Nobody told Missouri winning in the Southeastern Conference is easy.
Just look at how hard Georgia made it look on Saturday.
The Bulldogs‚Äô offense tottered its way through much of its 41-20 victory over Missouri at Faurot Field, leaning heavily on the defense late in the game to turn a nail-biter into a near blowout, or what looked like one on paper.
There were points where Georgia‚Äôs offense showed some resolve, sure.
There were the three consecutive scoring drives in the second half. There was the time someone on the sideline had the guts to go for a two-point conversion (and get it). And Marlon Brown made a few fans with a pair of touchdown catches.
But with a first half as dismal as Saturday‚Äôs was for Georgia ‚Äî and it was 0-for-7-on-third-down-conversions bad in the first half ‚Äî the road to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game is getting bumpier.
Don‚Äôt trust the final score, either. This one was closer and scarier than the Bulldogs wanted it to be, regardless of all those polite things they said about Missouri belonging in the SEC. The 42-20 final was courtesy of a pair of big defensive plays late in the game ‚Äî a Jarvis Jones interception return to the Tigers‚Äô 1 and a Jordan Jenkins fumble recovery at the Missouri 5.
A win is a win, and this one will go a long way for a team used to playing catch-up and that last opened a season 2-0 in 2008. But what happens when the defense isn‚Äôt there to save the day?
Georgia nearly found out on Saturday.
When Missouri opened the game with a pair of bad snaps that could only be chalked up to first-SEC-game jitters, it seemed Georgia had the advantage. Just stare them down and roll right over them, right?
One play into the Bulldogs‚Äô first drive, Todd Gurley fumbled, and quickly recovered, a toss.
Georgia had blinked, too, and the Tigers ate it up, or at least as best they could. They had the crowd, they had the confidence, they had some big plays and even led 20-17 with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
But it was Georgia‚Äôs defense to the rescue, reversing the tide of the game as the Bulldogs‚Äô offense did little to distinguish itself from Missouri‚Äôs. The Tigers even led in several categories ‚Äî passing yards (269 to Georgia‚Äôs 242), total offensive yards (371 to 355) and first downs (18 to 17) and the difference in rushing yards was minor with Georgia leading 113 to 102.
With those numbers, it‚Äôs unlikely this is going to be Georgia‚Äôs most dominant showing of the season. The Bulldogs will score more points against someone else, and their defense proved it had plenty of strength even when shorthanded due to suspensions.
But while it may not have been the Bulldogs‚Äô best game of the season, it may scare them to think that it might not be their worst, either.