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3 keys for Georgia football against Missouri, Tigers have 9 straight November wins

ATHENS — Missouri is playing for the SEC East Division title, too, and like Georgia the Tigers control their own destiny in that regard.

No doubt, the first thing the Bulldogs had better realize is Missouri will be equally motivated and is coming off a bye week, to boot, when the teams meet at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Sanford Stadium  (TV: ESPN).

RELATED: Georgia football injury update for Missouri

The Tigers have a sneaky good streak of nine straight wins in the month of November dating back to 2016, evidence that Coach Barry Odom knows how to keep his team motivated and conditioned for the stretch.

The Missouri win streak includes two wins over Florida and two wins against Tennessee.

Kirby Smart has done his best to send the message to his team that Missouri is not to be taken lightly.

That said, it will be challenging for Georgia to match the intensity and focus it brought to Jacksonville last Saturday for the showdown with Florida.

Three keys against Missouri:

Start fast

Georgia has not scored a touchdown on its opening drive since a 43-14 win over Tennessee on Oct. 5, four games ago.

Taking an early lead on Missouri and setting the tone would be big. The Tigers have struggled of late with losses in each of their past two games against Vanderbilt (21-14) and Kentucky (29-7).

Smart said his team should have plenty of focus after watching tape of last year’s game.

“You give them stats, and you talk about the other team, and you show them the game last year where we struggled to rush the ball and they rushed for four touchdowns against us,” Smart said of a 43-29 win in Columbia. “They’ve kind of had our number, we’ve had some tough battles with these guys.”

Stop the run

Odom isn’t buying that his team’s struggles are tied to the location. Instead, he points to an offensive element that has been missing in the Tigers’ three losses.

“I wish it was easy enough to point and say home games this and away games that, it’s not, we haven’t played well enough to win in those three losses, and it’s a number of things,” Odom said on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday. “One of them, offensively, we haven’t been able to run the football in those three contests for whatever reason, a number of reasons why.

“You look at things at the point of attack blocking, we haven’t been as efficient or been able to get as much movement. We have to coach better, we have to teach it better, we’re all in this together.”

Georgia leads the SEC in run defense, and it’s the only team — Division I, Division ll or Division lll, per UGAsports.com — not to allow a rushing touchdown this season.

Ball control ll

That’s ball control as in playing turnover free and ball control in the sense of time of possession.

From the turnover standpoint, the Bulldogs only loss of the season came in a four-turnover game against South Carolina, and they are coming off two consecutive games without a lost fumble or interception.

That’s another trend Smart has emphasized, and with good reason: Missouri leads the nation with five defensive touchdowns this season.

The Tigers have also been opportunistic when it comes to making teams pay for their mistakes, converting their past 13 interceptions into touchdowns.

Smart talked earlier in the week about the respect he has for Missouri’s defense, and those numbers would explain why.

From a time of possession standpoint, it’s worth noting the Tigers have the fastest pace of play (77.3 plays per game) of anyone on Georgia’s schedule. The Bulldogs will look to control the ball and keep Missouri QB Kelly Bryant off the field.

Running the ball is the best option: Missouri ranks fourth in the nation in pass yards allowed per game (144.5).

Georgia will maintain its balance offensively with matchup factors in mind.

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