|Can true freshman Todd Gurley help Georgia run away from Mizzou? (Getty Images)|
GEORGIA WILL WIN IF: the Bulldogs play like they're not playing the game they are.
What that means: This game is a big deal. Missouri's first SEC game ... at home, at night, at Faurot Field, where many other favorites have come to see their conference or even national championship hopes dashed (we see you, Oklahoma) ... in front of a crowd that promises to be one of -- if not the -- craziest, loudest crowds in Missouri history ... with the Tigers having heard from the day they joined the league that the SEC was too big and bad for them, that they should be thankful just for the chance to compete with the SEC's big boys -- assertions we're guessing have given them just a bit of a chip on their shoulders. If Georgia gets caught up in the atmosphere, the crowd, the chippiness -- all the things that surround the game but aren't the game -- the Bulldogs won't be able to match Missouri's focus or energy. And they'll be in trouble.
But here's the good news from a Georgia perspective: If the Bulldogs put all that aside and just play football, they'll very likely win. They have the bigger lines. They have the steadier quarterback. They have what looks like a star tailback. They have Jarvis Jones. They have better second-stringers virtually across the board. In short, they're the better team.
But because of things like home-field advantage and shoulder chips, that doesn't always mean what it should in college football. Georgia has to keep calm, avoid mistakes, and make sure being the better team does matter in Columbia.
MISSOURI WILL WIN IF: James Franklin goes off.
Missouri doesn't have a lot of on-paper advantages over Georgia (see above), but it does have one: the receiving trio of T.J. Moe, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas going against a Bulldog secondary missing corner Sanders Comming and (very likely) safety Bacarri Rambo through suspension, and possibly corner Malcom Mitchell through injury. Corners Branden Smith and Damian Swann and safety Shawn Williams are hardly chopped liver, but if Franklin does his job, the Tigers will be able to find yards through the air.
That's not to say that job will be easy. Jones is as lethal a pass rusher as there is in the country, Franklin may not have much help from the run game given the Dawgs' 11th-place finish in rush defense last season (and intact defensive line), and his Week 1 performance -- 13-of-21 for just over 6 yards an attempt without a touchdown vs. hapless Southeastern Louisiana -- doesn't scream "ready to pick apart the SEC East favorite."
But Buffalo quarterback Jerry Zordich's success on the ground vs. the Dawgs (14 carries, 83 yards) suggests the rugged, agile Franklin can enjoy the same, and his receivers should give him opportunities to complete passes. A big night for Franklin could be there for the taking. No problem for the Dawgs would be bigger than him taking it.
THE X-FACTOR: It was just one game, eight carries, and one (thrilling) kickoff return, but Todd Gurley certainly looked like the perfect big-play complement to Murray against the Bulls. If Gurley looks like anything similar early on in Columbia, the new, untested Missouri safeties will have to adjust -- and Murray could have a field day down the field.