GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – While the Florida Gators will have their hands full against the LSU Tigers on Saturday, Gators fans may want to keep one eye on the game in Athens, Georgia between the Missouri Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs.
The winner of the Mizzou vs. Georgia game could go a long way towards determining who will represent the SEC Eastern division in the conference championship game.
The Tigers come into the game riding high on a 5-0 start including a blowout victory on the road against Vanderbilt last week. The Tigers ran over a game Commodores team behind a high-powered offense that is ranked eighth in the nation in scoring at 46.6 points per game.
Missouri’s attack is about as balanced as it can get through the first five games of the season. Heading into the Georgia game, Missouri has rushed for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns, while it has passed for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Tigers come into Georgia looking to avenge last year’s loss to the Bulldogs in Missouri’s first-ever Southeastern Conference game. Missouri hung with Georgia last year until the Dawgs took over in the fourth quarter and blew out the Tigers.
But unlike last year when the Tigers were dealing with massive injuries across the board, this year it’s the Bulldogs who are dealing with major injuries on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Dawgs will be without both of its star tailbacks, Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Georgia will also be without receiver Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael Bennett against the Tigers. Finally, the Dawgs may be without safety Tray Matthews against Mizzou on Saturday.
All total, the Bulldogs will be missing roughly 50 percent of its total offensive yards and almost half of its 25 touchdowns this season.
Still, as Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said on Monday, the Dawgs still have plenty of talent across the roster to beat most teams in the nation. Even without Gurley and Marshall, backup running back J.J. Green stepped in and rushed for 129 yards on 17 carries last week against Tennessee.
Georgia will be led by star quarterback Aaron Murray, who almost willed the Bulldogs to victory against Tennessee. Missouri responds with a star quarterback of its own in James Franklin, who is healthy after struggling with injuries throughout 2012.
Murray has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,534 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions in 2013. He’s posted a quarterback rating of 176.9 and is averaging 306.8 yards per game through the air.
For Missouri, Franklin has completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,407 yards, 13 touchdowns, and three interceptions while compiling a 160.2 quarterback rating. Franklin has also rushed for 278 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries.
Currently, Georgia sits all alone at the top of the SEC East. Georgia has already beaten South Carolina and Tennessee and still has a game left against Florida in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
A victory over Missouri would almost guarantee the Bulldogs a trip to Atlanta, assuming the Dawgs can beat Florida, or the Gators lose to another SEC East foe.
But, if the Tigers can pull off a major upset of the Bulldogs in between the hedges, things could get wild in the SEC East. Missouri would move into a tie with the Florida Gators with UF scheduled to come to Missouri next weekend.
The Gators could be the biggest winner from a Georgia loss. UF would control its own destiny and would need to simply win out to get to the SEC Championship game.
One team will take a big step towards the SEC Championship game on Saturday, the only question is will that team be in Athens, Georgia or playing at LSU.