No. 14 Missouri faces their toughest test today as they travel to Athens, Georgia to take on No. 1 Georgia in a highly anticipated showdown. A key focal point in this matchup will be MU’s offense against UGA’s defense in the red zone. Let’s take a deeper look into this critical aspect.
Missouri’s Red Zone Offense
Kirby Moore’s offense has excelled in the red zone this season. The Tigers have made it to the red zone 35 times this year, scoring on 34 of those occasions. According to NCAA.com, Missouri’s red zone offense ranks first in the nation with an impressive scoring percentage of 97.1%.
Mizzou has recorded 14 rushing touchdowns and 10 passing touchdowns, along with 10 field goals courtesy of kicker Harrison Mevis, in their red zone attempts so far. There were several notable moments in Missouri’s red zone success this season. Quarterback Brady Cook’s nine-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Brett Norfleet against LSU marked Norfleet’s first collegiate touchdown. The TD gave MU a 22-7 lead early in the second quarter in an eventual 49-39 loss. Wide receiver Theo Wease Jr. also notched his first touchdown as a Tiger in the red zone with a five-yard reception in Missouri’s 23-19 victory over Middle Tennessee State. Running back Cody Schrader’s 19-yard rushing touchdown against Kentucky in Lexington was another key moment, putting Mizzou up by two possessions with 11 minutes in their 38-21 win.
Photo Cred: The Wichita Eagle
Overall, Cook has had a strong season, amassing 2,259 yards and 15 touchdowns as the leader of Missouri’s offense. Luther Burden III is the receiving leader for MU, ranking fifth in the nation with 905 yards and six touchdowns. Wease is also a noteworthy receiver, with 440 yards and five touchdowns this season. When Missouri enters the red zone, keep an eye out for Norfleet, as well as WRs Mookie Cooper and Marquis Johnson. Schrader leads the way in rushing yards for MU, with 807 yards and nine touchdowns, ranking 16th in the country. The Tigers will certainly seek to involve him in red zone plays.
Georgia’s Red Zone Defense
Missouri’s offense will need to expose the weakness of Georgia’s red zone defense to have a chance against the top-ranked Bulldogs today. According to NCAA.com, UGA ranks 98th in the country in red zone defense, which is among the weakest in the SEC. Georgia has conceded six rushing touchdowns, seven passing touchdowns, and two field goals from the red zone this season.
Despite being undefeated, Kirby Smart’s defense has allowed points in the red zone at critical times this season. In their 24-14 win over South Carolina in September, the Bulldogs gave up two red zone touchdowns in the first half. Gamecocks QB Spencer Rattler connected with WR Atwane Wells Jr for a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter. UofSC RB Dakereon Joyner scored a two-yard rushing TD just before halftime to extend their lead to 14-3 right. In another instance, Auburn QB Robby Ashford rushed for a nine-yard touchdown against Glenn Schumann’s defense to give AU a 17-10 lead in the third quarter. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs secured a 27-20 victory in that late September matchup.
Photo Cred: Auburn University Athletics
Despite their struggles in the red zone, UGA’s defense has been successful overall, as they haven’t allowed more than 21 points in a game this season. Linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. (37 total, 25 solo) and defensive back Tykee Smith (33 total, 21 solo) have been leaders in tackles for Georgia’s defense. Smith also leads in interceptions this season with four, including one in their hard-fought win over South Carolina. LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson is the sacks leader for the defending national champs with 3.5.
Missouri will kick off against Georgia today at 2:30 P.M. CT at Sanford Stadium, with the game broadcast on CBS.