Georgia looks to take control of the SEC East.
Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (86) and running back Todd Gurley (3) shown on the field prior to the game against the the Vanderbilt Commodores at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Vanderbilt 44-17. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — No. 13 Georgia (4-1, 2-1) goes on the road this weekend with hopes of taking the lead in the SEC East. A win against No. 23 Missouri (4-1, 1-0) will put the Bulldogs atop the division. They look to avenge last season’s 41-26 loss against the Tigers between the hedges.
Georgia is coming off a 44-17 victory against Vanderbilt at home following another strong performance from Todd Gurley. Gurley led the Bulldogs last weekend with his 237 total yards and two touchdowns. He even completed their longest pass play of the season on a 50-yard completion to tight end Jeb Blazevich.
The Bulldogs’ rush offense ranks 13th in the nation, averaging 288.8 yards per game. Missouri will focus most of its attention on slowing down this Georgia rushing attack, but it will be no easy task with Gurley and Nick Chubb running the football.
Gurley currently ranks third in the nation for rushing yards per game with 154.6. Chubb is no slouch either averaging 7.23 yards per carry. Missouri has struggled defending the run giving up more than 115 yards in four of its five games this season. If they want to prevent the Bulldogs’ from having their usual success on the ground they will need to stack the box.
In doing so, the pressure will be on Georgia quarterbacks Hutson Mason and Brice Ramsey to make plays throwing the football. Georgia used a two-quarterback system last weekend against Vanderbilt giving Ramsey some snaps under center. In an interview with the Athens Banner Herald, Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said this is something we could continue to see going forward.
Regardless of who is under center Georgia will need to see more production from their passing game if they want to beat Missouri on Saturday. Mason and Ramsey combined for 152 yards passing against Vanderbilt, who ranks 10th in the SEC in pass defense.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their two-best deep threats are expected to be back in the starting lineup this weekend. Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley both possess the ability to stretch the defense, which is something Georgia has lacked at receiver this season.
Mitchell played sparingly against Vanderbilt catching one pass for 11 yards. It was his first time playing in over a year after suffering a torn ACL. During his first two seasons at Georgia he caught 85 passes for 1,237 yards and eight touchdowns. Mitchell appears to be healthy and if he can return to his former self, the Bulldogs passing game will improve drastically.
Scott-Wesley will be a great complement to Mitchell in the passing game. His big play ability was highlighted in 2013 by two game-winning catches against South Carolina and LSU. In only five games last season Wesley caught 16 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
With these two back on the field, Mason and Ramsey should have a much easier time throwing the ball. This will help exploit Missouri’s struggling pass defense, which ranks ninth in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game.
If the Bulldogs want to see themselves in the SEC Championship this is a must win. While Gurley will most likely put up solid numbers, Georgia needs to find a way to get more production in the passing game so that they don’t become one dimensional on Saturday. The return of Mitchell and Scott-Wesley should make that happen against Missouri, and help the Bulldogs take over the SEC East.