September 7, 2012

Preview: UGA at Mizzzou

What: No. 7 Georgia (1-0, 0-0) at Missouri (1-0, 0-0)

Where: Memorial Stadium/Farout Field (71,004)

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore, Matt Millen and Quint Kessinich) Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG. (Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle, Loran Smith, Charlie McAlexander, Neil Williamson, Jeff Dantzler, Kevin Butler); Sirius/XM 137/200

Players to Watch: Georgia - QB Aaron Murray (6-11, 210, Jr.), RB Ken Malcome (6-0, 224, RSo.), RB Todd Gurley (6-1, 218, Fr.), RB Keith Marshall (5-11, 216, Fr.), LT Kenarious Gates (6-5, 318, Jr.), FLK Tavarres King (6-1, 200, Sr.), SE Marlon Brown (6-5, 216, Sr.), SE Michael Bennett (6-3, 204, RSo.), TE Arthur Lynch (6-5, 258, Jr.), OLB Jarvis Jones (6-3, 241, Jr.), DE Abry Jones (6-3, 308, Sr.), N John Jenkins (6-3, 358, Sr.), ILB Michael Gilliard (6-2, 230, Sr.), ILB Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 245, So.), SS Shawn Williams (6-1, 217, Sr.), K Marshall Morgan (6-3, 201, Fr.). Missouri - QB James Franklin (6-2, 228, Jr.), TB Kendial Lawrence (5-9, 195, Sr.), TB Marcus Murphy (5-9, 185, So.), LT Elvis Fisher (6-5, 300, Sr.), WR Marcus Lucas (6-5, 215, Jr.), WR T.J. Moe (6-0, 200, Sr.), WR Eric Waters (6-4, 235, Jr.), WR Dorialk Green-Beckham (6-6, 220, Fr.), DT Sheldon Richardson (6-4, 295, Jr.), LB Zaviar Gooden (6-2, 230, Sr.), CB Kip Edwards (6-1, 200, Sr.), CB E.J. Gaines (5-10, 194, Jr.)

Saturday's game

It's going to be a historical night here in Columbia, Mo. as Missouri hosts 7th-ranked Georgia for its first-ever SEC game. Both teams are coming off big wins in their season-openers, but both feel they have plenty to prove in the contest televised on ESPN2. For the Tigers (1-0, 0-0), Coach Gary Pinkel's squad is hungry to prove it belongs as one of the league's two newest members, and not only compete with, but defeat a team like the Bulldogs (1-0, 0-0), one of the "old guard" from college football's top conference. Georgia, meanwhile, wants to prove that the preseason hype was deserved.

Missouri offense vs. Georgia defense

Missouri quarterback James Franklin is one of the top players at his position in the entire country. Franklin made a name for himself as a first-year starter in 2011, but he did so as a quarterback that can both run and throw. Head Coach Gary Pinkel has had some extremely successful quarterbacks in Columbia such as Brad Smith and Chase Daniel, and it appears that Franklin is on pace to build a similar legacy as those two. Franklin is a strong, physical runner who makes good decisions on in the zone read and speed option game. He does a great job of pressing the line of scrimmage as a runner, and has the lateral quickness to get to the correct hole. He also has the power to pick up tough yardage when a big seam isn't there, and lead the Tigers in rushing touchdowns a year ago with 15 scores. Franklin has the ability to scramble, but he does a good job of standing in the pocket and making plays down field. He actually doesn't scramble as much as many would think for a quarterback with his skill set. As a passer, Franklin isn't polished but gets the job done. He has a tendency to fade away from his throws and throw off his back foot. He will also telegraph them at times. He threw 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in 2011, so he is prone to a few mistakes if under pressure. Franklin was only sacked 18 times in 2011, and does a good job of escaping the rush to extend the play.

Key Matchups

• 1. Missouri quarterback James Franklin vs Georgia linebackers.

• 2. Missouri's tall, athletic wide receivers vs. a young Bulldog secondary.

• 3. Missouri's bang-up offensive line vs Georgia's big, veteran defensive line.

Coach's comment: "That's a matchup concern for us. We don't know for sure about (cornerback) Malcolm Mitchell and his availability. We're just a little bit depleted there. Our young guys have got to step up and play well. It's going to be interesting to see how that comes out. It's one of those things where guys have got to rise up and play well." - Mark Richt

Missouri defense vs. Georgia offense

The Missouri defensive line is anchored by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson is very similar to Georgia defensive tackle Garrison Smith in his ability to explode off the ball and play a yard deep in the opposing team's backfield. Despite being slightly less than 300 pounds, the redshirt junior holds up well against double-teams, and has the ability to flow down the line and make plays on the edge. Matt Koch is listed as the team's starting nose tackle, and he brings great size and length to the table. Against Northeast Louisiana last week, Koch did well against double teams and was able to reset the line of scrimmage on a couple of occasions for the Mizzou defense. The Tiger defensive ends, Michael Sam and Cony Ealy, are a couple of impressive looking athletes that caused a great deal of trouble for Northeast Louisiana last week. Both have good size as Sam is 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and Ealy is 6-foot-5, 265 pounds. Neither strikes you as the explosive pass rusher that can take over the game from rushing off the edge, but both have the ability to beat tackles on the edge, to the inside, with a bull rush, and play with a great deal of effectiveness against the run.

Key Matchups

• 1. Quarterback Aaron Murray vs. the noise factor at Memorial Stadium.

• 2. Todd Gurley/Ken Malcome/Keith Marshall vs the Missouri front seven.

• 3. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones vs Missouri left tackle Elvis Fisher.

Coach's comment: "It's a very historical day and our fans have been waiting for it for a long time regardless of who we're playing," Pinkel said. "It's a very historic day, and oh by the way you're playing a very good football team in Georgia. We're excited, we're glad we're getting to play it here." - Gary Pinkel

Injury update

Cornerback Malcolm Mitchell (ankle) and right tackle John Theus both traveled with the team but the question remains how effective both will be against the Tigers? Georgia will welcome back wide receiver Marlon Brown (hamstring) for the contest, but will be without backup lineman Watts Dantzler (ankle).

Synopsis

Can you say big game? Yes, much has been made about this being the first SEC game for Missouri, but for Georgia, the stakes are equally high. The Bulldogs have not won their conference opener since 2010, and need a win to not get off to a good, but also give their sometimes mercurial fan base some confidence heading into a stretch of three straight home games against Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

Prediction

Most of the national pundits seem to be leaning toward the home-standing Tigers, although Las Vegas favors the Bulldogs by 2.5. Many are pointing to the fact the fact that the Bulldogs will still be without Bacarri Rambo, Alec Ogletree and Sanders Commings, as one of the reasons. While it's no doubt those losses will hurt, it won't keep Georgia from coming away with the win. Prediction - Georgia 28, Missouri 24.

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