Missouri could be headed into Week 5 with an SEC win under its belt, as the Tigers opened conference play against Auburn, falling 17-14 in an overtime that very well could never have taken place.

But Mizzou instead learned the hard way about playing conservative football.

As the old football saying goes, “you play to win the game.” That’s not what happened last Saturday afternoon though, as the Tigers sent out kicker Harrison Mevis to go win the game for them despite being on the 3-yard line with 50 seconds on the clock after Mizzou seemed to have gotten into a rhythm offensively.

Mevis missed the 26-yard attempt, and the Tigers came up short after regulation in a painfully winnable game that for the better part of the contest looked like no one was actively making an effort to get the “W”.

And that “W” is going to be nearly impossible to come by this Saturday night when the Tigers host No. 1-ranked Georgia. Here’s a look at 3 things to keep watch of as Mizzou faces a tough task at Faurot Field:

1. What Missouri will we see offensively?

Mizzou is a team that has had some success on trick plays and has the tools to do it with such a versatile wideout in Luther Burden. But despite how well those plays worked in games like the 52-24 season-opening rout of Louisiana Tech in which Burden scored his first-ever collegiate touchdown while operating in the Wildcat formation, the element of “playing cute” was completely absent in the 40-12 loss to Kansas State in Week 2.

Head coach Eli Drinkwitz took a lot of heat for his play-calling in that game, and it’s easy to argue that while there was practically no chance of Mizzou coming out on top with the pure offensive disaster that unfolded, throwing in some trickery could have worked to the Tigers’ advantage at least a handful of times.

Whether or not they incorporate some of that against the best team in the nation and how much they utilize a talent like Burden will definitely be something to watch. Burden only caught 1 pass for 7 yards in the loss to Auburn after reeling in 6 catches for 58 yards in the previous week’s 34-17 win over Abilene Christian.

Missouri has the 78th-ranked total offense in the nation and is among the worst in the SEC with 1,579 combined rushing and passing yards. That’s an average of 5.62 yards per play and 394.8 yards per game. The Tigers’ passing offense ranks 95th in the country with 839 total passing yards, an average of 7.23 yards per attempt and 209.8 yards per contest.

The Tigers sit much prettier in the rushing offense rankings at No. 46 in the nation with 740 total yards on the ground, an average of 185 yards per game and 4.48 yards per attempt.

2. The Tigers’ ability to keep up

Sure, Mizzou didn’t face the SEC’s best as it started conference play. But playing a close game as a team that has been one of the conference’s lowliest in recent history certainly gives some reason for optimism and should be something of a morale booster despite failing to accomplish the ultimate goal.

It goes without saying that Georgia is miles ahead of Auburn and that the 2 teams hardly even compare as opponents in terms of overall talent and dominance. But it’s still going to be interesting to see just how much Mizzou can hang after the amount of grit and fight it showed against the “other Tigers” last week.

Georgia is, as expected, a heavy favorite going into the game, and it would be nothing short of shocking for the Bulldogs to win by anything other than double digits. This is still a good opportunity for Mizzou to show exactly where it stands in all 3 phases of the game against a team that no other college program can rightfully call itself better than at this point of the season.

3. How well can Missouri’s defense hold up?

Though a lot of its success has been overshadowed by or downplayed because of the mess that Mizzou’s offense has been at times, this is very much an underrated overall defensive unit that has consistently performed well in most aspects despite having to be on the field for entirely too long.

The Tigers held one of the FBS’ best running backs in Tank Bigsby at bay last week, hardly allowing him anything in the second half and holding him to 44 rushing yards with 1 touchdown on 19 carries. And while some of it had to do with Auburn’s own inconsistency at quarterback, it’s worth noting that Mizzou didn’t allow much through the air, either. Quarterback Robby Ashford was just 12-of-18 passing for 127 yards, while Holden Geriner completed 2 of his 3 passes for 8 yards.

Missouri’s total defense ranks 21st in the nation with an average of 4.71 yards allowed per play, with the passing defense ranking 34th (an average of 6.48 yards per attempt) and rushing defense also ranking 34th (an average of 3.71 yards allowed per rush). Obviously, Georgia is a completely different animal, littered with talent and with the 4th-ranked total offense in the country that is led by Heisman Trophy candidate Stetson Bennett at quarterback.

But this is an opportunity to find out if Mizzou’s defense is truly among the best with the type of opponent it is going up against — even if it’s not a popular topic of conversation.