Mizzou football: 3 matchups the Tigers must exploit to upset No. 2 Georgia
As of Tuesday morning, our friends over at MyBookie had Georgia as a 15-point favorite heading into Saturday’s Week 4 matchup against Mizzou at Faurot Field.
That 15-point spread was up a point from the opening line, so it’s clear not many people are giving the Tigers a chance to pull off what would be the biggest upset of the 2018 season.
Yes, Mizzou will have its hands full with the reigning SEC champions, but this is a largely untested Georgia team, especially after the much-hyped game against South Carolina didn’t exactly live up to expectations.
So, while it would be unreasonable to expect the Tigers to win Saturday afternoon, crazier things have happened. And if Mizzou wants to compete for a better bowl berth, it needs to perform better against the Dawgs than South Carolina did.
How can the Tigers keep things close? Here are three matchups they must exploit:
Albert Okwuegbunam vs. Georgia linebackers/safeties
The Bulldogs haven’t faced a tight end who can challenge them like Albert O can, as the Gamecocks are still trying to figure out life without Hayden Hurst and Middle Tennessee and Austin Peay don’t have anyone on his level.
Okwuegbunam already has 14 catches, 100 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he’s capable of much more. The Tigers didn’t need him much in the first two games, which were blowouts, and he had 5 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown against Purdue.
The only guy on the Georgia defense who could probably contain Albert O is Deandre Baker, but he’s going to have his hands full on the outside with Emanuel Hall. That means S J.R. Reed, S Richard LeCounte III and a slew of linebackers will be matched up against Okwuegbunam.
If Albert O can put up more than 80 receiving yards and snag a touchdown or two, it’ll really help QB Drew Lock and the offense keep pace with all the points Georgia is sure to score against Mizzou’s struggling defense.
Mizzou defensive ends vs. Cade Mays/an injured Andrew Thomas
Look, I know Mizzou has failed to get pressure on the passer — just 6 sacks in 3 games — but the Tigers absolutely must dial up something against Jake Fromm this week.
Whether that’s blitzes or stunts or just winning 1-on-1s, the Tigers have to take advantage of whoever lines up at left tackle. If it’s Mays, he’s a true freshman who would be starting his first SEC game. If it’s Thomas, he’ll be returning from an ankle injury.
You know what body part is important for tackles? Yeah, ankles.
Ryan Walters and Barry Odom need to get some pressure from that side of the line, as keeping Fromm uncomfortable will be crucial if the Tigers are going to have a fighting chance in Saturday’s game. Fromm’s only mistake this year — a bad decision that led to his only interception — was the result of South Carolina bringing pressure.
Mizzou receivers running double moves vs. Georgia secondary
Through three weeks, the Bulldogs are last in the nation in sacks, recording only one measly quarterback takedown. That’s tied with Liberty and Iowa State, both of whom have only played two games this year.
Mizzou has a strong offensive line, so OC Derek Dooley would be wise to give Lock a few pass plays that take time to develop. Start Emanuel Hall on a route that looks like it’s going over the middle and then have him break up the field and showcase his elite speed. Remember, Hall caught a pair of 63-yard touchdowns against Georgia last season; both passes were in the air for at least 40 yards and Lock threw from a clean pocket. Have Albert O pretend to block for a second and then head toward the corner of the end zone. Find some creative ways to get the ball in Johnathon Johnson’s hands.
I’m not saying that every pass play should be one that takes forever to develop. In fact, I think the Bulldogs will be vulnerable to some of the intermediate routes Dooley has been calling this year, too.
However, the Dawgs aren’t getting to the quarterback, and that’s something Mizzou absolutely must take advantage of on Saturday afternoon.