Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday night’s matchup:
1) Truman – the official Missouri Tiger mascot. Have you seen this? I admit I’ve never paid it attention. Tony the Tiger wants to throw down his bowl of cereal and jackslap this thing, just on principle. I’m sure the cartoon-ish face is a big hit at the children’s hospital and for the youngsters attending MU athletic events. But is that what you want to get your fans hyped? Granted, we can’t all have live Bengal Tigers living on campus, but c’mon… put a little aggression in this costume. We have plenty of Tigers in the SEC, I just don’t count this as one of them.
2) Yeah, buddy! It’s Saturday night in Athens, and our ladies and gentlemen of the AV arts will once again set the stage for the most intimidating red-lit atmosphere in sports. I haven’t witnessed this in person, but between the official UGA videos, TV broadcasts, and some pretty cool social media, I know and you know that Georgia utilized the newfangled LED technology to the fullest, firstest, and bestest.
3) Turf Monsters. You know the kind – the ones that come up and trip a ball carrier for no discernible reason. And the Missouri Tigers have played on unnatural fields every single game this season. This will be their first test on the surface God intended… honest to goodness grass.
Other than the opener in Nashville, the Bulldogs are completely grass-fed. This won’t be a huge advantage, as the Dooley Field/Sanford Stadium grounds crew prove again and again they are some of the best in the business – the day-long deluge for Kentucky is evidence enough these guys/gals put out an excellent product. Still, Missouri won’t be quite as fast as they practice and play, and our boys should be able to plant that foot and get that route cut off sharper than the Tigers.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about facing our fellow SEC Easters (even though they’re way west):
1) A repeat of last year. There were so many good things about that game. We block a punt and score a special teams touchdown; Tyson Campbell gets a defensive touchdown; Fromm goes 7-9 and almost 200 yards in the 2nd half; we had passing touchdowns of 33 yards, 54 yards, and 61 yards; we held future 1st round draft pick Drew Lock to a 23.5 QBR and no TDs. Individually those are great things, collectively they’re tremendous. So why do I have such a bad taste in my mouth?
Because Hot Rod missed a field goal and another was blocked, Fromm threw a pick, no touchdowns in the 1st half, we didn’t have a 100 yard rusher (Holyfield led with 90 yards), we gave up 4 rushing touchdowns… yet we won by 2 scores on the road against a divisional opponent. This was a signature “disappointing in the way we won” game that has happened too frequently since we became spoiled in the 2017 magical run.
I like nice things. Blowout wins with total game control and inflated stats are nice things. Why can’t we have nice things?
2) Derek Dooley. At some point he’s got to have some success in Athens, surely. Regression to the mean? Law of averages? There’s a phrase that encapsulates this, I’m just too lazy to figure it out. Anywhoo, we’ve owned Missouri since the series started (not counting the 1960 Orange Bowl), winning 6 of 7 and the last 5. However, we are Georgia, and we don’t let mediocre opponents get in the way of our losing… we just time it where it wrecks a season. You’d think the South Carolina game qualified as our annual Derpitudinal Equinox, but I’m not fully convinced.
We’re far more talented than Missouri, and much deeper. But it wasn’t so long ago that many pundits had Missouri coming into Athens undefeated, based on an easy first half of their schedule. The opening loss to Wyoming threw water on that plan, then the Tigers reeled off 5 wins in a row, including 2 SEC wins and a Power 5 OOC victory over West Virginia. Losses to lowly Vanderbilt and one-dimensional Kentucky the last two weeks kicked the dousing level up to 11, neither time gaining 300 yards of offense and being held to two scores or less in each game.
Is this the Missouri team that scored 34+ points in 5 straight wins? Does Son of Dooley figure out how to utilize the mobile Kelly Bryant and stud Tight End Albert Okwuegbunam (who caught 9 balls against us last year, and has 6 scores this year)? Can their 1-2 rushing punch of Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie get back on track and into the end zone against the Bulldogs?
3) The University of Georgia is 3rd in the nation in Red Zone conversion percentage, with 33 of 34 chances resulting in scores. Yet if you look at Red Zone touchdowns, we fall into a 10-way tie for 37th, punching it in only 24 times once we hit the opponents’ 20 yard line. As a percentage, we score a TD 70% of the time, which is only ranked 28th. How do we not get into the end zone more? We haven’t faced great defenses (ND, Florida, yeah kinda). We have multiple height mismatches with our receivers, we have speedy slot guys for the hot slant, we have stud running backs, and the largest offensive line ever known to mankind ever in the history of time ever.
Weirdly, Missouri has only defended the red zone 17 times, allow 9 TDs and 3 FGs. This is much more of a story about giving up a few big plays and facing middlin’ offenses. Likewise, we’re not hitting the big play that much, so in order for Georgia to beat the more stout competition coming up, we’re going to have to get healthy in the red zone or bust open some explosive plays. (Edit: I did like our 2 pt conversion last week – need more of that stuff). If we can’t punch it in against Missouri, Auburn sure isn’t going to let us waltz across that line.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the 9th meeting between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Tigers of Columbia.
And as always…