When former 5-star RB Isaiah Crowell was booted from the Georgia Bulldogs earlier this summer, there was a strange dynamic that emanated from the college football world at large. As many outside of Athens presented a doomsday scenario as to whether Georgia would generate any running game at all without the mercurial Crowell on campus, those Georgia fans close to the "recruiting game" weren't losing any sleep over the loss of Crowell.
They knew a Gurley-man was coming to campus.
This time, the recruit-niks seem to be the wise ones as the emergence of true freshman RB/KR Todd Gurley has taken the nation by storm. After a strong fall camp, Gurley still hadn't separated himself from the pack of backs to be the unquestioned starter, but there was little question that he would make an impact. We just didn't know how early.
Well, how about by the end of the first quarter? Gurley had UGA's first touchdown of the season on a 10-yd run and then closed the scoring in the quarter with a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He only touched the ball ten times, but had a whopping 227 yards of total offense and the two aforementioned touchdowns.
I don't expect him to turn into a 25-carry-a-game bell cow over night, but he's the offensive difference maker that Georgia has sought for a while. He can provide the perfect complement to QB Aaron Murray's passing acumen, especially against a better than expected Missouri defensive front.
The one thing the Big 12 didn't have a plethora of was game changing running backs, especially those that'll run behind their pads like Gurley does. Missouri hasn't seen a back of this caliber, but then again, there aren't many of this caliber. However, Missouri does have a ton of experience on its defensive front and they'll be ready against a UGA offensive line with only a handful of starts. Gurley will have help so he can be fresh in the fourth quarter and that may be the difference in a tight game.
Over the past seven to eight years, the Missouri spread offense has been one of the most efficient and productive in the nation. Offensive coordinator Dave Yost has become sort of a coaching rock star, as much as one can be in the coaching profession, as his work with Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert turned them into Sunday players at the QB position. Yost continues to work his magic with current QB James Franklin, who is probably the best dual threat blend at the position since head coach Gary Pinkel arrived in Columbia in 2001.
But, Georgia's defense is in no mood to see Yost's handy work pay off, nor is it in awe of the potency of the Missouri offense. Georgia has one of the best run stopping defensive fronts in the nation and it has the ability to get the quarterback, especially with All-American LB Jarvis Jones steaming off the edge.
As such, the Tigers won't find a ton of success running the ball or establishing the intermediate-to-downfield passing game. However, what Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham may fear a bit is Missouri's short, quick passing game. UGA's pass rush is mostly muted with some of the typical quick throws in this Missouri offense. Even though Missouri ran for 261 yards last week, the Tigers won't find a ton of success running the football against the stout Georgia defensive front, and it won't have a boatload of time to throw the ball with Jones breathing down Franklin's neck.
The best alternative is to throw quick and throw it now. This, maybe more so than any other week for Missouri in the SEC, is the week in which Franklin must use the short passing game as a controlled run game of sorts, in particular finding WR T.J Moe working the open areas in the slot. Franklin can't survive this game taking shots in the pocket, so the quick game can save him a beating, all the while still getting the ball to one of Missouri's best offensive threats, Moe, in space.
There is no sure-fire way to beat this Georgia defense but thinking short and quick may help.
I will admit I love gamesmanship as much as anyone, especially when I was coaching. I didn't go out of my way to be tricky and secretive, but I can understand it. As an analyst/prognosticator, I HATE it now. C'mon Coach Richt, just tell us whether your suspended players, in particular S Bacarri Rambo and LB Alec Ogletree will play. What if I ask pretty please?
After an off-season of discontent and issues, Rambo and Ogletree had been scheduled to be suspended for multiple games in the 2012 season, but head coach Mark Richt noted last week that the suspension policy at the school had changed and, well, essentially, we'd see whether they would play or not.
Ogletree's loss won't have near the impact on the Georgia defense what with senior LB Christian Robinson playing in his stead. But, replacing Rambo against a diverse offense, featuring a varied passing attack, could present major issues for the secondary that needs his leadership and his ability to decipher the game in the middle of the field. Now, both are listed as starters on the depth chart, but that is what we call, yep, gamesmanship.
I wouldn't imagine Missouri is sitting by the computer waiting for an official word, but if Rambo is not on that team plane, I'd think Yost may pencil in a couple of downfield shots to challenge sophomore backup Connor Norman at free safety. He won't get many chances to throw deep, but he'll try to strike first blood if Rambo is out of the lineup.
I said in my college preview that I haven't always been head over heels in love with the Georgia Bulldogs in past years. I'm sure I got burned by them in a prediction or whatever and just haven't gotten over it. It could also be that highly talented Georgia teams found ways to lose key games like this one in past years.
Trepidation aside, I bought in this season to the Bulldogs. Now, "not-all-chips-to-the-middle-
Georgia - 31 vs. Missouri - 19