Here’s a cruel twist of irony. Nick Chubb’s school record 13-game 100-yard rushing streak began last year in Week 6 against Missouri. This season, Georgia welcomes the Tigers to Athens in Week 7 as the Bulldogs brace for their first game without their star running back.

Chubb was lost for the year with a terrible knee injury last week against Tennessee. If there’s one team that knows what it’s like to struggle without its leading rusher, it’s the 2015 Missouri Tigers, whose once-potent running attack has struggled with staying healthy all season.

Both programs will start two different running backs than the ones who started last year when Georgia blanked Missouri, 34-0. In fact, neither team will start the same running back who emerged atop their respective depth charts coming out of fall camp.

A look at Georgia and Missouri’s 2014 rushing leaders through six games, compared to this year’s Bulldogs and Tigers backfield:

 

 

GEORGIA

YDs – 2014TDs – 2014YDs – 2015TDs – 2015
Todd Gurley7733XX
Nick Chubb36787477
Sony Michel22334214
MISSOURI
Russell Hansbrough45061660
Marcus Murphy3470XX
Ish Witter2303241

The difference between Georgia, the SEC’s runner-up leader in team yards (1,389), and Missouri, the penultimate rushing team in the conference (687), is depth. Georgia has it, while Missouri’s leading rusher was (suspended) quarterback Maty Mauk for a few weeks.

Sony Michel filled in admirably for Chubb against Tennessee with a career-high 145 rushing yards. The sophomore inherits the starting role in Chubb’s absence but won’t be asked to do it alone. Behind him is Keith Marshall, who has been slow to get it in gear this season behind Chubb and Michel, but has 1,184 career rushing yards and 12 TDs. Georgia coach Mark Richt also said this week that Brendan Douglas could see an increased role at tailback, as well as Quayvon Hicks. Douglas rushed for 65 yards and one of his five career touchdowns last year against Missouri.

Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert has struggled with consistency at times this year, but his wideouts have awoken in the last few weeks, including Reggie Davis who caught 101 yards and a 48-yard touchdown against Tennessee. With Chubb out, Lambert’s accuracy will be vital.

The biggest drop-off between Georgia and Mizzou is noticeable in the touchdown department, where Missouri’s leading rusher Ish Witter has found the end zone just once all year. Missouri as a team has a mere two rushing scores through the season’s midway point.

Chubb (7 TDs), Michel (4) and Marshall all have more rushing touchdowns than the Tigers as a team. The Tigers are 4-2 (1-2 SEC) on the year, but not because of their rushing, which averages 117.2 ypg. Russell Hansbrough, who led Mizzou with 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 and was poised to be among the conference’s leaders this season, has missed significant time this year due to an ankle injury, but appears to be healthy and ready to go for the Tigers this Saturday.

If Missouri can get its running game in gear, it can compete with most teams in the conference, despite marginal production out of a quarterback position that’s in flux right now between the suspended Mauk and true freshman Drew Lock. It can compete because of a defense that ranks No. 1 in the SEC East and 11th nationally in total defense, yielding 275.8 ypg. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers had an off week in Week 4 against South Carolina (7 tackles), but still leads the conference in tackles by 17 over the next-closest SEC defender, Skai Moore of the aforementioned Gamecocks.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have issues of their own, chief among them the nagging groin/hip injury that has plagued outside middle linebacker Jordan Jenkins the last few weeks. Jenkins, who leads the team in tackles for loss (7.5 TFL) and sacks (3), is likely out against Missouri and expected to target a Week 9 return against Florida follow UGA’s bye week. Richt and Georgia need this win over Missouri to quiet critics that are getting louder as the Bulldogs appear to have quite the uphill battle if they’re to claim wrest the SEC East title away from two-time incumbent champion Missouri, which likely won’t relinquish their title all that easy when the two programs meet in Week 7 in Athens.