COLUMBIA — Missouri is feeling some empathy toward Georgia.
It's funny, if you think about it.
After all, this is the same Georgia team that came to Columbia in 2012 and stomped Missouri. The Bulldogs took an injury-riddled Tigers team and left it limping off Faurot Field with a 41-20 loss. Georgia gave Missouri as rude a welcome to the Southeastern Conference as it could have imagined and proceeded to finish first in the SEC East.
And now, Missouri is feeling empathy for that team?
"I know (Georgia coach) Mark (Richt) really well," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Nobody likes to go through injuries."
In 2012, Missouri stumbled to a 5-7 record. The reason, coach Pinkel says, is because of the amount of injuries the team dealt with. There were plenty.
Quarterback James Franklin suffered shoulder, head and knee injuries. The Tigers were shuffling the offensive line on a weekly basis. On top of all that, running back Henry Josey missed the entire season with a knee injury.
So it's not tough for Missouri to relate to Georgia's current situation. Knee surgery has become a right of passage for Bulldogs offensive players in 2013. Three of Georgia's top wide receivers have gone under the knife for knee injuries. Two of them were lost for the season, the other won't play Saturday.
Georgia's backfield doesn't paint a much prettier picture. Sophomore running back Todd Gurley missed Georgia's win over Tennessee with an ankle injury. He has charged through SEC defenses like a battering ram from the moment he arrived in Athens, averaging more than 6 yards per carry in his career, but the injury has Gurley in jeopardy of missing Saturday's game against Missouri.
"I would say it's doubtful (he plays this weekend)," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a press conference Tuesday.
That's an exhaustive list of injuries, but there's more. Gurley's primary backup at running back, Keith Marshall, suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.
"Whenever somebody's top two running backs are out, it's a good time to play them," Missouri defensive tackle Lucas Vincent said.
To recap: Georgia will be without its top three wide receivers and possibly its top two running backs when Missouri comes to town for an 11 a.m. Saturday kickoff.
"I don't wish that on anybody," Pinkel said. "If you have great depth where you get some injuries, it doesn't hurt you as much."
Depth was an issue for Missouri in 2012, and it struggled to overcome injuries as a result. Georgia doesn't have that problem. In fact, when the Bulldogs thrashed the Tigers in 2012, they were missing three suspended defensive starters.
"In life, adversity happens," Richt said. "You can panic or you can look at what you have and find a way to win."
The Bulldogs have found ways to manage being 3-0 in the SEC and 4-1 overall. That's the difference between Georgia, a program that is consistently contending for a SEC title, and Missouri, a team trying to find its footing in the new conference.
In addition to its depth, Georgia is lucky to have senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who became the SEC's all-time leader in career passing yards in Saturday's win over Tennessee. His experience masks flaws in Georgia's offense.
"We just have to put some more work in, especially with myself and these young receivers," Murray said in a teleconference Tuesday. "We have a lot of talent here at Georgia."
So while Pinkel and Missouri understand what Georgia is going through with the injuries, don't think for a second that they won't capitalize on what's going on in Athens. If anything, Missouri thinks it's caught Georgia at the perfect time.
"I don't feel sorry for them," Pinkel said with a laugh. "I wouldn't go that far."
Supervising editor is Erik Hall: sports@ColumbiaMissourian.com, 882-5729.