TIGERS REPORT: Missouri football prepares for Georgia

Friday, October 11, 2013 | 11:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:18 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 11, 2013
Missouri's Brad Madison tackles Georgia's Aaron Murray during last year's 41-20 Georgia victory Sept. 8, 2012, at Memorial Stadium.

COLUMBIA — Two weeks ago, most Missouri and Georgia football beat writers might have been planning this week's stories about how the Tigers want to avoid a similar result to last year's 41-20 Georgia victory.

But a lot can change in two weeks.

Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs were coming off a 44-41 victory over LSU and were in the driver's seat to win the Southeastern Conference's East division. 

Missouri meanwhile, had just beaten Indiana on the road and was in preparation for the season's first SEC game against Vanderbilt — sitting quietly at 4-0.

Then last week, Missouri beat Vanderbilt 51-28 and Georgia slipped by Tennessee 34-31. The Bulldogs needed a late touchdown to send the game into overtime.

Closer than first thought

The Bulldogs' victory was costly though, and left them looking like Missouri this time last year in terms of injuries. Missouri's road victory, coupled with Georgia's injuries, left bloggers predicting this week's game to be a lot closer than expected.

"It literally looks like the last man standing will win the SEC East this year, as injuries continue to pile up," Edward Aschoff of ESPN writes.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach is picking Missouri for his upset pick for Week 7, citing Missouri's "explosive offense" that averages 46.6 points per game.

Yahoo Sport's Pat Forde also picks Missouri to win 35-33. "Consecutive games against Georgia, Florida and South Carolina will prove whether the Tigers are serious players in the SEC East," he writes.

Defense and offense improvement

Two weeks ago, questions were also rising about Missouri's defense and its lack of sacks from the defense. That has since changed as Missouri's defense has produced 12 sacks over the last two weeks, Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star reports.

Much of the Tigers' defensive improvements have come from the play of Michael Sam, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam celebrates after a tackle Aug. 31 against Murray State. (PHOTO: KEVIN COOK/Missourian)

Sam has also been added to the Bednarik Award watch list, Palmer writes.

Not to leave the offense out of the question though. The Tigers rank seventh in the FBS in yards per game (543.8) and are also near the top of the FBS and SEC in points per game. Part of that success is because of the Tigers' up-tempo offense, Aschoff writes.

Senior quarterback James Franklin has also been a large part of that success, according to Palmer. "Who Franklin is, right now, is a quarterback playing with swagger," Palmer writes.

Franklin's play-making ability can be seen in the video below, as he scrambles from the pocket to throw one of his four touchdowns on the night. 

(Video: The Mizzou Network)

The Bulldogs

Georgia's running back Todd Gurley, who was a big factor in Georgia's victory last year over Missouri, is still unlikely to play this week after spraining his ankle against LSU.

Last year's game against Missouri was headlined by former defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson's comment on Georgia's style of play: "It's old man football." But just as quickly as things have changed for Georgia and Missouri in two weeks, so have things changed in a year, Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star writes. Now it's Missouri playing "old man football," he writes.

Much of Georgia's success this week will ride on how the team's young players handle the new starting roles. As a result, quarterback Aaron Murray is working overtime with the receivers this week, writes Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

Unlike Missouri, Georgia has played a lot of close games this year against Tennessee, LSU and Clemson. While it may be difficult with the team's injuries, the Bulldogs could use a less dramatic game this week, Weiszer writes.

But as for the Tigers, a win this week means the season's the possibilities will only continue to grow, writes Palmer.

Supervising editor is Frank Russell.

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