The Georgia Bulldogs are ranked number six in the AP Preseason Top 25 poll, and are picked by many to come out on top of the SEC East in 2012. The Bulldogs themselves may even have flashing aspirations of an SEC or even national championship. Only one thing remains standing in Georgia’s way….playing the games on the schedule.
Georgia was blessed with an unusually light SEC schedule for the second straight year- avoiding the Bermuda Triangle of Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas – and they have an atypically (for Georgia) easy out of conference schedule.
The Bulldogs will face their usual possible pitfalls of Auburn, Florida and Georgia Tech, who are all teams that Georgia is more than familiar with and will no doubt be ready for. None of the cream-puffs on Georgia’s schedule should be cause for any real concern…but there is one game that sticks out on the schedule that could be the biggest “trap game” of the year for Georgia.
The Missouri Tigers are entering their first season in the SEC, and Georgia is the first team that the Tigers will face in conference play.
To make matters even worse for Georgia, the game is being played in Columbia, Mo.
I’m sure the Bulldogs have heard at the chatter and chirping about how they had better not take Missouri lightly, and that with some of the off-field issues and suspensions, Georgia will be short handed on defense.
But that’s only half the story.
Georgia opens the season on Sept. 1 against Buffalo, which should be a mere warm-up for the boys in red & black. But that’s it. That’s their only full speed, head on, game action before they travel to Columbia and take on Missouri. Neither the offensive line, or the defensive secondary are likely to get much of a test against the Buffalo Bulls.
Fast forward seven days, and Georgia is walking into a potential buzzsaw. A jacked-up Missouri team (and crowd) are going to try to make life as miserable on the Bulldogs as possible, and the two places where Georgia has potential weaknesses in this game – offensive line and defensive secondary – are the two places where Missouri has some well documented strengths on the opposite side.
It’s not that the Bulldogs aren’t used to starting conference play this early in the season, but traditionally they’ve faced South Carolina in what usually ends up being a low-scoring defensive slugfest, where both of the teams generally come out pretty battered and bruised.
Missouri is going to air it out, and go for quick strikes and explosive plays. If they get Georgia’s defense back on it’s heels early, they’ll be sending the Bulldogs back home licking their wounds, as well as lamenting an 0-1 conference start for the third straight season.
Georgia has to be able to play on the other side of the ball against the Tigers. The defensive tackles need to get into the backfield in a hurry to blow up the running plays, and the defensive ends need to get constant pressure on Missouri quarterback James Franklin.
On offense, Georgia needs to be able to play ball control, and grind out the clock to keep Missouri’s offense on the bench as long as possible. The Georgia quinque-triceps monstrum of running backs Richard Samuel, Brandon Harton, Ken Malcome, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will need to all bring their A-games to Columbia.
Georgia needs to look at this game as something that could potentially prevent them from playing in the SEC Championship Game, and treat the Missouri Tigers as if they were their like-named rivals from Baton Rouge, La.