I think I’ve hinted at this in some of this week’s earlier posts, but the more I read about Missouri, the more I’m convinced Georgia is about to play a mirror image of itself, albeit a less-talented one.
For example, here’s how Nathan describes the Tigers’ defense:
… this is one of the first times this season that UGA’s offense has faced a defense that outranks it in many advanced statistical categories. While this is a defense that has suffered some key injuries, they are still a fundamentally sound bunch that does an excellent job in limiting the efficiency of their opponents. They’ve also posted a statistical profile that, in a vacuum put them in the same tier as UGA.
Sound familiar? Meanwhile, on offense…
At everything but preventing havoc plays, this is an average to below-average unit. Couple that with an injured starting QB, and it’s hard to imagine this offense lighting up the scoreboard against what has been – to this point in the year – an excellent Bulldog defensive unit. In particular, the Tigers have been neither efficient nor explosive in the passing game — ranking 75th and 68th in passing SR and explosiveness respectively — a fact that does not bode well for the denizens of Co Mo, as UGA has been most susceptible to the air attack this season.
Mizzou even has inexplicable losses on its resume.
Missouri’s most impressive showing this season so far is a 34-14 thumping of South Carolina, the program responsible for Georgia’s lone loss, but the Tigers have since lost 21-14 to a Vanderbilt team coming off a 24-point home loss to UNLV and 29-7 to a Kentucky team that Georgia beat 21-0 the week before.
“I don’t look into it much to be honest with you,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said when asked about Missouri’s erratic play. “It’s not a big deal. The bottom line is that I know the football team they’ve got. I know the coaching staff they’ve got. I know the players they have, and I can watch the tape and know they have a really physical team.
“One of their games (at Kentucky) was played in some extreme weather conditions, and I know how that impacts the game.”
Kirby can be such a card sometimes.
This is a game where both teams are going to grind and do what they can to limit the other’s offense to as few series as possible. You know what that means.
As in, don’t commit them! South Carolina beat Georgia earlier this year by not committing a single turnover while benefiting from four of them. If the Tiger offense kills a drive by handing a superior opponent the ball more than once this game will, essentially, be over. Unless the Missouri offense can magically start connecting down field on big plays, utilize the run game successfully, and break some tackles, the focus should be to limit possessions, slow the tempo down, play the field position game, and make the safe choice on every play. It’s boring and ugly but its the best way to limit the effect that superior talent has on turning the game.
Boring and ugly will be Saturday’s mantra. There will be a premium on avoiding screwups.
Assuming both squads do manage that, it should play into Georgia’s favor as the deeper team. But it’s hard to argue with this conclusion:
Ultimately, while I agree with what the Senator points out here — that Mizzou is facing, in Georgia, an exponentially tougher opponent than any it has this season — I still worry about this offense. We discussed this at-length in the Florida review episode of Chapel Bell Curve, the Dawgs offense is a few excellent 3rd down plays away from being right where it was at the end of the Kentucky game. While it did appear to me, at least anecdotally, that Coley and Co. got a little more creative in the second half against the Gators, I have a hard time believing that the Butts Mehre brain trust is capable of breaking their core tendencies. Usually, that wouldn’t bother me, as those tendencies have led to quite a bit of success in the past three years. But past results don’t always dictate future performance, and most current data shows us that this is a team that is either unable or unwilling to move off of Man Ball Island, despite how many ferries are departing to parts unknown where teams can score 30 points a game.
My biggest worries for tomorrow are two-fold. One is Albert Okwuegbunam. I’m already assuming a big first half for the Missouri tight end and only hope that Smart and Lanning make the same effective halftime adjustments they did against Notre Dame and Florida.
The second is that Todd Grantham was last week’s defensive coordinator, so we can’t count on that third down magic tomorrow night. Missouri, in fact, is second in the SEC in opponent third down conversion rate, right behind Georgia (natch). Interestingly enough, even in their last two losses, the Tigers have been very good on third down defense, allowing only a 25% conversion rate. Coley, in other words, is probably going to need to up his game on first and second downs from what we’ve seen in recent weeks.
But it wouldn’t surprise me if it takes him more than a half to realize that. ‘Cause that’s the way manball rolls.