ATHENS, Ga. When Southeastern Conference coaches gather and Georgias Kirby Smart wants to talk defense, he looks for Missouris Barry Odom.

Smart sees Odom as a like-minded coach. Both were defensive coordinators before being hired to take over programs at their alma maters.

One more similarity: Smart and Odom bring the SECs top defenses into Saturday nights important Eastern Division game.

Following last weeksemotional 24-17 winover Florida, No. 6 Georgia (7-1, 4-1, No. 6 College Football Playoff) needs a win over Missouri (5-3, 2-2) to solidify its lead in the East.

The Bulldogs have won two straight since adouble-overtime home lossto South Carolina. They cant afford another loss if they want to protect their national championship hopes.

Odoms Tigers also have hopes of winning the East.

Got a lot of respect for him, Smart said. Hes a guy that I share a lot of ideas with and discuss a lot of things with when we are at SEC meetings.

Missouri will be playing to become bowl-eligible but only if theywin their appeal of an NCAA postseason banfor academic misconduct involving a former tutor.

Georgias defense leads the league against the run. Missouri boasts the SECs toughest pass defense. Its no surprise that the Bulldogs and Tigers are the SECs top defenses in total yards allowed, ahead of Alabama and LSU.

Smart said he studies the Missouri defense because we are always trying to get better and they do different things than we do.

We are always trying to steal ideas from them, Smart said. I have a lot of respect for them and the way they play defense.

The Bulldogs, led by linebackers Monty Rice and Tae Crowder and safety J.R. Reed, allow the leagues fewest points per game.

Georgia is one of the best defenses in the country, Odom said. Theyve got great athletes all over the field. Itll be a tremendous challenge.

The Bulldogs are the nations only team to not allow a rushing touchdown.

We try to take a lot of pride in that accomplishment, but Coach Smart always reminds us to stay humble about it, said defensive end Malik Herring. He jokes that the scout team scores on us, so it keeps us motivated, but it is a pretty cool statistic.


The Tigers are 0-3 on the road, includinglosses in back-to-back SEC gamesat Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Odom said theres no common thread to the teams losses away from home.

I wish it was easy enough just to point home games this and away games that, he said. But its not. We havent played well enough to win in those three losses, and its a number of things.


Missouri is 10-2 in November in Odoms first three seasons, including nine straight wins. The streak began with a win over Arkansas on Nov. 25, 2016, and included wins over Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas and Vanderbilt each of the last two seasons.


Missouri is one of Georgias five opponentsthathave open weeks before facing the Bulldogs. Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida also were off the weeks before playing Georgia. Auburn is off this week before next weeks game against the Bulldogs.


There has been some uncertainty about the status of Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant, who suffered a strained hamstring in the loss at Kentucky two weeks ago. After saying on Tuesday that Bryant and backup Taylor Powell would split work in practice, Odom said Bryant, the transfer from Clemson, took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense Wednesday.

I think Kelly is on track to play, Odom said.


There might be a temptation for Georgia and Missouri players to watch the start of the LSU-Alabama matchupof the nations top-ranked teams before pregame warmups in Athens. Smart just shrugged when asked if hell try to keep his players away from the TV.

Yeah, I dont know how I would monitor that, he said. If you figure that out, let me know, because Im not the TV police. So we dont monitor that.

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