Another week, another question

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

So far, we've learned this much.

The Missouri Tigers can beat fairly bad teams.

The Tigers can beat a fairly good team.

The St. Louis Cardinals are really good in elimination games. (Oops, wrong team. But they sure are good, aren't they? And their pitching staff, wow ... they have more young guns than a street gang.)

But I digress.

Now, the next question. Can the Tigers beat a very good team? On the road, no less.

The next answer in this Q and A will come Saturday, when the No. 25 Tigers (5-0, 1-0 SEC) --- who have cracked the Top 25 for the first time in two years --- travel to Athens, Ga., to meet the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0) at 11 a.m.

Are the Tigers excited about being ranked? Well, Max Copeland --- Missouri's entertaining and outspoken mountain man from Montana --- isn't popping champagne.

To paraphrase Copeland ... rankings, schmankings.

"You can quantify this all you want and make these cute little lists of who's the best, I don't care," said the 6-3, 300-pound senior offensive lineman.

I have always thought of the AP Top 25 as cute, by the way

"I don't care who they think is the best team," Copeland continued. "Our goal is to go undefeated this week."

Good goal. But before we look ahead to Georgia, let's take a look back.

The Tigers opened the season by ripping off four wins against teams who served as appetizers for the main course --- Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State.

Last Saturday, they headed to Nashville and ripped the Vanderbilt Commodores, 51-28. Vanderbilt beat Missouri 19-15 last year in Columbia, so this was a noteworthy turn of events.

MU senior Michael Sam was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the second time this season, after recording three sacks and five total tackles in the win.

It was the fourth time this season a Tiger has earned this honor.

But it was the Missouri offense that was the story, as the Tigers bolted to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and were never threatened.

"Scoring on the first possession and scoring fast was something we wanted to do," quarterback James Franklin said, "and it really helped with the momentum going throughout the game."

Of the things we've learned, we also know this --- MU is a lot better with a healthy Franklin on the field. The senior is second in the SEC and No. 10 in the nation in total offense (337 yards per game, 281 passing, 56 rushing).

Overall, the Tigers are seventh in the nation in total yards (544 ypg.) and eighth in scoring offense (46.6 ppg.)

"It really is fun," Franklin said. "Everyone on the sidelines is going crazy because they are all excited about the plays that are being made.

"It really lifts us up."

Now, Georgia. Instead of a very good test, the Bulldogs would be considered a great test if not for two things --- offense and defense.

On offense, it's injuries --- they're without their top two running backs and top three receivers (four knee injuries, one ankle).

Still, and with senior quarterback Aaron Murray --- who's a serious Heisman Trophy contender --- directing the show, the Bulldogs are No. 11 in the nation in total offense (530 ypg.) and 23rd in scoring offense (39.8 ppg.)

"I have played against my fair share of current and future NFL quarterbacks and we don't prepare any different," said defensive back E.J. Gaines. "We prepare for the football team, not necessarily one player."

On defense, the Bulldogs have just one problem --- they can't stop anybody. They're 66th in the nation in total defense (404 ypg.) and a stunningly-bad 95th in scoring defense (32.2 ppg.)

These Tigers must be licking their chops.

"We know we have a tremendous challenge against Missouri on Saturday," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Monday. "It's important that we put together a good week of preparation."

The Bulldogs, who's loss came in Week One at No. 3 Clemson, 38-35, still have national-championship aspirations.

And they'll be playing in front of more than 92,000 Dawg-crazy fans between the fabled hedges, where Georgia has already notched impressive wins over South Carolina (41-30) and LSU (44-41).

So this will be anything but easy for the Tigers, who are 10-point underdogs.

"One of the neat things about playing college football is --- and we did it in the Big 12 and obviously in the SEC --- you get a chance to play in great stadiums around the country," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

"This is another one and we're looking forward to it."