St. LOUIS, Mo. - When the Georgia football team arrived in Missouri on Friday afternoon, it was greeted by a storm of hail and thunder. That's not speaking proverbial about Tiger fans: Literally, a storm, which also made its way here, where I'm staying, and provided a good welcome to those rolling Midwest storms.
But the forecast is much better today. It's sunny and warm this morning, and supposed to be clear and in the low 70s/high 60s at kickoff tonight. That is, unless the Big 12 can get any last-minute favors from above.
Whatever the weather, Georgia will be happy to get in and out of here with a win. We know now that Bacarri Rambo, Alec Ogletree, Sanders Commings and Chase Vasser will be out. Technically that makes four defensive starters, although Vasser's status is a little tenuous. But we're also still waiting to see if another defensive starter - Malcolm Mitchell - and another on offense - John Theus - will be able to go. Their ankle injuries could be game-time decisions.
Here are my three top keys to the Bulldogs getting a victory night, culled from my preview in today's papers:
- 1. Stopping Missouri quarterback James Franklin. The junior runs the Tigers’ spread offense but is also a threat to run.
“He extends a lot of plays, whether he throws off the edge, or dropping off to a running back,” Georgia inside linebacker Christian 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. If the game comes down to a kick, Georgia freshman kicker Marshall Morgan gets his first big test, and in a big way.
“You just have to learn to deal with adversity,” Robinson said. “Because when the stadium gets a rocking they get excited. It’s hard to stop that if you’re not gonna be making those plays every down.”
- 3. Winning the battle in the trenches. Missouri may have the spread offense, but Georgia’s hope is that it can physically show the Tigers what they’re 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.
Personally, I think the third one is the biggest key.
On offense, Georgia needs Theus to be able to gut it out, and for everyone else to just be good enough to give Murray time, and get Gurley and company some holes. It's the mantra for the season when it comes to the line: No need to be great, just good enough.
On defense, plenty of attention will be paid to Rambo, Ogletree and Commings not being there, and Mitchell if he can't go. But we do know Georgia will have Jarvis Jones, and Cornelius Washington, and John Jenkins, and Abry Jones ... and oh, did I mention Jarvis Jones? The secondary may be depleted, but the front seven - with Amarlo Herrera and Robinson in place of Ogletree - is still very, very formidable.
Here are some links for you to get sufficiently ready for tonight's matchup:
- The view from Mizzou: Beat writer Dave Matter of the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune offers some valuable insight into the Tigers and this matchup.
- Matter's own preview of this game in Saturday's paper, centering on what a win would mean for Missou.
- A look at the receivers for each team, centering on Georgia's Rantavious Wooten, whose re-emergence helps the Bulldogs offset Mitchell's move to defense.
- The Kansas City Star's preview of the game, including a prediction.
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch preview, including another prediction. (A similar result to The Star's pick.)