The Missouri Tigers may be underdogs heading into their inaugural game as a member of the Southeastern Conference, but they are far from intimidated by the visiting No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs.
Mizzou streaked up and down the field to the tune of 62 points and 452 total yards in its opener against Southeastern Louisiana. Of course, very little can be taken away from a win over an FCS team that finished 3-8 in 2011-even one with a final score of 62-10.
The biggest takeway from MU's season opener came afterward when junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was asked if he watched Georgia's season-opening game with Buffalo earlier in the day:
"I watched that game," Richardson told Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune. "I turned it off, too. ... It's like watching Big Ten football. It's old-man football...If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period."
Richardson drew his share of criticism for the comments, but his point was made. The speedy spread Missouri offense is certainly a different brand of football than the pro-style favored by Georgia.
The Tigers are led by sophomore dual-threat quarterback James Franklin who was second on the team in rushing with 981 yards to go with a team-high 15 touchdowns on the ground. Franklin was dangerous through the air in 2011 as well, nearly reaching 3,000 yards passing.
The Corinth, Texas native also has plenty of talented receivers at his disposal. Mizzou has as much depth at receiver as almost any team in the country, sparked by one of the Tiger captains, senior T.J. Moe.
Mizzou suffered a huge loss this offseason when it learned that 2011 first-team All-Big 12 rusher Henry Josey still has not made a full recovery from the knee injury that cut his season short last year.
However, despite the absence of Josey, the Tigers are still led by a talented running back, senior Kendial Lawrence, who averaged 12.1 yards per carry on his way to 121 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener.
Georgia is in a somewhat similar situation offensively. The Bulldogs also lost their top running back as well, after the dismissal of sophomore Isaiah Crowell. However, the Dogs have found their saviors in a pair of true freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Marshall ran for 46 yards against Buffalo, but the story of the game was Gurley, who had an electric 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to go with 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground at an average of 12.5 per carry-perhaps something Richardson and the Mizzou defense should be a bit concerned about.
Like MU, UGA also has a proven quarterback. Junior Aaron Murray is already a two-time 3,000-yard passer as he enters his third year under center in Athens.
The big question for UGA will be whether or not its offensive line can keep Murray off his back, after allowing three sacks against Buffalo. Murray was sacked 32 times last year while being pressured into 14 interceptions, so you can bet Richardson would like to lay a few hits on Murray and make him feel like an old man on Sunday morning.
Buffalo did expose one serious weakness in the Georgia defense that Missouri will certainly try to exploit. Bulls quarterback Alex Zordich was able to make plays with his legs throughout the game en route to 83 rushing yards and a score.
Look for Franklin to employ a similar strategy of trying to keep plays alive with his running abiliity.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will try to establish their running game as well, though they may have more success through the air against a Tiger defense that gave up 252.6 passing yards per game in 2011.
Though it may look a bit like "old man football" when the Georgia offense is on the field, it will still be interesting to see how well Mizzou measures up front in its first SEC game.
On the other side of the ball, it will be a new-age battle pitting a speedy Mizzou spread offense against a fast and powerful Georgia defense.
Either way, Saturday night in Columbia is sure to be electric as Missouri makes its SEC debut.
Start Time: Saturday, Sept. 8 | 7:45 p.m. ET (6:45 local)
Location: Farout Field | Columbia, Mo.
TV Coverage: ESPN 2
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Live Stats: MUTigers.com Gametracker
Radio: Tiger Network