October 9, 2008

Scouting Mizzou: Big-time O

The first quarter of the college football season is typically pretty boring.

Most schools square off against directional sisters of the blind academies and tee off, winning games with little resistance. That's just the nature of the college game.

But now things are getting down to the nitty gritty. This weekend, a pair of games in the Big 12 will get things hopping in the conference race. Texas faces Oklahoma early in the day, while Oklahoma State takes on Missouri that evening. The games signal that the meat of the schedule has arrived.

With both schools scoring a ton of points, the game between the Cowboys and Tigers looks to be a high-scoring affair. Are the scoreboards at Faurot Field in working order? They better be, as this game has "track meet" written all over it. Could this be the game of the year in the conference? We'll have to see about that, but for now we can say this is a big game. So what can Orange Country expect from the Tigers? A tough out, that's what.

Columbia, Mo.
2007 record: 12-2 (7-1 Big 12)
Game time: 7 p.m. Central (TV: ESPN2)
Current record: 5-0 (1-0 Big 12)
Last week: 52-17 win over Nebraska in Lincoln
Current ranking: No. 3 in the AP (OSU No. 17)
Fact of the week: Mizzou was the first public university west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1839. Also, MU created the world's first journalism school in 1908. Today, it's known as one of the best journalism schools in the nation.

… the Tiger offense:
In short, it's roaring. Mizzou is lighting up the competition, scoring 53.4 points per game, good for second in the country. Overall, the offense is putting up 568 yards per game, good for third nationally. The strong suit of their offense is the passing game, where the Tigers rank third nationally with 375 ypg. That has a lot to do with Chase Daniel, who is only getting better and better. The senior from Texas is just halfway under the stats he put up in 2007. So far this season, Daniel has completed 76 percent of his passes for 1,165 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has two 400-yard passing games already this season, which was the same total he had all of last year. The only stats that are worse than last year for him is on the ground. He just doesn't need to run this year and that's because of Derrick Washington. He's averaging 100 ypg rushing, which lands him at No. 25 nationally and second in the Big 12. He had 139 yards and two scores last week at Nebraska. Also helping out Daniel's stats is the deep wide receiver corps. Mizzou has two wideouts in the Top 25 nationally in receiving yards a game, Jeremy Maclin (96 ypg; 17th) and Chase Coffman (90; 22nd).
… the Tiger defense: Ranking 83rd nationally in total defense, Mizzou's defensive unit is solid against one phase but not so much in the other. The Tigers rank 116th in pass defense (281 ypg), but come in 15th in rush defense (95 ypg). Aside from the 42 points allowed against Illinois to start the season, the Tigers have done a pretty good job of limiting points from the opposition. Mizzou comes in 44th in scoring defense (20 ppg) kept Nebraska to only 17 points last weekend. As far as impact players on this side of the ball, pay attention to Ziggy Hood[db] on the defensive line (two sacks against Buffalo), [db]Sean Witherspoon[db] at linebacker (three interceptions and two sacks in 2008) and [db]William Moore at defensive back (22 tackles on the season).
… the coach: With three losing seasons in his first four years in Columbia, Gary Pinkel got off to a shaky start at Mizzou. But all that is a distant memory for Tiger fans now. Last season's 12-2 mark ended with a win in the Cotton Bowl and a No. 4 ranking in the last AP poll of the 2007 campaign. They pick up where they left off this season, back in the Top 10 and a serious Big 12 title and BCS game threat. Pinkel is in his eighth season now and has done a masterful job of lifting the Tigers up from annual also-ran to Big 12 contender.

This might be the most exciting game in the Big 12 this season. The conference is spoiled with many great matchups all fall, but it could be argued this game will be the most explosive offensively this season. OSU has a top 10 offense and a lethal running game; Mizzou has a top 10 offense and a lethal passing attack. Both teams have amazing skill players at quarterback, running back and wideout. Both teams have weaknesses on defense that can be exploited. In short, this is a television scheduler's dream. The Cowboys are in position to be the darkest of darkhorses in the league race with a win, while the Tigers can solidify their control of the Big 12 North by beating the Pokes. Look for this to be a high-scoring affair, but a close one. Faurot Field is sold out and the Tigers will need the home-field advantage. That'll be the difference in this one, as Mizzou holds on for a 54-48 win over the Cowboys.

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