ATHENS — Georgia football has opened as a 14 1/2-point favorite over Missouri, an indication the oddsmakers are taking into account the Tigers’ bye week.
The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) dropped a 20-17 overtime decision to South Carolina the last time UGA faced a team coming off a bye week at Sanford Stadium on Oct. 12.
Missouri (5-3, 2-2) is coming off back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but earlier this season scored impressive wins over West Virginia (38-7) and South Carolina (34-14).
The Bulldogs struggled on the road in Columbia last season, beating a determined Missouri team 43-29.
That road trip was fresh on Kirby Smart’s mind following Georgia’s 24-17 win over Florida on Saturday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
“We’ve got to play Missouri next week, and they’ve got a good football team,” Smart said. “The toughest job for us in moving forward, is grounding this team and making sure they understand the quality of team we’ve got to come and play next week.”
The Bulldogs shouldn’t need too much convincing: they were favored by 24 points and flying high at No. 3 before laying an egg at home against the Gamecocks.
It was a historic loss, the first time a Georgia team ranked No. 3 or higher had ever lost between the hedges to an unranked opponent.
The Bulldogs are still trying to regain national respect, and some in their own fanbase still have questions about Coach Kirby Smart’s coaching philosophy.
Smart said Saturday night he heard the doubts, even though he remained confident.
“I never really doubted this team, I mean our team doesn’t listen to the outside noise,” Smart said. “We had four turnovers and played really poorly against an SEC opponent, and then we played in an absolute monsoon, and we’re all asking ourselves.”
Smart even had some fun at the expense of the Bulldogs’ fans who jumped off the bandwagon after Jake Fromm’s performance in the loss to South Carolina.
“I’m just proud of the support that our fans provided for us,” Smart said, “even if they did think Jake couldn’t throw the ball.”
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