Published September 7, 2012 - 11:08am
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Ten months of anticipation finally comes to a head this Saturday in Columbia, Missouri when the Tigers play their first SEC conference game against the highly ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
It was tough to get much of a read on Mizzou last Saturday in their 62-10 bloodletting over Southeastern Louisiana, an FCS school that finished 3-8 last season. A pair of defensive touchdowns and a 76-yard touchdown run helped the Tigers race out to a 28-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game, helping Mizzou put it on cruise control as a torrential rainstorm made its way onto Faurot Field.
The spread shows the Tigers somewhere between a two and three point underdog, and below are some of the team’s biggest question marks as they start their maiden voyage into earning respect among their new SEC brethren.
Although there was sloppy weather throughout last week’s game in Columbia, one element that had to raise a bit of concern was Mizzou’s special teams, as Trey Barrow and Andrew Baggett combined for only two touchbacks in 10 kickoffs. Baggett also missed an extra point early in the third quarter, and Gary Pinkel elected to twice go for first downs instead of field goals, once from the 29 and once from the 32. Mizzou’s punting statistics were also pedestrian, and they had one partially blocked, albeit late in the game in mop-up time.
Preseason injuries have wreaked havoc with the Tigers’ early season continuity, as both of the team’s projected starting guards missed last week’s contest. While Travis Ruth is done for the year, Jack Meiners may be able to return this week. Regardless, Mizzou will be playing a true freshman and former walk-on in the interior of their line. Although both of the team’s tackles have successful starting experience, they will also be tested by Georgia’s athletic pass rushers.
Covering the Deep Ball
This is an area that Mizzou struggled with last season, as the team had a sort of revolving door at its free safety spot due to injuries and ineffectiveness. Aaron Murray and his corps of receivers went up top numerous times last week against Buffalo, and figure to test the Tigers deep on Saturday. Mizzou returns most members of their secondary from 2011, so it will be interesting to see how they handle what is arguably the SEC’s best passer.
Stopping the Run
While Mizzou has performed well recently in stopping the run, they did lose both of their starting defensive tackles from last season, and will be taking on a rushing attack that has rolled up big numbers, regardless of who has been taking the handoffs. Mizzou’s Sheldon Richardson showed flashes last year in the trenches and was a beast last week, but past him, the interior of Mizzou’s defensive line is relatively unproven. It will be interesting to see how they perform against Georgia’s stable of young running backs and offensive line that features four starters of at least 300 pounds.