COLUMBIA, Mo. -- This is not about SEC expansion, at least not for Georgia. This is not about the hype and excitement of a new team in the conference and all the pageantry that comes with it. This is not about sending a message to the newbies.
No, for the Georgia football team, Saturdays trip to Missouri, the first in program history, is about the same thing the second week in September has been about for years.
If your goal is to win championships, then you dont want to start from behind, senior nose tackle John Jenkins said.
Jenkins was alluding to a fact somewhat overlooked by the novelty of this Georgia-Missouri game. Its a division game. It might not be against South Carolina, the perceived co-favorite in the SEC East, but it could end up having as much bearing on whether the Bulldogs reach the SEC championship game.
We dont wanna sit there and have to hope someone lose, sophomore receiver Michael Bennett said. We want to control our own destiny throughout the whole year.
Georgia enters a slight favorite, although Missouri has been a popular choice to pull off the upset among many analysts.
As for the atmosphere and the trip, Georgias Christian Robinson expected it to be similar to the 2010 trip to Colorado. The colors of the home team are even the same.
I think its very similar, especially the newness of it, the new game, the new challenge, Robinson said of that game, which Georgia lost. In Colorado they were right on top of you, they were going nuts. You have to feel like its gonna be very similar. And when its time to make a play, youve gotta make it in these types of games, against opponents you dont normally play. Its gonna be a different style of offense.
The result of expansion is that Missouri, so much an unknown to the SEC, takes on immediate importance. This may have the feel of a non-conference game at first, but unlike that Colorado game, this counts in the SEC standings.
If Georgia is going to win, there appear to be three keys:
1. Stopping Missouri quarterback James Franklin. The junior runs the Tigers spread offense but is also a threat to run.
Robinson felt that after watching tape of Franklin, he thinks Franklin prefers to pass the ball.
He extends a lot of plays, whether he throws off the edge, or dropping off to a running back, Robinson said. I think Cam (Newton) liked to run the ball and tried to run people over. Whereas (Franklin) is more like a Donovan McNabb, who really wants to throw it.
2. Staying even-keel in a charged atmosphere. Faurot Field seats as many as 75,000, and while the Bulldogs are used to difficult road trips, this one has an added dimension for Missouri.
You just have to learn to deal with adversity, Robinson said. Because when the stadium gets a rocking they get excited. Its hard to stop that if youre not gonna be making those plays every down.
3. Winning the battle in the trenches. Missouri may have the spread offense, but Georgias hope is that it can physically show the Tigers what theyre in for in the SEC. That would help Georgia put pressure on Franklin and get its own running game going, led by freshman Todd Gurley.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive will be on hand to do the pregame coin toss, flying over after doing the same for Texas A&Ms conference debut against Florida.
But pageantry aside, Georgia will be happy to take any kind of victory and move on in SEC play.
To open 1-0 in the SEC would be even sweeter, said quarterback Aaron Murray, a junior. I have yet to experience that sweetness. So thats hopefully gonna happen this week.