Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Schedule Preview: Dawgs Venture To Missouri For SEC Opener (Yes, You Read That Right)

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback James Franklin #1 of the Missouri Tigers scrambles during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 12, 2011 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo., Sept. 8

Coach: Gary Pinkel, 85-54 in 11 seasons at Missouri (47-42 Big 12), 158-91-3 overall.
Last year: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12), defeated North Carolina 41-24 in the Independence Bowl.
Best win: 17-5 over then 20th-ranked Texas.
Worst loss: A 37-30 overtime defeat to an Arizona State squad that would limp away from the 2011 season with a losing record and a fired coach.
Returning starters: 13 (five offense, six defense, two special teams).

Stock watch for 2012: Steady. You can't count out any team that finished in the top 10 last year in rushing offense and that brings back both its dual-threat QB James Franklin. But defense was not an especially strong suit for the Tigers in 2011, and three of the four starters on last year's defensive line have since graduated. Thus, as Mizzou prepares for its inaugural season in its shiny new conference, it could face a particularly rude welcoming committee in the form of the SEC's perennially strong rushing attacks -- and Georgia's stable of RBs will be among the deepest and most talented the Tigers will face all year.

Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Georgia defense shakes off the fatigue from a (relatively) long road trip and stonewalls the Mizzou rushing attack, while Todd Gurley, Boo Malcome and Keith Marshall blow holes in the Tigers' rebuilt offensive line. Todd Grantham's defense made a major leap forward last year, particularly in its ability to defend the spread, and with guys like Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins and Cornelius Washington all coming back, it's reasonable to hope they pick up right where they left off.

Worst-case scenario: Georgia's pass defense, still down three starters due to various suspensions, gets shelled by James Franklin, who has seven of last year's top 10 receivers back and adds the nation's top 2012 recruit, Dorial Green-Beckham, to his list of weapons. Over the past few years, the Tigers have shifted from a pass-oriented spread attack to a more run-biased version, but Franklin is still a relatively efficient passer who can make plays with his arm when he's called upon to do so. Missouri's campus will almost certainly be rocking as the Tigers prepare to host their first conference game as members of the SEC (and their first SEC opponent of any kind in five years), so this is a situation the Dawgs can ill afford to take lightly. A loss in the SEC opener would not necessarily mean a death sentence for Georgia's conference title hopes -- we learned as much last season -- but losing to an unranked squad that's only been an official member of the SEC for two months would certainly cast an early pall over the 2012 season.

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