This article, from beat writer Dave Matter, highlights a thing to fear and a thing to watch for Saturday night.
The scary part is scary.
If the Tigers could extract any positives from the 40-34 loss, they came via the deep ball. On passes that traveled through the air more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, Lock completed four of nine for 231 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a passer efficiency rating of 370. On balls that traveled 30 yards or more, he completed three of five for 181 yards and two scores and a rating of 496.1.
Lock’s arm strength has dazzled coaches and teammates since his first college practice two years ago, and on Hall’s touchdown he put the ball in the air for 60 yards from release to catch…
Mizzou’s outside threats paid off elsewhere. Once the Tigers connected on a few deep balls Saturday, Kentucky dropped its safeties further from the line of scrimmage, clearing running lanes for backs Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett, who combined for 213 rushing yards and 7.3 yards per carry.
Not too shabby. But this is still a 1-4 team. So what’s the problem, Kirby Smart?
Turnovers, Smart noted, were Mizzou’s trouble last season and again this fall.
“They were very hard to defend last year, and they are very hard to defend this year,” Smart said this week. “They stop themselves. People don’t stop them.”
He’s not exaggerating. Missouri in 2017 is last in the conference in turnover margin, at a whopping minus-10. The Tigers haven’t won the turnover battle against a single P5 opponent this season; not so coincidentally, those games constitute their four losses.
But there’s a little more going on there when you break it down. Sure, Mizzou is last in losing the ball and by a pretty wide margin. Through the first six weeks, there isn’t another SEC school within four turnovers. But, with only four, Missouri is also thirteenth in the SEC in forcing turnovers.
If you’re wondering how Georgia can cover a 30-point spread this weekend, that’s a pretty good way to get there. On the flip side, if Mizzou picks this game as its first when it doesn’t blow the turnover margin battle, you have to think at worst it’s got enough firepower to keep things closer than the spread.
Back to the scary part for a second, though. Yes, those long distance stats are concerning; however, it’s worth considering that Georgia brings a little firepower of its own to the table, as the Dawgs lead the conference in offensive plays of 20+ yards. (Missouri is a respectable fifth.)
Perhaps of greater interest, though, is how these two teams stack up defending the big play. In that regard, it’s no contest. For defensive plays of 20+ yards, Georgia ranks first in the SEC and Missouri is twelfth. Which means that when the Tigers are on offense, it’ll be strength against strength, while when they’re playing defense, not so much.