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Folks, this game is going to cause additional heartburn for fans of beautiful offense. My faith in our ability to quickly and successfully install the New Longhorn Offense is unsurprisingly low. It's hard to believe, but in one year the Big 12 has gone from the WAC on steroids to the SEC on crack.
The 2009 Missouri Tigers are currently the #81 offense in the nation in yards per play exactly one year after being #8 in the same measure. As I have mentioned over on Atomic Teeth before, their 2008 defense was underrated given the fact that they, too, had to play in a Big 12 conference with plenty of good offenses and even more referees completely unwilling or unable to call penalties on an offensive lineman. And that unit has stepped up even more this year, going from #23 in defensive YPP last year to #13 so far this year. This year's defense is especially stingy against the pass, giving up only 4.41 yards per called pass play.
Texas, on the other hand, now appears to be better at running the football than throwing it after the Davis Dallas Debacle. Of course, it's all relative as Texas ranks #36 in yards per rushing play and #47 in yards per passing play for a smooth overall #39 ranking in yards per play. This should line up as a win if Texas is willing to run the ball and let our defense dictate the flow of the game. Gabbert's nice start protecting the ball has vanished as soon as he started facing good defenses. The stats say the passing games should be roughly a wash in terms of yardage generated but the Longhorns should be able to turn the ball over on defense three times as often as they give it up. Given the prediction that the Tigers won't be able to run the ball much at all - the stats call for a 1.40 average yardage on called running plays for the Tigers - and the Tigers will be forced into passing situations that further put their possessions at risk.
In special teams play, Missouri should have a slight edge in the punting game as Texas' punt coverage unit has been very disappointing after finishing #3 in the country in net punting average last year. But there may be a big problem for the Tigers if they are indeed able to score some points. Their kickoff unit allows an average starting field position of around the 32-yard line while the Texas return team averages a start at the 37-yard line. Given both numbers' relation to the average result in college football this year and the stats call for the Longhorns to start their average drive after a Mizzou kickoff right around their 40-yard line.
It doesn't seem like there should be any reason for Texas to lose this game as long as they call it reasonably from the sideline. So no problem, right?