Upset alert? Georgia's high noon showdown with Missouri has potential for weirdness
While wading through the comments sections of SDS this week, I’ve discovered I’ve gained a bit of a reputation on this website. Apparently, I’ve not given Georgia “glowing coverage.”
Frankly, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of being fair and balanced about the Bulldogs. Yes, they’re in line for a New Year’s 6 bowl. Yes, this season is a disappointment, due in part to how the staff (mis)handled the most important position on the team. The 2 points don’t have to be mutually exclusive; both can be true concurrently.
(And yes, I was raised in western New York, home of the AP Top 25-ranked Buffalo Bulls, by the way. Shoutout to Lance Leipold for doing what no other Bulls coach has done before.)
But I digress. Back to Georgia, who take on Missouri at noon ET on Saturday. And what do you know? Eli Drinkwitz has his Tigers playing some good football in his 1st year, sitting at 5-3 and ranked No. 25 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday.
I’ve always been a big fan of Drinkwitz, the Gus Malzahn protegé who brings a dose of charisma and Southern charm to the Midwestern college town. At 37, he has a long career ahead of him; whether that’s in Columbia or elsewhere remains to be seen. He can lead the Tigers to a win that would send shockwaves through the conference landscape, in what has all the makings of a trap game for the Dawgs before they face Vanderbilt on Dec. 19.
No, this probably won’t be the “glowing coverage” you’re looking for, either. But Mizzou’s no doormat.
To be clear, Kirby Smart, I’m sure, will have his team ready in CoMo. But I have a bit of a nagging feeling about this one. Maybe it’s because the Tigers, unlike the Dawgs, aren’t coming off an unexpected open week. They won a 50-48 shootout with Arkansas last Saturday, the 3rd time this year they’ve broken the 40-point barrier. They’ve won their past 3 and might be setting themselves up next year to occupy that traditional 3rd spot in the SEC East — good enough to beat everyone else, but not quite to the point where they can beat the top dogs.
So don’t be surprised if the Dawgs are shaking off some rust in the 1st half. And while everyone will be watching JT Daniels, it might be worth checking out Connor Bazelak as well.
The redshirt freshman from Ohio — another Ohio-bred starting QB in the SEC did pretty well for himself last year — won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2021. He hasn’t thrown for many touchdowns, but he’s hitting on 69.4 percent of his passes and has thrown just 2 interceptions in 258 attempts. Given the chance to do damage, he’ll gladly accept the invitation from any defense.
Bazelak has a strong cast around him, too. Mizzou wide receivers have been able to share the wealth, as 6 players have 22 or more catches and none more than 26. Three of those have more than 300 yards. Larry Rountree III has racked up 11 touchdowns out of the backfield and is destined for a 1,000-yard-plus season. Nick Bolton, by far the Tigers’ leading tackler, got nailed with a horrible targeting call in the 2nd quarter against the Razorbacks but will be able to go the entire way on Saturday. Trajan Jeffcoat, who mysteriously left the program last year, has become another key component in the defense with 5 sacks.
That said, the Dawgs are a much better team, albeit with flaws of their own. This is still a defense that let Will Rogers pick it apart for the better part of Georgia’s win against Mississippi State. Daniels, of course, did his part during that one, a week before the Dawgs’ running game ran roughshod over South Carolina.
Missouri will be a much bigger test than Mississippi State, and the game will give us our best read yet on who Daniels is. Was he simply able to feast in a low-risk environment against MSU, struggling in their 1st year in the Mike Leach regime? Or is he capable of doing the same against a surging Mizzou team that has won its past 3 games and has a chance to knock the Dawgs out of the NY6 picture?
The odds have Georgia as a heavy favorite — 13.5 points. They haven’t lost to the Tigers since 2013. And there’s likely no reason to think that the Bulldogs’ talent won’t be able to overcome any challenges thrown at them.
Although, if things get weird, just know that I warned you.