SEC East powers collide in Top-25 showdown

Columbia, MO (SportsNetwork.com) – A pair of 4-1 squads will attempt to get a
leg up on the race for the SEC Eastern Division title at Faurot Field on
Saturday afternoon, as the 23rd-ranked Missouri Tigers play host to the 13th-
ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs recently wrapped up a three-game homestand undefeated, taking
down Troy (66-0), Tennessee (35-32) and Vanderbilt (44-17) along the way.
Georgia is now 2-1 in league action after losing to South Carolina back on
Sept. 13, but still controls its own destiny en route to the SEC Championship
Game.

“They won the East last year,” UGA coach Mark Richt said of Missouri. “They
were playing for the SEC championship in year two (of its history in the
league) so that’s pretty impressive. They’re in very good position right now.
This game is huge for both teams, obviously.”

Missouri is alone in first place in the division after winning its one and
only SEC contest so far, downing South Carolina, 21-20, on Sept. 27 prior to
going on a bye last week. The triumph allowed the Tigers to return to the
ranks after falling from the polls after a Sept. 20 loss to Indiana (31-27).

“Georgia is a very good football team,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “I
have great respect for head coach Mark Richt and the job he has done there.
It’s a lot about playing our best football Saturday and playing against a
really good football team.”

Georgia has beaten Missouri in two of the three all-time meetings. The teams
have split in two games since Missouri joined the league in 2012, with the
Bulldogs winning in 2012 (41-20) and the Tigers coming away victorious in 2013
(41-26).

The Bulldogs possess an outstanding offense this season, as they put up 45.0
ppg and 459.0 ypg, and they are led by perhaps the most dominant player in the
nation in the backfield.

Todd Gurley’s Heisman campaign has been going according to plan this season.
After rushing for 163 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt last week,
he now sits with 773 yards (8.2 ypc) and eight touchdowns. He’s also added a
100-yard kickoff return for a score and even a 50-yard pass to his resume.

“You’re not going to stop him, so what you got to do is contain him,” Pinkel
said of the Bulldogs’ back. “We recognize it’s a great challenge, but we’re
excited about the opportunity.”

The presence of Gurley in the backfield has taken a lot of pressure off of
Hutson Mason under center. He hasn’t been asked to do much – he throws for
only 137.4 yards per game – but he’s completing 68.3 percent of his passes and
has seven touchdowns to three interceptions.

Michael Bennett (14 receptions, 147 yards, two TDs) and Chris Conley (13
receptions, 200 yards, two TDs) anchor a modest receiving corps.

Defensively, Georgia allows 21.6 ppg and 335.0 ypg, and the unit has been
noticeably better in recent weeks according to its coach.

“We’re improving in a lot of areas,” Richt said. “Defensively, we’re getting
closer to communicating the things we need to do and we’re executing better.”

The strength of the unit comes at linebacker, where Amarlo Herrera (43
tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks), Ramik Wilson (37 tackles, 5.0 TFL, sack) and
Jordan Jenkins (28 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 14 QB hurries) are all in the midst of
strong seasons.

Missouri’s offense has been trending in the wrong direction, scoring just 24.0
ppg over the last two contests, but it is still averaging 34.6 ppg on the
season with a strong balance between the run (178.0 ypg) and the pass (222.0
ypg).

Despite a poor completion percentage (.560), Maty Mauk has put together a lot
of production this season in throwing for 1,110 yards with 15 touchdowns (one
rushing) to just four interceptions.

The rushing attack is spearheaded by Russell Hansbrough (67 carries, 420
yards, six TDs) and Marcus Murphy (64 carries, 313 yards). Murphy is an all-
purpose threat, adding 10 receptions for 93 yards and a score as well as
excellent return numbers (296 yards, TD).

Bud Sasser has stepped up to become Mauk’s most trusted receiving target with
30 receptions for 454 yards and four touchdowns, while Jimmie Hunt (16
receptions, 198 yards, five TDs) and Darius White (15 receptions, 230 yards,
three TDs) are also actively involved.

The Tigers’ defense has stepped up their play this year, yielding just 20.6
ppg and 381.0 ypg, while forcing nine turnovers.

Shane Ray has generated an outstanding pass-rush with 11.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks and
a forced fumble to go with 30 tackles. Michael Scherer has racked up a team-
best 50 tackles, while Markus Golden (6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) and Aarion Penton
(18 tackles, two INTs) are also performing well.