Mizzou at Georgia, Five things to watch | Mizzou Sports News | stltoday.com – STLtoday.com Leave a comment

University of Missouri quarterbacks Tyler Macon, left, and Brady Cook take position during an open practice on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at Mizzou’s Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. Photo by Christian Gooden
Brady Cook? Tyler Macon? Does it matter? The Tigers could have Tom Brady behind center Saturday and still must figure out ways to move the ball against Georgia’s immovable defensive front, a line that goes three-deep with blue-chip players soon to be playing on NFL Sundays. Connor Bazelak isn’t expected to start while nursing an undisclosed injury sustained last week at Vanderbilt. That leaves coach Eli Drinkwitz with Cook, the redshirt freshman, and Macon, the true freshman. They’ve attempted a combined 16 passes in college. Neither has started or played a full game since the fall of 2019 — in high school. But it’s not like Mizzou’s passing game has rekindled memories of the Greatest Show on Turf lately. Maybe Cook or Macon provide a spark and give the Tigers a glimmer of hope for the future. “I think the biggest thing is just knowing that we believe in them,” MU receiver Barrett Banister said. “I think that’s true for everyone in this building. … They just have to focus on what they’re supposed to do and go play their brand of football because that’s why they’re here.”
The stage is set for Tyler Badie. Missouri’s senior running back leads the SEC in rushing and ranks among the nation’s most prolific offensive playmakers at any position. But his big numbers have come against Mizzou’s weakest opponents. He’s averaged 222 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns against Central Michigan, North Texas and Vanderbilt. Against Boston College, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M, he averaged just 60.5 yards, with four TDs. On Saturday, against the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense, he’s got the stage to prove he can produce against the game’s best. He certainly has the attention of Georgia coach Kirby Smart. “He’s got great vision, ultimate toughness,” Smart said this week. “I feel like he’s been there forever. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield. His ability to run the outside-in zone play is as good as I’ve ever seen. They are really good at running that play. And he finds holes that sometimes you think aren’t even there, like, how did he get through there? He runs with extreme toughness. You see him break tackles and second-level safety tackles. He’s got a great stiff-arm and he runs bigger than he is.”
Outside of Georgia, where everything UGA football is magnified, nobody talks about the Bulldogs’ offense. That’s the luxury of having the nation’s most dominant defense. UGA isn’t particularly explosive offensively, but coordinator Todd Monken gets the most out of QB Stetson Bennett, a former walk-on who’s developed into an efficient passer while filling in for J.T. Daniels, who began the year as the Heisman Trophy favorite. Bennett is a crafty scrambler when the pocket collapses and would lead the SEC in yards per attempt (11.5) if he had more pass attempts to qualify. Some of Georgia’s top receivers have been nursing injuries, but the offense features two dangerous tight ends in freshman Brock Bowers, the team’s top receiver with 26 catches for 454 yards and six touchdowns, and junior Darnell Washington. Georgia figures to pound the ball against Mizzou’s struggling defense, but when Bennett puts the ball in the air, look out for the tight ends.
Saturday’s crowd will be the biggest many of Missouri’s players have experienced, other than veterans who were part of MU’s 2019 trip to Georgia or the 2018 game at Alabama. Sanford Stadium (92,746) has been sold out for 56 straight weeks, and another packed crowd Saturday will test Mizzou’s poise and communication. A Missouri team that’s struggled with penalties all season won’t have it easy inside Georgia’s wall of sound, especially MU’s offense. “We’ve played on the road, obviously, in environments not quite as big or as loud as what we’re fixing to face,” Drinkwitz said. “You’ve got to learn through tape. Watching the UAB game (at Georgia), the Arkansas game, South Carolina game, all three teams had issues with false starts pre snap. So that’s something that we’ve got to work on and try to simulate in practice. … They do a good job of barking a cadence and then the defensive line mimicking like they’re moving. It’s just up to whether or not that’s interpreted as disconcerting signals or whether or not it’s a legal movement call. We’ve got to handle it.”
Other injuries could impact this game. Mizzou safety Shawn Robinson will miss his second straight game, along with cornerback Ish Burdine, further depleting a secondary that’s been stretched thin lately. Slot receiver Mookie Cooper missed the last two games but wasn’t included on Thursday’s injury report. The Bulldogs, too, have had some setbacks. Starting left tackle Jamaree Salyer is out with a foot injury, multiple Georgia outlets reported Friday. Also, linebacker Adam Anderson has reportedly been suspended for his alleged involvement in a rape investigation, ESPN first reported Thursday. Anderson, the team’s starting strongside linebacker, leads UGA with five sacks.
Dave Matter’s prediction: Georgia’s defense is good enough to pitch a third SEC shutout, especially given Mizzou’s issues at quarterback. Here’s guessing UGA surges to a commanding lead, then Smart calls off the Dawgs in the fourth quarter early enough for Cook (or Macon?) to deliver a couple scoring drives. Georgia 48, Missouri 10
The Tigers face a tall task against a dominant defense and the No. 1 team in the country. 
Dave Matter brings you the latest updates from the Mizzou sports scene.
Dave Matter is the Mizzou beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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University of Missouri quarterbacks Tyler Macon, left, and Brady Cook take position during an open practice on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at Mizzou’s Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. Photo by Christian Gooden
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