Posted: 7:24 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
By Brandon Larrabee
The most important team in this game is undoubtedly Georgia. The Bulldogs are favored to win the SEC East and are the division's highest-ranked team. Georgia is a bona fide national-title contender; barring a series of improbable upsets, the Tigers will not be playing for the crystal football in January.
But, in some ways, Missouri is the most intriguing of the two teams this weekend. We've gone over this so many times on the site over the last week or so, and other SEC observers have also chimed in, that it's almost become cliched. Cliched or not, it's true: This is the game where we get a sense of just how good Missouri really is. And there are, as with most games, three ways it could go.
There is a Georgia blowout. Under that scenario, all the wins that Missouri has carded over its first five games are shown to be little more than a solid team doing what it should do against weak or mediocre competition. The Tigers would still be on path for at least a 7-5 season -- they do still have Tennessee and Kentucky on the schedule -- but counting any higher than eight wins would require some effort. It would be a solid bounce-back for Gary Pinkel and Co. after last year's injury-ridden debacle, but it would be just that.
Then there is the possibility of a narrow Georgia win. Things get a little bit murkier there. The Tigers get Florida and South Carolina at home over the following two weekends -- an upset in one of those games now looks like a reasonable goal. If that happens and the team gets on a bit of a roll, 9-3 is by no means out of the question, and another upset against Texas A&M; to end the season would put 10-2 on the board.
And then there's the much smaller chance of a Missouri win. No matter the size, the Tigers defeating the Dawgs would shake up the SEC East and put Mizzou in the driver's seat, turning the next two games into gargantuan contests for the division. It would by no means be time to pencil the Tigers into the SEC Championship Game; if anything, it would just make the SEC East a mess with no clear front-runner. But it would establish that the Tigers are going to be a factor in the division regardless of what you think.
Thing is, I can see the first two possibilities unfolding in Athens. I can see Missouri being sluggish, facing their first ranked team on the road, getting behind quickly and never really pulling out of it. I can see the Tigers being a genuinely good team, with their offense putting a scare into the thin Georgia defense and the Dawgs' offense, reeling from its tattered depth chart, needing to put on a display against the Tigers in the last few minutes to salvage the season once again.
But a lot of people, self included, have gone wrong this year betting against Aaron Murray. The Georgia quarterback never deserved his reputation as a guy who couldn't win the big game, and he's proven that several times this year. I have a hard time -- not an impossible time, but a hard one -- seeing Missouri pull the upset. If I'm going to be wrong on this one, it's going to be because I overestimate Murray, not because I make the all-too-common mistake of underestimating him.
Georgia 31, Missouri 28