Know Your Enemy: Georgia
KEYS FOR MIZZOU
- Pressure QB Aaron Murray early and often.
- Contain RB Todd Gurley in both the running game and on special teams.
- Cut down on the penalties!
Quarterback Aaron Murray is, without a doubt, the catalyst of Georgia’s offense. Murray threw a school record 35 touchdowns in 2011, completing just over 61% of his passes. Accuracy was a bit of a concern for him early on against Buffalo, but he eventually settled in, completing 15 of 26 passes for 258 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
At tailback, the Bulldogs have adopted something of a “running back by committee” system, with true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall shouldering much of the work. Mizzou’s defense will have its hands full with Gurley (6-1, 218), who showed off his power and his speed against Buffalo and seemed to set himself apart as the team’s top runner, scoring on runs of 10 and 55 yards. He carried the ball eight times for 100 yards and accounted for three of the team’s six touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return late in the first quarter.
Defending against Murray and the Bulldogs’ offense will be something of a two-prong operation for the Tigers. For starters, getting pressure on the quarterback will be imperative. Obviously, that’s the defense’s goal heading into any given game, but ball security was a significant problem last season for Murray, who threw 14 interceptions including pick-sixes in three of the team’s four losses (vs. Boise State, vs. South Carolina, vs. LSU, vs. Michigan State). While Mizzou’s defense is nowhere near the caliber of an LSU or Boise State, they do have the weapons along their defensive line to shred what is an inexperienced Georgia offensive line. Sheldon Richardson will be the Bulldogs’ primary concern along the front line, which should open up lanes for guys like Michael Sam, Matt Hoch and Kony Ealy.
The second key to defending Georgia is guarding against big plays. Nine of Murray’s 15 completions Saturday afternoon went for at least ten yards, including three for over 30 yards. Tavarres King and Michael Bennett have the speed to torch almost any opposing secondary and coach Mark Richt showed a willingness to stretch out the field with those two in week one. Obviously, if the defensive line is able to pressure Murray, he won’t have time to set up and hit one of his receivers down field, but just one or two of those highlight reel-type plays could blow Saturday’s game wide open. The same can be said about defending against Georgia’s run game. There will be that awkward feeling out process during the first quarter, but after that, the Bulldogs will settle in and start pounding the ball on the ground. Mizzou must contain Gurley and force the Bulldogs into becoming more of a one-dimensional team.
Personally, I’m more concerned with Georgia’s run game than I am their passing attack. Mizzou’s defensive line should have no problem getting to Murray, but slowing down Gurley could be a bit of a problem (think Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska).
Defensively, the statuses of safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree are in the air, making it difficult to get a gauge on where the Bulldog’s defense stands. Richt has been extremely cryptic on where those two players stand, but it appears that the two will not be active for this Saturday’s game in Columbia. One player the Bulldogs will definitely be without is safety Sanders Commings, who was handed a two-game suspension for a January arrest in Athens. This wave of suspensions has left the Georgia secondary crippled for depth and quite vulnerable.
Buffalo took advantage of Georgia’s short-handed defense, racking up 347 yards of total offense and scoring on drives of 75, 94, 47 and 75 yards. Bulls dual-threat QB Alex Zordich threw for 148 yards, ran for another 83 and tallied two touchdowns. If Zordich could put up those kinds of numbers on the road, expectations are high for Franklin and the Missouri offense.
All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones could wreak havoc on Franklin and the Missouri offense. Last season’s SEC sack leader and Butkus Award finalist transferred to UGA from USC and recorded 70 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 49 quarterback hurries in his first season of eligibility. Jones is listed on the roster as an outside linebacker, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham showed a tendency to move him around from play-to-play to make it difficult for an offense to locate him.
Georgia’s defensive line is so good that it may alter Missouri’s gameplan. The combination of nose guards John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers last season moved the Bulldogs from 56th nationally against the run in 2010 to 11th. Grantham has tinkered with his defensive line, occasionally moving the more athletic Jenkins to defensive end with Geathers at nose. The challenge for Missouri will be sticking with the run. Pinkel has to get creative with running the ball. Expect him to involve Dorial Green-Beckham, TJ Moe, Franklin and Kendial Lawrence early and often in the run game through options and end-arounds.
This could be a big game for DGB and the Missouri offense. Georgia has a depleted secondary and Franklin’s speed should help offset their advantage along the defensive front.
This is a very winnable game for Mizzou. They’ll be taking the field to the most raucous crowd at Faurot Field since Oct. 23, 2010 and will be playing without the extra expectations that will be burdening the No. 7 Bulldogs. Furthermore, UGA’s weaknesses along their offensive line and defensive secondary seems to play into the hands of two of Mizzou’s top players: DGB and Richardson.
Audio from coach Gary Pinkel’s weekly teleconference:
View from the Other Side
I produce the Big Phat Sports Show on 590 The Fan KFNS. Each week throughout the season, we will have a coach or media member from the opposing team on the program. This week, University of Georgia coach Mark Richt joined the program to give us his take on the Missouri Tigers.
(For the record, I do believe we are/were the only radio station in St. Louis to have coach Richt on…so….that’s pretty awesome.)
Season: 3-1 (LW: 3-1)
No. 7 Georgia at Missouri
Sat. 6:45 pm – Faurot Field – Columbia, MO (ESPN2)
Mizzou sets the tone early with relentless passing attack against Georgia’s suspect secondary. Murray and co. make dramatic last minute drive, but Tigers hold on. Tigers by 4
Miami at No. 21 Kansas St.
Sat. 11 am – Bill Snyder Stadium – Manhattan, KS (FX)
Tailback Duke Johnson follows up a nice performance against BC with an even better showing against K-State to lead the Canes to an upset win. Hurricanes by 10
Purdue at No. 22 Notre Dame
Sat. 2:30 pm – Notre Dame Stadium – Notre Dame, IN (NBC)
After last weekend’s dominating performance in Ireland and with No. 11 Michigan St. looming in the future, this feels like a trap game for Notre Dame. However, the Irish’s defense stands strong against the Boilermakers’ three-quarterback system to grab the W. Irish by 20
No. 24 Florida at Texas A&M
Sat. 2:30 pm – Kyle Field – College Station, TX (ESPN)
Florida looked lackluster on offense against Bowling Green, but Texas A&M hasn’t played yet this season and are one of the more overrated teams in the country. Gators by 14