Springfield, Mo. (OzarksSportsZone.com) -- No. 25 Mizzou travels to injury-ravaged No. 7 Georgia on Saturday with a chance to make a statement to the nation that its undefeated record is for real.
The Tigers dismantled Vanderbilt 51-28 on the road last Saturday for their SEC-opening win on the way to getting ranked in the top 25 for the first time since moving to the SEC.
Georgia is limping into the game with many key parts missing all over the field. Star running back Todd Gurley is listed as doubtful for the game, which means the key battle for the game will be between the Mizzou defensive line and the Bulldog offensive line as the Tigers try to disrupt star quarterback Aaron Murray.
“Offensive line-wise, this will probably one of the best offensive lines we will play all year. Their offensive line is exceptional,” Pinkel said. “This will be a challenge no question about it.”
Mizzou will look to Michael Sam, who was honored as the defensive lineman of the week in the SEC for the second week in a row, to have another big game.
"I think right now he is not only playing steady, but he is playing at a very high level. That is the difference now. I think he has had three sacks in back-to-back games, which is very difficult to do. It doesn't matter who you are playing against,” Pinkel said on Monday. “He is playing at a different level than he has ever accomplished before. I could not be more pleased with his progress. It helps the whole team and makes the defense play harder."
Sam is tied for the SEC lead in sacks with six.
Georgia beat Missouri in its first ever SEC game in Columbia last year, but this is a different team on the lines according to Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt.
“They look great. They are in great condition,” Richt said. “They don’t have a bunch of big, fat bodies that is for sure. Defensively they don’t do a lot of stuff, but what they do there they do extremely well. They are heavy on execution there at Missouri. They have the right personnel in the right spots.”
Even with all of the injuries, Aaron Murray is a future NFL draft pick taking the snaps for the Bulldogs. Murray is third in the SEC with 1,534 yards and tied for second with 14 touchdown passes.
“Having him (Murray) back there and having his ability to perform and make the plays that he makes and their great offensive line I certainly think that makes that whole adjustment (with injuries),” Pinkel said. “I expect them to be full par.”
If the defensive line cannot disrupt Murray, then the secondary will have to shoulder the defensive load. The Tigers are not focused so much on Murray’s NFL pedigree as just playing their game.
“I have played against my fair share of current and future NFL quarterbacks, and we don't prepare any different,” senior defensive back E.J. Gaines said. “We prepare for the football team, not necessarily one single player."
Mizzou won’t be fazed by the atmosphere on the road against the Bulldogs, as this year’s team has a different fire.
“There is chemistry and determination on this team. A combination of both of those, and high leadership skills effects the whole team. This team wants to win,” Pinkel said Monday. “We are willing to pay the price to do that, and I felt that these guys had it in them. They have taken that goal really personal, especially the seniors. Most of the seniors have been here for five years and they went to bowls every year except last year, and they want to get back.”
Mizzou kicks off at 11 a.m. in Athens, Ga. on Saturday.
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