Missouri in first Top 25 clash as SEC member

Missouri in first Top 25 clash as SEC member

October 12th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia Bulldogs UGA logo

Georgia Bulldogs UGA logo

When Missouri hosted Georgia last football season, it was the first league game for the Tigers as a member of the Southeastern Conference.

Today's rematch at Sanford Stadium has a little historical value as well.

The No. 25 Tigers are ranked for the first time since joining the league, and they will compete in their first Top 25 SEC showdown when they face the No. 7 Bulldogs at high noon on ESPN. Missouri was ranked at some point of their last six seasons in the Big 12 Conference but never got among the national elite a year ago as a wave of offensive injuries led to a 5-7 finish.

"We have been ranked quite a bit in the past 10 years, but we weren't there last year at all," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said this week. "I think the most important thing is to try and stay there and move up."

Missouri has roared to a 5-0 start with wins over Murray State, Toledo, Indiana, Arkansas State and Vanderbilt. The Tigers thumped the Commodores 51-28 last Saturday in Nashville, handing Vandy coach James Franklin the worst home loss in his three spirited seasons.

The Tigers have their own James Franklin, a senior quarterback whose 337 yards of total offense a game ranks second in the conference behind Texas A&M quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

"They are a very, very hot team, and they are a team that looks very confident and should be," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They are very well-coached, and they are looking to win the East just like we are."

Georgia is coming off consecutive three-point wins over LSU and Tennessee, with the triumph in Knoxville requiring overtime. Whether the Bulldogs can get up yet again emotionally could be a factor, and they will be without tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley, each of whom was injured last week.

Tailback Todd Gurley is doubtful with a sprained ankle.

"They've done a great job of recruiting, and Mark has done a great job of building that program," Pinkel said. "They've got good depth and they've got good players. They might not have experience, but they're going to put good athletes on the field. With Aaron Murray back there and his ability to perform and make the plays that he makes and with that offensive line, I certainly think that helps that whole adjustment as they deal with some of those injuries.

"I expect them to be full power, and I expect them to be very good."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.