I’m conflicted. As a Missouri Tigers fan, I can’t quite figure out what to make of Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs. Before the season began, if I had to rank the games on Mizzou’s schedule based on how likely the Tigers were to win, I would have ranked the game at Georgia 12th out of 12. Here you have a top ten team, on the road, with a veteran quarterback against a Mizzou team coming off of a disappointing 5-7 season.
But something strange has happened the last three weeks which has me start believing. After a less than inspiring performance against Toledo, Mizzou has been downright dominant on offense against their last three opponents. Coming into the Indiana game, KC Kingdom’s Ben Nielsen warned me all week that I should be worried about a Hoosiers team that was averaging 50 points a game coming into the contest. And before the game I was a little worried (although I wouldn’t admit it). But Mizzou dispatched Indiana with relative ease in a game that was not as close as the 42-28 final score indicated.
The next week, after a shaky first half, Mizzou rolled over Arkansas State putting up 21 points in the 4th quarter. That victory set up a big swing game on the road with Vanderbilt last weekend. Vegas viewed the match up as virtually even, favoring Vandy by two points. However, Mizzou would have none of that, outscoring the Commodores 20-0 in the first quarter on their way to a 51-28 route.
Before the season, I had Mizzou pegged as a six to seven win team, but the most recent win against Vandy indicates that their ceiling may be much higher. We will find out how much higher this weekend against Georgia. Win and Mizzou all of a sudden becomes the favorite in the SEC East, and would likely rocket up the rankings. Just stay competitive, and Mizzou would show that they can play with anyone on their schedule. Get rolled, and Mizzou goes back to being a middle of the pack team.
The Bulldogs come into the game with a plethora of injuries after barely surviving against Tennessee in overtime last week. Stud tailback Todd Gurley is listed as doubtful, and his backup Keith Marshall was lost for the season with a knee injury last week. Wide receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley both went down, joining former number one WR Malcolm Mitchell as injury casualties. Safety Tray Matthews is also doubtful this week.
Because of the all injuries Georgia has sustained and how good the Mizzou offense has looked recently, I keep talking myself into this game all of a sudden. It would be one thing if Mizzou was playing a full strength Georgia team, but the Bulldogs will be missing five of their top six skill position players. Aaron Murray may be good, but just look at what’s happening to Tom Brady in New England when he has no one to throw to. Georgia’s defense has given up 30 points in four of its first five games, so I have no doubt Mizzou will score. If the Tigers can play just a little defense, with defensive ends Michael Sam and Kony Ealy putting pressure on Aaron Murray, they just may
have a shot.
On the other hand, the Mizzou fan in me can’t help but think about the last time Mizzou was riding high after a fast start and expect the other foot to drop. In 2010, coming off of a home win against then number one Oklahoma, Mizzou travelled to Nebraska and laid a complete egg. I could definitely see a scenario where Mizzou comes out flat after the big win last week, and ends up down 21-0 at the end of the first. Growing up as a Mizzou fan has taught me to expect the worst in this situation. I mean, it has been over 30 years since the Tigers beat a top ten team on the road.
So as you can see, I don’t really know what to expect. I want to believe in the Tigers hot start, but there are years of history working against them. Vegas has installed the Bulldogs as eight point favorites. And, hypothetically, if gambling were legal, I would have hypothetically bet money on the Tigers to cover this week. By around three o’clock on Saturday, we will know if I put my hypothetical money in the right place.