It's somewhat amazing to be saying this, and no one would have believed you if you said it five years ago, but Missouri playing Georgia is not supposed to be a game between teams jockeying for bowl position. It's supposed to be a game with SEC East implications.
Since this game became a conference showdown in 2012, it has featured the team that ended up representing the division in Atlanta. It hasn't always been the winner of the game -- Mizzou handily lost last year only to win the SEC East -- but the title has always gone to one of these two teams.
That seems unlikely to happen this year, to say the least. Florida is building what seems to be an insurmountable lead. If everything breaks just right, the Gators could clinch the division by the end of October. But neither team is really playing out the string. A win here would give Georgia a route back to the SEC East title, even if they would need some help. And Missouri could breathe a lot easier about its bowl chances with a victory. It might not be as significant as it has been in the past, but this game is still important.
1Need this one? Welcome to the Club. Missouri and Georgia are both floundering. Thewere nearly shut out by Florida last weekend, while the let one slip through their hands (sadly, quite literally) against Tennessee -- meaning Georgia is riding a two-game losing streak coming into this one. Missouri, for its part, has yet to beat an SEC team that is not named "South Carolina." The hopes for an SEC East title are rapidly fading for both of these teams, if those hopes aren't already dead. A loss here spells elimination from the division race.
2Missouri Won't Offend You. The Tigers are the only team in the SEC this year to have not accumulated 2,000 yards of total offense. Even Vanderbilt has done that -- and the Commodores have played one fewer game than the Tigers. Missouri's averaging 4.6 yards a play, which is also dead last in the conference and also the only SEC mark below five yards per snap. Mizzou is 13th in the conference on a per-play basis when you only look at SEC games, but Vanderbilt hasn't play South Carolina's defense yet, so...
3On the Other Hand. Meanwhile, Missouri's defense ranks sixth in the FBS in total defense on a per-play basis, giving up an average of less than 4.1 yards a snap. Missouri hasn't exactly played the toughest slate of games (Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State and UConn to start the season), but its rushing defense has been impressive thus far. The Tigers have allowed just 2.9 yards a run so far this season. Greyson Lambert has tended to look bad against the best defenses on Georgia's slate, but the running game is not likely to struggle. About that.
4The Michel Era Begins. Sony Michel will be eager to put that run defense to the test. Nick Chubb endured a gruesome knee injury against the Vols, meaning that the All-World RB (Non-Fournette Division) will be replaced by a merely All-American-caliber running back, because this is Georgia. Michel runs for an average of 6.7 yards a play, totaling 421 yards on 63 attempts. He's also a good receiving option for Lambert; Michel has 12 receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns, which might not seem like a lot until you realize that it ranks second on the team in receptions and scores and third on yards.
Dale Zanine -- USA Today Sports
5Three in a Row? Regardless of the blowback that Mark Richt has taken over the last two weeks, he's still a good coach. And here's one of the indications of that: If Georgia loses this game, it will mark the first time Richt's team has lost three consecutive games since the disastrous 2010 season. That is the only other time in his tenure at Athens that the Dawgs have dropped three straight. This season has already been a disappointment, but this team doesn't yet look to be as bad as the 2010 edition.
THREE TO WATCH
Nate Brown and J'Mon Moore, WR, Missouri. For Mizzou, a bright spot on offense has been the emergence of the tandem ofand J'Mon Moore. The two have only combined for 405 receiving yards, but both have good averages -- Moore has 12.8 yards a catch, while Brown is getting 11.1. Brown has established himself as a serious red-zone threat (four touchdowns this season) and figures to challenge Georgia's secondary on Saturday.
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri. If Missouri is going to pull the upset this year, Harris is probably going to have to play a major role on defense. As part of the Tigers' tradition of just plugging in another defensive and watching him have massive stats, Harris has already gotten four sacks and 11 tackles for loss halfway through the season. If Georgia remains on schedule in this game, things could get out of hand; Missouri has to generate negative plays.
Sony Michel, RB, Georgia. We've already ticked off his numbers, but Georgia's chances rest at least in part on how well Michel fills in for Chubb. He might not need to run like a Heisman contender for the Dawgs to get the victory, but he does need to be able to wear down the Mizzou defense.
Georgia endured quite a roller coaster ride against Tennessee, and ultimately the Dawgs left Knoxville with an unpleasant taste in their mouths (and an injured Heisman candidate). Nonetheless, Georgia rebounds at home and takes care of Mizzou due in large part to a monster day from Michel. Georgia 34, Missouri 14