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Looking @ Mizzou Football

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Our most important road contest to date. Although Faurot ranks somewhere behind Stalingrad and Stadio Azteca in the list of great home field advantages, it is a place that can get rocking if the Tigers create some early confidence and belief.

If their fans - separated fom the field by barb wire and a moat patrolled by lampreys - begin urinating in cups and flinging it at our players while brandishing machetes, I may give them the nod over Stadio Azteca and move them to Ohio State fan level.

Given how we've played thus far on offense, my guess is that they'll have that opportunity. To start with confidence, I mean. Not fling wee-wee.

For an amusing and highly informative look at Missouri's offensive and defensive performance to date vs. our respective units, no one does it better than Atomic Teeth. Actually, I know three people that do it better (ever hear of one Mr Tony Danza?) but that's pretty good to be in the Top Four of the No One Does It Better Category.

I won't pretend to be expert on Missouri as my viewing of this team is limited to about one third of the quarters they've played but I like my opinions untarnished by experience and context. I also operate from an initial premise that Missouri is responsible for Branson and an irresponsibly large volume of Midwestern folksy bullshit wisdom revealed by men holding suspenders in their thumbs on a rickety porch. So you're suspect, Mizzourah.

Offense

Gabbert is the anti-Daniel. He is 6-5, 240, athletic, and has a cannon for an arm. He also lacks the general physical structure of a Tolkien character. I'm also not aware of him ever sporting a neck beard. So there's a lot to like about Blaine Gabbert. What's not to like about Blaine Gabbert from the Missouri perspective is that he has a bad wheel and he has taken a lot of big hits. Immobility, Average Offensive Line, and Outrageous Success Against Muschamp Defense have very little overlap in a Venn Diagram. Gabbert was heavily praised for his guts in surviving the beating that Nebraska delivered to him in a Goan monsoon, which sounded eerily like the praise heaped upon Randall "Tex" Cobb during the Larry Holmes fight.

Has Missouri ever successfully run the ball in their current offense without a legitimate run threat at QB? On a team not called Southwest Missouri State or Iowa State? They're relying on Derrick Washington to make something happen and I've just not seen it from the guy. Ever. Apparently, he has big games. Rumors of big games. Portent of big games. Scuttlebutt of big games. Lies! Every time I see him on television he is lurching forward awkwardly as if he'd put on his jock backwards, with his left shoe on his right foot and his right shoe worn as a hip pad.

Danario Alexander is a 6-5 215 pound WR stud (44-627-5). Sort of our best and highest aspiration for Dan Buckner. I think he's quality, a long strider, with a surprising ability to move in and out of routes for a big man. Fantastic hips is how he'd be described by recruiting analysts and/or Harvey Milk. He was a three star no-name from CenTex and say what you will about Gary Pinkel as a coach but the guy consistently seems to make good evaluations - outside of his golf visors.

Jared Perry is their #2 WR and he's kind of a speed guy (31-493-5). Beyond those two, I don't think Mizzou's receiving corps reeks of reliability. They have several other guys with names and statistics and attributes and mothers that love them very much, but they're not proven. Sort of like a team we know.

The Mizzou OL is OK. I think they hit a talent wall when they encounter a DL with multiple good athletes and they can't scheme around the pressure. They certainly don't blow people off of the ball in the running game without Gabbert offering the possibility of a threat.

From a tactical perspective, Missouri won't be able to foster much of a running game against us with Gabbert's gimpy gam. That means they're going to rely on throwing downfield to some nice receivers. What does Texas do very well once you've been rendered one dimensional? I will offer one caution to Texas fans though - Gabbert will be throwing the ball 25, 30, 40 yards down the field at a time. I just want to assure Longhorn faithful that this outrageous strategy is technically legal in college football. Vertical passing is exciting, irresponsible, and dangerous and I hope the fad ends soon.

That written, Missouri is inconsistent and seems to rely inordinately on the big play to score. So don't be surprised when you see the Missouri possessions which will begin with a 32 yard completion to Alexander, followed by a Derrick Washington run for 1, an incompletion, and a sack.

Defense

I like Jaron Baston at NG and Aldon Smith at DE (3 sacks on the year). I'm not blown away by anyone else on their DL and they've haven't done a great job of getting pressure consistently (10 sacks on the year).

Sean Weatherspoon is their acclaimed LB and I'll be curious to see how he's used. He has put on 15 pounds since last year and I'm wondering if he's lost a little quickness? My viewing suggests that he has but I still like him a lot based on what I've seen from him historically. They lost Ebner to a knee injury and Luke Lambert gets the snaps at ILB. It's time to play: Guess! That! Ethnicity! The Missouri media guide opine thusly on Lambert:

Underrated linebacker talent who quietly goes about his business of making plays for the Tiger defense. Is a solid run stopper...

Andrew Gachkar gets the snaps at SLB. Will they play 4-3 personnel against us? I think not.

The Missouri secondary has been surprisingly good given their inexperience although they got folded over by a WR named Hubert from Oklahoma State. Hubert may indeed be good, but if his name were La'Keese Blades-Mustafa it would have been more excusable.

Jasper Simmons is probably their best guy back there and he's second on team in tackles. Former JUCO. Very active safety with good size and some quicks and he certainly looks the part. Carl Gettis is their most experienced guy and he's a solid CB with a lot of skins on the wall given that he started for Missouri as a true freshman. I'm from Iowa on the other two guys.

If I were to describe Missouri's defense in one word it would be: competent. If you asked for another word, I would say: lacks dynamism. And if you said that was two words, I'd probably say, good point. Missouri hasn't forced too many turnovers (only 2 ints, 6 fr) this year, but they don't beat themselves and the pace of their offense and passing attempt volume forces them to defend a lot of plays. They're solid. Like a sort of reinforced balsa wood. Colorado shut us down, so let's not get cocky.

Special Teams

Very good field goal kicker in Ressel. Nothing else is done particularly well or poorly except for good punt coverage. There may be a play for us to make in the kickoff return game.

Overall

Unless our offense tees up Mizzou with 3+ turnovers, I like us leaving with the win. If we can get a reasonably competent performance from our O with minimal TO's and the defense can win it's share of battles against Missouri's passing game, I certainly like us winning with the cover (-13.5).

Don't get all whiny if Missouri comes out hitting some plays downfield. Muschamp will adjust, we'll bring some heat, and the world will be right. We're 6-0, but we have not yet seen a quality team on the road. Should be an interesting test of our mettle.