It’s no secret the Missouri football team has struggled on the road this season.
The Tigers (5-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference), winless away from home in three tries so far in 2019, will have a daunting task ahead of them Saturday in Athens, Georgia, against the No. 6 Bulldogs.
"It's a tremendous challenge for us, but also one that our kids are excited about and they've embraced," Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. "You go into the arena there Saturday night, it'll be one of the greatest college environments that we've been in, and our team is excited about that."
Georgia stands at 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC, its only loss coming to South Carolina in overtime Oct. 12.
The Bulldogs are fresh off a 24-17 win over No. 10 Florida last weekend.
“We’ll be tested, for sure,” Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said of the Tigers, who are coming off a bye week after losses at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. “It’s no secret that we haven’t made the plays on the road that we have made at home. I thought there were spurts in the Vandy game and spurts in the Kentucky game where we played well. But it takes a four-quarter effort, especially in SEC games.
"It’s going to come down to the fourth quarter, and we have to do a better job of getting ourselves in better position to win it at the end.”
At Faurot Field this year, Missouri is a perfect 5-0 with wins over West Virginia, Southeast Missouri State, South Carolina, Troy and Ole Miss.
But road woes have hit hard. Missouri was favored in all three of its road losses by double digits but lost to Wyoming before the pair of SEC foes.
The Tigers are currently 17-point underdogs Saturday at Georgia, the first time they're not favored in a game this season.
"We haven’t been very good on the road, so there’s another challenge," Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant said. "We just have to come ready to play on Saturday. If we want to get where you want to be, you have to take it week to week.”
For Bryant and his nagging hamstring injury, it's more like day to day. The star graduate transfer was sidelined for the latter part of the Kentucky game and rated his health at 75% after practice Tuesday.
Odom on Tuesday called Bryant a fast healer and said he's progressed over the past week. The coach was even more optimistic one day later.
"Kelly is on track to play," Odom said Wednesday during an SEC coaches conference call.
Missouri backup quarterback Taylor Powell would be in line for a start should Bryant not be able to play.
“The field is the same, so I feel like we just have to go out and execute," Powell said.
Odom also said Wednesday that injured linebacker Cale Garrett will not return this season after undergoing surgery for a torn pectoral tendon last month.
"Our guys understand that he's not coming back," Odom said of Garrett.
Injuries aside, history favors the Bulldogs on Saturday. Georgia is 7-1 all-time against Missouri. But November has been a good proving ground for the Tigers in recent years. That’s been a message that Odom and assistant coaches have been relaying down to their players.
The Tigers are 10-2 in the regular season’s final month since Odom took the helm and have won the past nine November games dating back to Nov. 25, 2016, when they defeated Arkansas 28-24 in Columbia.
“Get to November,” MU linebacker Nick Bolton said. “We have been pretty good in November, so I feel like we will come out and execute at a high level for four quarters to help us down the stretch. However, everybody still has to do their job. When you are playing against a talented team like Georgia, everybody has to do their job in order to be successful for four quarters.
"We haven’t done that in away games in the past, so we’ll have to do that to come away with a win on Saturday.”