SEC East Showdown: Georgia at Missouri

Published on Sept. 7, 2012, at 8:23 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

Missouri is poised to make its SEC debut Saturday night at home against Georgia in a crucial SEC East showdown. Most betting shops opened the Bulldogs as 3 ½-point favorites.

The line got down to as low as 1 ½ at a few offshores but as of Friday afternoon, most spots had UGA favored by 2 ½. The total is 54 ½ and bettors can take the Tigers to win outright for a plus-115 return (risk $100 to win $115).

The rest of the SEC East will certainly be rooting for Missouri (1-0 straight up, 0-0 against the spread) to successfully break into the league. That’s because Georgia (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS) essentially goes into the season with a one-game lead over the rest of the division due to an advantageous schedule.

For the second straight year, Mark Richt’s team will not have to play the SEC West’s Big Three of Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. Meanwhile, the rest of the East, with the lone exception of Vanderbilt, has to play at least one of those schools and South Carolina must face Arkansas and LSU.

But my theory of UGA’s invisible one-game lead disappears if it has to tote a loss back home to Athens.

Speaking of Athens, four Georgia starters are expected to be left there due to suspensions. Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Chase Vasser and Alec Ogletree are reportedly suspended, although Richt has attempted to play coy on this topic.

What we know for certain is that this quartet didn’t dress in Week 1. Plus, Rambo’s high-school coach has confirmed to reporters that his suspension is for four games. The other players are expected to complete two-game suspensions this weekend.

Georgia failed to cover the number in Saturday’s 45-23 win over Buffalo as a 38-point home ‘chalk.’ Freshman running back Todd Gurley stole the show by scoring three touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return. Gurley needed only eight carries to produce 100 rushing yards and a pair of scoring runs from 10 and 55 yards out.

Junior QB Aaron Murray completed 15-of-26 passes for 258 yards and three TDs without an interception. Tavarres King hauled in six receptions for 117 yards and a 63-yard TD grab.

Richt had to be concerned with his defense, though. The Bulls had 347 yards of total offense and rushed for 199 yards, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Dawgs will have to get a better effort defensively to emerge from Columbia unscathed.

Missouri dealt out woodshed treatment to SE Louisiana in the form of a 62-10 clubbing in a non-lined matchup against an FCS school. James Franklin appeared to be fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, connecting on 13-of-21 throws for 131 yards and one TD without an interception. Franklin rushed six times for 39 yards, but gamblers can expect to see him using his legs more often this week.

Kendial Lawrence rushed 10 times for 121 yards and a pair of TDs. T.J. Moe had three receptions for 26 yards and one score, while freshman sensation Dorial Green-Beckham had three catches for 32 yards. ‘DGB’ was considered the No. 1 prep player in America by most recruitniks and Gary Pinkel’s is hoping for immediate contributions from his six-foot, six-inch WR.

While UGA is dealing with personnel issues in the form of suspensions, Mizzou is trying to overcome a rash of injuries to its offensive line. Senior OG Jack Meiners is ‘questionable’ with a knee injury, while senior OG Travis Ruth is ‘out’ for the season. Also, reserve OG Mark Hill and reserve OT Taylor Chappell have both been lost to season-ending injuries.

Since 2003, Missouri has only been a home underdog nine times. The Tigers have compiled a 5-4 spread record in those situations.

During Richt’s 12-year tenure at UGA, the Dawgs have gone 18-12-1 ATS in 31 games as road favorites.

Kickoff in Columbia is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Kent St. senior WR Tyshon Goode is ‘doubtful’ at Kentucky with a hamstring injury. Goode was the Flashes’ second-leading receiver in 2011 with 24 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats are going to be without their two best RBs with both Coshik Williams (back) and Josh Clemons (knee) ‘out.’ UK is a seven-point home favorite and the total is 44.

–When Western Kentucky played at LSU last year as a 41 ½-point underdog, it took the cash in a 42-9 loss. The Tigers were in a classic letdown spot one week after beating Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium. This season the Hilltoppers, who returned nine starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 7-5, go to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide as 39-point puppies. Once again, Western Ky. catches its opponent in a letdown (and look-ahead) situation with ‘Bama coming off the big win over Michigan with a trip to Arkansas on deck.

–Although the game will be played in East Rutherford at Giants Stadium rather than at the Carrier Dome, it’s fair to classify this as a road favorite spot for Southern Cal against Syracuse. On Lane Kiffin’s watch, the Trojans are 4-3 ATS as road ‘chalk.’ I’ve been hesitant all week to pull the trigger on a Syracuse play (+26 at most books as of late Friday afternoon), but I certainly lean to the Orange. Doug Marrone’s squad lost a 38-17 decision at USC last year. I made the number 21.

–Nebraska star RB Rex Burkhead is ‘out’ at UCLA due to a sprained MCL. The Cornhuskers, who have thrived under Bo Pelini with a 9-4-1 spread record as road favorites, are favored by 5 ½ over the Bruins.

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