for 76 yards and 1 TD), and junior Rantavious Wooten 5'10" 179 (2 receptions for 45 yards and 1 TD).
Georgia's offensive line is big and talented. Their starting unit averages 6'4" and 309 pounds. Coach Pinkel said that Georgia has a "very, very good offensive line". They like to run, run, run to set up their play-action passing attack.
Georgia takes great pride in the quality of their defense. Their base defense features a 3-man front, and they're certainly not lacking in size up front.
Senior DE Abry Jones 6'3' 308 , senior N John Jenkins 6'3" 358 , and senior DE Cornelius Washington 6'4" 268 are the starters, and they're backed up by junior DE Garrison Smith 6'3" 297, junior N Kwame Geathers 6'6" 355, and sophomore DE Ray Drew 6'5" 284.
Junior OLB Jarvis Jones 6'3" 241 is an outstanding talent who will almost always line up as a pass rushing defensive end. He led Georgia with 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 6 QB pressures last week. Georgia's defensive scheme and their defensive personnel allow them to be very multiple and to do a lot of different things up front. They're not so much a blitzing team, but Jarvis Jones will be rushing the QB.
"They're big and fast, and they're very athletic," said Missouri Offensive Coordinator David Yost, talking about Georgia's defensive front. "They have a very good scheme, and they really attack. Their ends are high-level rush guys."
Coach Yost compared Jarvis Jones to former Texas A&M sack master Von Miller. Like Miller was at A&M, Jones is listed as an OLB, but against Missouri, he'll look more like a 4-3 defensive end. He's just a great player. In effect, with Jarvis Jones rushing the QB, Georgia's 3-man front will play like a 4-man front. When sophomore OLB Ramik Wilson 6'2" 234 is on the field, he too will often walk up to the line of scrimmage, giving Georgia a 5-man front. Against Buffalo, Georgia played a lot of nickel personnel, which is probably what we will see them do against Missouri. When the Bulldogs brought out a third corner against Buffalo, it was usually Wilson who left the field.
Their LBs are big and fast, as well. Junior ILB Alec Ogletree 6'3" 232 sat out last week due to a suspension. So did senior All-American FS Bacarri Rambo 6'0" 210. Coach Richt said on Wednesday that he won't announce their playing status for this game in advance, although it should be known by Friday whether or not they have traveled to Missouri. Senior ILB Christian Robinson 6'2" 235 stepped into Ogletree's spot last week and he recorded 5 tackles.
Sophomore back-up corner Damian Swann 5'11" 189 played extensively, and registered 8 tackles against Buffalo, and senior starting ILB Michael Gilliard 6'2" 230 posted 7 tackles in that game.
Sophomore corner Malcolm Mitchell 6'1" 192 has been slowed by an ankle injury and is questionable for the Missouri game. At mid-week, he was reportedly limited in practice, but on Wednesday Coach Richt said that he was encouraged regarding Mitchell's availability for Saturday. Senior Branden Smith 5'11" 182 provides experience at the other corner.
"That's a match-up concern for us," said Coach Richt, talking about his depleted secondary facing Missouri's talented receiver corps. "We don't know for sure about Malcolm Mitchell and his availability. We're just a little bit depleted there. Our young guys have to step up and play well. It's going to be interesting to see how that comes out. It's one of those things where guys have got to rise up and play well."
The Bulldogs will be relying on red-shirt freshman CB Devin Bowman 6'0" 180 in that match-up against Missouri.
"Devin (Bowman) will have a great challenge this weekend for sure," said Coach Richt. "All of our corners and defensive backs will. Missouri has these outstanding receivers that are really good at what they do. Our corners have to play up and get after it, and that's where they have to use their quickness and their toughness and ball skills to take care of business."
Coach Richt expressed the importance for the Bulldogs of shutting down Missouri's running game. He'd like to make the Tigers more one-dimensional on offense and be able to unleash Jarvis Jones and his pass rushers into the Missouri backfield.
"You hope to stop the running game, period," explained Coach Richt. "Every quarterback's friend is a good running game. And, (Missouri) does a great job of running the football, and of course James Franklin is a part of that running game. But your traditional run, your tailback run, we've got to do a good job of stopping that, or at least slowing it down………………………………………………….. Then, when we get them in passing situations, we need to be able to put pressure on (Franklin), but be able to do it in such a way that keeps him contained. But, that's tough to do…………………………………………….… We've just got to make sure that we're real disciplined in our rush lanes."
[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]
452.00 [40th]___ Total Offense___ 485.00 [33rd]
261.00 [22nd]___Rushing Offense__ 227.00 [28th]
3____________TDs Rushing___________ 2
191.00 [74th]___Passing Offense_ _ 258.00 [38th]
156.29 [28th]__ Passing Efficiency__ 172.53 [15th]
2____________TDs Passing___________ 3
62.00 [6th]_____Scoring Offense___ 45.00 [24th]
223.00 [16th]___ Total Defense__ 347.00 [T-52nd]
58.00 [17th]___ Rushing Defense__ 199.00 [77th]
0_________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 2
165.00 [33rd]___Passing Defense__ 148.00 [24th]
106.39 [37th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 118.93 [50th]
1_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 1
10.00 [18th]____Scoring Defense___ 23.00 [61st]
+4.00 [2nd]___ Turnover Margin____0.00 [49th]
1 / 0________ Fumbles/Lost________ 1 / 0
0_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 0
1_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 0
56.00 [6th]____Kickoff Return Avg._ _ 35.75 [13th]
36.00 [5th]____ Punt Return Avg.___ 19.50 [13th]
25.33 [97th]___ Net Punting Avg.___ 27.80 [93rd]
4.00 [T-10th]_____Sacks By_____2.00 [T-35th]
1.00 [T-29th]___ Sacks Allowed____3.00 [T-83rd]
25:33 [95th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 27:53 [73rd]
30.0% [T-88th]__3rd Down Conv.__50.0% [T-31st]
50.0% [T-42nd]__4th Down Conv._________n/a