Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:
1. The Missouri Football Ticket Hotline. If you want tickets, you call 1-800 CATS PAWS. C’mon Missouri, you’re better than that.
2. Missouri Running Game. They’re averaging 4.12 yard per carry, with a long of 26. They have some talent, mostly of the scatback variety suited for an uptempo offense, but this just doesn’t seem to be a strength. And we’ve contained the run very well this season.
3. Missouri Offensive Kicking Game. They’re 1 for 3 on Field Goals, and have already missed 2 extra point attempts. They might, just maybe, be worse at this thing than we are. If this game comes down to penalty kicks, they’d better alert the concessions staff to prepare a Sunday brunch.
But here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:
1. Missouri is not looking ahead. This adage gets thrown around a lot either as a “sandwich game” or a “trap game”, and while a lot of this is overthinking, there is something to it for certain teams (see: UGA). But Missouri is coming off Eastern Michigan, and has Delaware State next week. If there’s a trap, it ain’t us.
Not to mention that this is their conference opener too, at home, and they are asking fans to pull out the “Tiger Stripe” effect in the stands. They know UGA at home is one of their better chances to make a statement and to erase the immediate past. We will take their best shot, of that I’m sure.
2. Missouri Defensive Kicking Game. Above I stated that I’m not worried about their kicking game for points. But their defensive kicking (kickoffs, punts), does give me concern.
They have punted 12 times this year, and the net return average on their punts is 0.58 yards. With only 1 fair catch, 2 punts over 50 yards, and 5 inside the 20. That means they have good punt coverage and a decent punter. If you haven’t noticed, we sometimes have trouble handling well-covered punts. If the Davis/McKenzie duo don’t get their heads on straight, Missouri could be in our end of the field more often than we like.
Likewise, they’ve kicked off 12 times, and have 10 touchbacks. I’ll say it again... 10 touchbacks. /wipes drool. While Rodrigo Eyeglasses has certainly improved week over week, it would be nice to walk onto the field on gameday knowing that your kicker will boot it through the endzone repeatedly.
Missouri’s return game doesn’t seem too scary, but they do have a 54 yard punt return touchdown. And even though the stats are only through 2 games, it doesn’t appear the 2015 skill set was extremely dangerous either, so I don’t see a returning threat.
3. DeMontie Cross. He’s a former Missouri defensive back who has finally come home to coach up his alma mater. Sound familiar? Note that he’s the defensive coordinator, but he formerly played with, and coached up, his head coach Barry Odom (who was the DC when Mizzou DLine was the class of the league). These guys know what they want on the defensive side of the ball, and they know how to get it.
They return 5 of the top 6 tacklers from the 2015 campaign, and have good Ends as well as more than serviceable tackles. They like to pass rush from their normal 4-3 set, so we’ll need to avoid the Statue of Liberty play (the ones where Lambert stands like a statue), we’ll need to run block @a smidge better than last week@ and we’ll need to work on some play action to keep them honest. If the UGA offense does start to air it out and look to go over the top, we have to do it against a very good secondary. Safety Anthony Sherril already has 1 pick this season, and corner Aarion Penton has two.
I don’t think this is the record-setting offense of Chase Daniels and Blaine Gabbert, but I do think they’ve made marked improvements in year 2 of Barry Odoms’ tenure. And they haven’t regressed much, if any, on defense. UGA will need to be balanced, energetic, and composed to come out on top come Saturday night in the good Columbia.