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Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

UGA-Mizzou: A wild series should yield a predictable result


Georgia and Missouri have met four times since the Tigers entered the SEC. Georgia has won three of the four. Each has been weird. The briefest of recaps:

2012: Georgia wins 41-20 in Columbia. This will be remembered as the "Old Man Football" game -- that was Mizzou defender Sheldon Richardson's description of the visitor's style -- but mostly as the Jarvis Jones game. The Bulldogs trailed 17-9 in the third quarter and won by three touchdowns. Jones intercepted a James Franklin pass and then forced a fumble to set up the two scores that broke it open. Georgia won the SEC East.

2013: Missouri wins 41-26 in Athens. This was an early kickoff, and the Bulldogs played as if asleep. They trailed 28-10 at the half. They closed within 28-26 with 12 1/2 minutes to play, at which point you'd have sworn they'd win. (Especially since Franklin had been lost to injury.) But Missouri scored off wide receiver Bud Sasser's pass to La'Damian Washington, and then Henry Josey scored on a 33-yard run after Aaron Murray had thrown an interception. Missouri won the SEC East.

2014: Georgia wins 34-0 in Columbia. This was the Free Gurley game. The great Georgia tailback had been suspended "indefinitely" by the school after it was learned he'd traded autographs for money. (The suspension would last three games. He returned against Auburn, tore his ACL and left for the NFL.) In one of its finest performances under Mark Richt, Georgia rode Nick Chubb's 143 yards rushing to a comprehensive victory that was, alas, undone by the unaccountable loss to Florida. Missouri won the SEC East.

2015: Georgia wins 9-6 in Athens. This might have been the worst-looking win in Georgia annals . (Perhaps supplanted by Nicholls State.) Greyson Lambert's first pass was intercepted and returned to the Georgia 1. From there, Missouri couldn't score a touchdown. Indeed, nobody scored a touchdown. Missouri led 6-3 late in the third quarter, but two Marshall Morgan field goals -- the second coming with 1:44 remaining after a shortish drive that saw the Bulldogs mostly run Sony Michel -- carried the numbing night. Lambert was so unimpressive that Richt turned to Faton Bauta in the next game. Neither Georgia nor Missouri won the SEC East.

Totals: The winner of this game has won the East twice, the loser once. The visiting team has won three times, the home team once. I'd expect the visitor to win again Saturday night. As seen in the Nicholls game, Georgia has flaws. Missouri, however, is coming off a season that saw it go 1-7 in SEC play, the victory coming against South Carolina, which was likewise 1-7.

Gary Pinkel, the coach who did more with less , is gone. Barry Odom, his replacement, has a reputation as fine defensive man, but West Virginia amassed 494 yards in the season opener, a 26-11 Mizzou loss. The Tigers' offense is better than it was last season -- it couldn't possibly be worse -- but it remains to be seen how much better.

Drew Lock passed for 450 yards against Eastern Michigan last week; in no SEC game last year did he throw for more than 150. Odom hired Josh Heupel as his offensive coordinator, the same Josh Heupel who was pushed aside at Oklahoma, his alma mater, to make room for Lincoln Riley. Heupel's last game as Sooners OC was a 40-6 bowl loss to Clemson that capped Oklahoma's five-loss 2014 season.

Under Kirby Smart, Georgia is nowhere near a finished product. It trailed North Carolina by 10 points in its opener. It trailed Nicholls in the second half and needed a third-down conversion by Chubb with a minute remaining to prevail. This will be the first road test for Jacob Eason, assuming he starts, which he should, but playing in this Columbia isn't quite like playing in Columbia, S.C. (At least it wasn't when South Carolina was actually good.) Georgia 24, Missouri 16.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.