WATCH: Georgia coach Kirby Smart reveals why Missouri ‘a tough match up’
ATHENS — Kirby Smart looks at the Missouri football team and likes what he sees so much that it makes him uncomfortable about the matchup this week.
“They are a tough match-up from their defensive perspective because they are so big and physical up front,” Smart said at his Monday press conference.
“You look historically against us, they have done a really good job. They are top probably 15 in the country in almost every defensive category and they do a good job of that.”
The No. 6-ranked Bulldogs (7-1, 4-1 SEC) play host to Missouri (5-3, 2-2) at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Smart said he counts Tigers coach Barry Odom among those he respects and shares ideas with. That’s enough to make Georgia fans nervous, considering the last two coaches Smart put in that category — Will Muschamp and Tom Herman — beat UGA at its own game.
Indeed, Herman revealed that Smart allowed the Texas staff to visit Georgia practices and “pick their brains” the spring before the Longhorns beat them in the Sugar Bowl.
While Smart likely hasn’t allowed Missouri or any other SEC teams into UGA’s practices, the Tigers have had an extra week of preparation for Georgia coming off a bye last Saturday.
That could explain why the point spread for the game opened at just 14 1/2 points — a curiously low number considering Missouri lost its las game 29-7 at Kentucky.
Also consider, Georgia was a 16-point favorite over Notre Dame earlier this season.
“They are an aggressive style, they load the box on you, they make you play one-dimensional,” Smart explained. “They are very multiple and they disguise things well.”
So well, in fact, that Smart said the Georgia coaching staff watches Missouri footage in search of new ideas to consider applying to the the Bulldogs’ playbook.
“We always study what they do because we are always trying to get better and they do different things than we do,” Smart said. “We are not like philosophically built the same as them. Yeah, stop the run, don’t let them score, don’t give up big plays, turnovers, we are all the same there.
“But schematically, they are different from us, and we are always trying to steal ideas from them.”
Smart’s team will be hard-pressed to play with the same energy and focus it displayed in the 24-17 win over Florida last Saturday in Jacksonville.
It would seem an emotional letdown would be a possibility, especially when one considers how this Georgia team has shown a tendency to play to the level of its opponent in SEC games and struggled to finish off Power 5 competition.
Three of the Bulldogs last five games have been one score games that were not decided until the final minutes. The other two — at Tennessee and against Kentucky — featured closely contested first halves.
Georgia has yet to record double-digit wins in consecutive games against Power 5 competition this season.
Smart said the mindset in the locker room remains strong, however, with his players realizing they are in complete control of their ability to meet all of their season goals and perform at a championship level.
“As coaches, we always say that’s it’s never as good as it is, and it’s never as bad as it seems,” Smart said. “More important, our kids understand what makes you successful is what you do, not what you listen to.”