Missouri facing UGA is not a playoff game, but there are certainly playoff-like implications. With both teams entering Saturday with two SEC losses, a third could mean elimination from the SEC East race. And falling to 4-3 begins to make bowl eligibility a much more fluid situation.
This is a must-win for both the Tigers and Dawgs.
Missouri (4-2, 1-2 SEC) at UGA (4-2, 2-2 SEC)
Kickoff time: Saturday, Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
Weather: 60 degrees, clear
Line: Mizzou -15
Series record: UGA leads 3-1
Numbers to know:
3 – The road team has won all three SEC meetings in the series, with UGA blanking Mizzou 34-0 in what was one of the worst quarterbacking performances in program history last year. Maty Mauk went 9-for-21 for 97 yards with four interceptions; his adjusted QBR was 1.9. Their last three meetings had a final margin of at least 15 points.
6 – Mizzou has won six consecutive games following a loss dating back to 2013. The Tigers’ loss to Kentucky was followed by a 24-10 win over South Carolina.
17 – Since joining the SEC, Mizzou is 17-2 when winning the turnover battle, including 10 consecutive victories.
20 – Defensive ends Charles Harris and Walter Brady have combined for 20 tackles for loss, the third highest combined total in the nation. Harris was added to the Bednarik Award watch list this week.
Storylines to watch:
Will someone step up to help Lock:
Gary Pinkel was not shy in reiterating his desire to see someone step up and give his freshman quarterback Drew Lock some help. Lock was sacked three times and hurried on five additional occurrences; his receivers also failed to make several plays that seemed routine. The Tigers rushed for just 101 yards as a team and failed to have a 100-yard rusher for the sixth consecutive game. Lock definitely has to play better, but in a system that is predicated on getting the ball out quick and letting playmakers make plays, Mizzou’s skill guys have to do just that. Through six games the Tigers are collectively averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and no receiver with at least 10 receptions is averaging more than 12.8 yards per reception.
In the trenches:
Mizzou owns the SEC’s best defense through six games, with the Tigers ranked nationally in tackles for loss (2nd), scoring defense (9th), total defense (11th) and pass defense (14th). Mizzou has also allowed just 2.9 yards per carry and held seven consecutive opponents without a 100-yard rusher. But, UGA is averaging 232 yards per game on the ground and has had a 100-yard rusher in every game this year. Losing Nick Chubb hurts, but Sony Michel is more than capable of carrying the load, which he showed last Saturday with 145 yards against Tennessee. Michel has averaged 6.7 yards per carry this year behind an offensive line that has combined to make 111 starts. Senior tackle John Theus and junior guard Greg Pyke are being projected as second- to third-round picks by CBS Sports. For as elite as Mizzou’s defense has been, this will be the best offensive line group it’s seen all year. The ability of the front four to not only contain blockers and allow Kentrell Brothers (74 tackles) to have free runs to the football, but also put pressure of Greyson Lambert without blitzing will be critical. UGA has allowed six sacks all season, while the Tigers defense has collected 18.
Few teams nationally have been better on the road than Mizzou. The Tigers have won 11 of their last 12 true road games, with the lone loss coming at Kentucky earlier this season. UGA is 77-16 at home under Mark Richt.
Prediction: UGA 27, Mizzou 17
Mizzou will prove Vegas wrong, but doesn’t have enough firepower to beat a good UGA team on the road. The Bulldogs are looking for a statement win after losing Nick Chubb to what is likely a season-ending injury. Sony Michel doesn’t have to be Chubb, just do enough to keep defenses honest and make life easier for Greyson Lambert. The Bulldogs will win and set up a huge SEC East tilt on Halloween with Florida.