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Bulldogs capture SEC East title, but the ‘focus on Missouri is important’

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ATHENS, Ga. – No. 1 Georgia arrived back in Athens on Saturday night after a 34-7 over Florida when the news came that Mississippi State had upset then-ranked No. 12 Kentucky.

The Wildcats’ loss solidified that the Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0) had clinched their fourth SEC East title in the past five years.

Regardless, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said on Monday that the focus remained on Missouri.

“The expectation is to win the East and play for an SEC Championship,” he said. “I think it is the greatest conference in the country in terms of the competitive nature and the recruiting battles are really tough. I am really proud of our guys and the work that they have done. Obviously, that is not our goal…it’s not where we want to be, it’s not where we need to be, so we are focused on getting better for Missouri.”

Georgia offensive lineman Justin Shaffer acknowledged that Georgia had won the SEC East title, although he knows how important it is to continue the success.

“We are not really focused on that right now,” Shaffer said. “We are focused on Missouri because we have Missouri this week. When the time comes we will celebrate but right now we are still locked in for each game week-by-week.”

The Bulldogs and the Tigers will face off against one another this upcoming Saturday in Sanford Stadium.

Missouri (4-4, 1-3 SEC) is coming off a 37-28 victory over Vanderbilt this past weekend. Even so, the Tigers have struggled this season in head coach Eli Drinkwitz’s second year. They have a potent offensive attack, which is led by running back Tyler Badie. However, the Tigers rank dead last in total defense in the SEC, allowing opponents to score 36.0 points per game.

The opening line for this SEC East matchup was 39.0 points, which was in Georgia’s favor. The Bulldogs routed the Tigers last year in Columbia, winning 49-14 after piling up a seasonhigh 615 yards of total offense. This year’s contest looks to be more of the same if Georgia can keep its rhythm moving forward.

“How can we get better in the areas that we need to improve in?” Smart said. “Because everyone knows humility is a week away and they have a good program. I think Eliah (Drinkwitz) is doing a good job, but the biggest thing is how we get better. I am certainly proud of what we have been able to do and accomplish.”

Badie could prove to be a problem for this Georgia defense, who ranks No. 1 nationally in several defensive categories. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound tailback currently leads the SEC in rushing, totaling 989 yards through eight games so far this season. Regardless, this will be his first true test of the season as the Bulldogs are the No. 1 ranked rush defense in the country.

“He’s got great vision, ultimate toughness,” Smart said. “I feel like he’s been there forever. He’s a really good receiver out of the backfield. His ability to run the outside-in zone play is as good as I’ve ever seen. They are really good at running that play. And he finds holes that sometimes you think aren’t even there, like ‘how did he get through there?’ He runs with extreme toughness.”

The kickoff for the matchup between Georgia and Missouri is set for noon.