Georgia star tailback Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely while the school investigates an alleged violation of NCAA rules, leaving the 13th-ranked Bulldogs without one of the leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy when they visit No. 23 Missouri in a crucial SEC Eastern Division game Saturday.
Georgia officials did not reveal the alleged violation Thursday.
Coach Mark Richt says he is ''very disappointed'' by the suspension. He added that ''the important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.''
Gurley leads the Bulldogs with 773 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. In addition, he has 11 receptions and a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD.
Being without Gurley comes at a bad time for Georgia, which could struggle to navigate a difficult upcoming stretch if its recent history away from home is any indication.
Georgia (4-1, 2-1) lost its first road contest to then-No. 24 South Carolina 38-35 on Sept. 13, but has since bounced back to knock off Troy, Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined 145-49. The Bulldogs rank sixth nationally with 45.0 points per game - an average that would surpass the 2012 school record of 37.8.
"We feel great about what we're doing," said Chris Conley, who leads the team with 200 receiving yards and caught two touchdowns in a 44-17 win over the Commodores last Saturday. "We feel good that we're getting better each week. In order to get back (to the SEC championship game) we have to get better each week and that starts in practice."
Georgia is opening a four-game stretch that includes two other road contests against Arkansas and Kentucky, as well as its annual showdown with rival Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs will go 42 days between home games - their most since 2008.
They've dropped five of nine on the road and are 2-7 away from home in their last nine against ranked opponents, including four straight defeats.
However, the road team has taken both meetings since Missouri joined the SEC. The Tigers won 41-26 last Oct. 12 to snap Georgia's 15-game home winning streak, with the Bulldogs committing four turnovers in their worst loss of the season.
Gurley also missed that contest due to an ankle injury. He ran for 163 yards and two TDs against Vanderbilt while also completing a 50-yard pass - Georgia's longest of the season. Gurley is the conference's leading rusher with 154.6 yards per game, and his 194.6 all-purpose yards ranks second nationally behind Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (195.8).
With 3,147 rushing yards, Gurley needs 86 to pass Garrison Hearst for second on the school's all-time list - but that chase has been put on hold.
The Bulldogs will likely turn to freshmen Nick Chubb, who ranks second on the team with 234 yards rushing. Georgia has run the ball at least 35 times in every game while passing it no more than 26 times. The Bulldogs rank 12th in the FBS with 288.8 yards per game on the ground.
Georgia could be relishing the chance to face a Missouri team that allows 144.6 rushing yards a contest - eighth in the SEC. The Tigers' lackluster run defense was exposed in a 31-27 home loss to Indiana on Sept. 20, as the Hoosiers rushed for 241 yards and three TDs.
Missouri (4-1, 1-0) rebounded from that defeat with a 21-20 win at then-No. 13 South Carolina on Sept. 27. Down 13, Russell Hansbrough ran for two of his three TDs in the final 6:49 for the school's biggest fourth-quarter comeback ever.
"These are games that change a football team," coach Gary Pinkel said.
Shane Ray has recorded eight of the Tigers' 18 sacks, a team total good for second in the conference.
Missouri's potent pass rush, however, may prove to not be pivotal given Georgia's run-heavy offense. The Bulldogs are second-to-last in the SEC with 117 pass attempts, though they've surrendered six sacks.
Missouri's Maty Mauk posted a 157.9 passer rating before struggling at South Carolina, going 12 for 34 for 132 yards. He'll look to bounce back against a Georgia defense that's ninth in the SEC with a 122.1 opponents' passer rating.