First off, what's the pulse in Columbia after the last two weeks. Are Tiger fans going to consider the season a success if they defend their Big 12 North title?
Speaking only for the campus itself, Columbia hasn't quite had the same swagger the past few weeks. On campus, it seemed like a lot of people had drawn pride in the football team's success, and the loss to OSU really let some of the wind out of the sails. The OSU loss was extremely deflating primarily because very few saw it coming. Everyone knew Mizzou was in for a battle in Austin, and to an extent, everyone knew that OSU would be a very tough game. But losing at home like that in a game that was expected to be a shootout (and thus in Mizzou's favor) brought this campus down a notch. The Texas loss was obviously humbling, but at least everyone was able to prepare themselves accordingly.
At the very minimum, the Tigers HAVE to win the Big 12 North for this season to be a success. Not appearing in Kansas City for the Big 12 Title game would be regarded as a failure. Before the season, the goals went, from expected to wishful, in this order: Big 12 North Title, Big 12 Title, BCS Bowl, National Title. The final goal is off the table and the second to last goal is now only obtainable by obtaining the two goals before it. I doubt you'll find a Mizzou fan wagering on a Missouri Big 12 championship, but not even making it to that stage would be flop of epic proportions for a team that was supposed to be the school's greatest in history.
What do think the Missouri coaching staff will do on Saturday to avoid the slow start that ruined their chances against Texas (other than making sure that everyone knows that the game starts at 5:30)?
Missouri looked flat-out shellshocked in Austin. This is a program and a team that has become accustomed to taking big leads and looking back at opponents. The roles were reversed last weekend, and no one, myself included, really knew how to respond. Just being at home this week should provide a first quarter jolt that the team could have severely used in Texas last week.
More than anything, the Tigers can't force anything and they can't overthink things. Much has been made of the disappearance of the Mizzou running game over the last two weeks, but I have adamantly defending the playcalling. The O-Line has simply flat out failed to produce holes. Early on, rather than trying gadget plays like the first-play reverse to Maclin that Texas blew up last week, Missouri needs to test what works against Colorado and keep going to it. If that means Derrick Washington up the gut, keep doing that. If that means hitting Chase Coffman six yards at a time, do that. If that means having Jeremy Maclin torch CU up the seams, do that. There's no need to get cute at this point. Mizzou needs to find what works against each team and exploit the hell out of it.
See the rest of the questions after the jump...
Do you feel like the Buffaloes will be able to move the ball at all against the Tiger defense that just got shredded by Texas (Hint: we all know how good Kansas State's defense is and the Buffs managed to put up a whopping 14 points at home)?
It really all depends on which Missouri defense decides to show up. I don't understand how teams gameplan for Missouri Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus because his tendencies seem to change week-to-week. Early in the season, Eberflus got his Tenuta on and sent blitzes like crazy, helping Juice Williams put together a season's worth of highlights. Since then, he's been defaulting to the bend but don't break philosophy of keeping everything in front of his players and trusting their ability to wrap up. The biggest question so far has been what to do with preseason All-American safety William Moore. Eberflus has used him near the line of scrimmage a lot as well as in the slot as a nickel back, which has diminished one of his best assets: his ball hawking ability. A lot of fans have been clamoring for his move back to "true" safety to help out a pass defense that has struggled off and on all year.
For CU to move the ball, it boils down to quarterback efficiency. Missouri has been fairly stout against the run all year outside of being manhandled by Texas and beaten for one big run by Kendall Hunter. But Missouri has been susceptible to the pass all season long. Early in the game, Missouri will try to cover up for its deep deficiencies by keeping everything in front of its secondary. CU needs to take what's given to them early in the game and methodically work down the field 5-8 yards at a time. Later in the game, that's when then pump fake and/or lookoff has been lethal. The key to moving the ball on Missouri right now is taking what the defense gives you early until things start to open up a bit late. It's all a game of pitch and catch.
Tyler Hansen brings the QB run threat that the Buffaloes previously hadn't had. What mobile QB's has the Tiger defense faced this year and how did they fare?
Mizzou has played four QB's whose running ability have been praised in one form or fashion: Illinois' Juice Williams, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, OSU's Zac Robinson, and Texas' Colt McCoy. Here's their rushing output against Mizzou vs. their rushing averages:
Williams (ILL): 19 rushes, 57 yards, 0 TD (67.8 ypg)
Kaepernick (NEV): 8 rushes, 73 yards, 1 TD (87.6 ypg)
Robinson (OSU): 12 rushes, 51 yards, 1 TD (35.6 ypg)
McCoy (TEX): 11 rushes, 23 yards, 2 TD (53 ypg)
So, for the most part, Mizzou's been able to contain the mobile QBs on the ground. But, Missouri's success against these QBs on the ground is juxtaposed with their difficulties stopping them through the air. Here's the passing outputs:
Williams: 451 yards (278 ypg)
Kaepernick: 152 yards (192 ypg)
Robinson: 215 yards (212 ypg)
McCoy: 337 yards (270 ypg)
Missouri held Kaepernick in check and Robinson had an "average" day (you know, in leading his school to its biggest win in 20 years), but Missouri made Williams and McCoy look like Montana and Marino. Plus, Hansen will be a warm-up, as Missouri travels to Waco next week to face Robert "Hot Tub " Griffin.
Let's do a little what if. What if the Buffaloes manage to keep this game close but Missouri pulls out a <10 point victory. How will Tiger fans react and will the narrow victory be met with negativity?
Two weeks ago, I would have told you people would have been storming the streets in anger and picking fights with each other online. After what's transpired the last two weeks, though, I think getting back in the win column is both a literal and metaphorical victory this week. A close win over Colorado wouldn't necessarily add any negativity, it would just help compound an undercurrent of a negativity that's starting to bubble under the surface.
What's you prediction for the outcome of the game?
In Wednesday's Rock M Roundtable, I said Missouri by 18, and for now, I'll stick by that. We'll say something along the lines of 38-20 in favor of the home team, unless Mizzou comes out as pissed off as we want them to be and takes out two weeks of frustration on CU. In that case, I'd expect the points to be piled on mercilessly.