ATHENS, Ga. – Sixth-ranked Georgia’s offense revved back to life in a victory over Florida last week, but the Bulldogs defense remains a steady constant entering Saturday’s home contest against Missouri. Georgia held the then sixth-ranked Gators to 278 yards of total offense and just 21 yards on the ground in last week’s 24-17 victory, and through eight games the Bulldogs are the only FBS team to not surrender a rushing touchdown while ranking tied for fourth in scoring defense (11.4 points).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Georgia -17
“There’s been a sense of urgency for our guys for a long time,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters Monday, two days after the Bulldogs victory over Florida gave them the inside path to the East Division title and a berth in the SEC championship game. “The most important thing is they understand they have to get better to get where we want to go.” The Tigers were off last week after road losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but could pull into a tie in the loss column with Georgia and Florida for the East lead with an upset victory Saturday. The big question surrounding Missouri is whether senior quarterback Kelly Bryant - who came out of the Kentucky game in the third quarter with a right hamstring injury - will be ready to go Saturday. Missouri coach Barry Odom was cautious while meeting with the media Tuesday, telling reporters, “We kind of edged it on and had him do more than maybe I anticipated,” Odom said, noting that if the game were played Tuesday, Bryant would not be ready.
ABOUT MISSOURI (5-3, 2-2 SEC)
Not having Bryant - who has passed for 1,845 yards and 14 touchdowns while competing 62.2 percent of his passes in his first season since transferring from Clemson - would be a big loss. Sophomore Taylor Powell took over for Bryant against Kentucky and completed 4-of-10 passes for 34 yards, while sophomore running back Tyler Badie caught a 74-yard touchdown pass in a 29-7 defeat. Sophomore linebacker Nick Bolton leads the SEC in tackles (8.8 per game) and has registered 29 solo tackles in his past three games, leading a defense that is 11th in the nation in yards allowed per game (281.4).
ABOUT GEORGIA (7-1, 4-1)
Junior linebacker Monty Rice led the defense with nine tackles against Florida and has recorded a team-high 50 stops this season. Junior quarterback Jake Fromm completed 20-of-30 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns, directing Georgia to 12 third-down conversions on 18 attempts for an offense ranked third in the SEC in scoring (34.5 points per game). Junior running back D’Andre Swift rushed for 86 yards against Florida, and on the season is second in the SEC with 838 rushing yards with seven touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
1. The Tigers are 10-2 in November games under Odom, winning nine in a row dating to Nov. 25, 2016.
2. Georgia has surrendered just 24 points in the second half across its past six games.
3. Bulldogs K Rodrigo Blankenship has won four SEC special teams player of the week honors this year, and he enters this week with 389 career points - fifth-most in SEC history.
PREDICTION: Georgia 31, Missouri 10