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2011 Texas-Missouri Football Preview

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Nobis60's preseason preview is one of my favorite State Of The Unions and it captured the Missour-eeee and Missou-rah dynamic well as it explored the depths of the glass half full. Why is it assumed, by the way, that a glass half full is so desirable? What if it's full of orangutan flop? Why do we assume it's full of pomegranate juice?

Lots of EEEEEEEEEE and UHHHHHHH to be found in this puzzling team comprised of Texans Guys Who Hate Texans.

Offense

QB

James Franklin is a good dual threat QB. I liked him in high school and his success at Missouri as a sophomore isn't surprising. He's a legit 6-2, 225 and runs pretty well. He's not going to drop a 70 yard run on us, but he will move the sticks if you overplay Josey in the zone read and he's fully capable of breaking containment and converting 3rd and 7 with his feet. He's responsible for more than 300 yards per game running and passing, 26 total touchdown in 9 games, and has a better than 2:1 TD-INT ratio.

RB

Henry Josey is the best back in the league. I've yet to see a Missouri game where he didn't break a long run, but he's not just a long ball threat. He leads the country in runs of 10+ yards. Probably why he's averaging an extraordinary 8.6 yards per carry and 130 yards per game. Because Josey goes around 5-10, 190, Missouri does try to watch his work load and tries to keep him under 20 carries. His back-up, Lawrence, is just a dude. Often, Franklin ends up with the bulk of the offensive load (QB Franklin actually has more carries than Josey) and I wonder if he's starting to feel it. Or if we can make him feel it.

WR/TE

Michael Egnew (42-432-2) is the best pass catching TE in the league, but he's no Chase Coffman despite being white, athletic, and likely to also miserably fail in the NFL because he can't block. Special Vaccaro project? You bet. He operates on short routes and thrives in easy play action candy set up by the Mizzou running game.

TJ Moe is the primary WR target (44-547) and he's an intermediate possession guy. The only way to stop Moe is to poke him in the eyes after feinting a double slap to his ears. He may respond with a nose bonk though, so be on guard.

Wes Kemp is a big body at 6-4 220 and has been in seeming decline since his sophomore year. Sophomore Marcus Lucas goes 6-5 and has shown flashes. Not sure what the deal with Jerrel Jackson is. When you evaluate the Missouri WRs as a group, they look more impressive in pre-game warm ups than they do in the game. They're certainly capable of hurting us if we don't handle play action or overplay the running game and I'm sure they'll be spreading us out and targeting the usual suspects (Scott, Gideon) as well as trying to exploit height disparities in the red zone with Quandre Diggs.

OT

Wuebbels and Hoch have been starting on the right side of the Missouri OL forever and combine for something like 70 starts. They're good players. The rest of the OL is inexperienced: Palmgren, Britt, and Ruth are all first year starters and I expect them to struggle at times. Ruth is also banged up. A real opportunity for Randall.

How We Defend Them

The Missouri offense is good, capable of huge plays in the running game with Josey, and Franklin is a dangerous QB. Containment and soundness against the run are huge issues and this responsibility will weigh heavily on the shoulders of Okafor, Jeffcoat, Acho, and Robinson. Our LBers are not terribly instinctive, we've struggled at times dealing with the QB as a run threat schematically, and Oklahoma State revealed our potential for getting popped in the running game when we underman our fronts and our LBs drift randomly instead of reading keys and playing football. Zero question in my mind that Josey could pop a long run on us. Bad habits die hard.

One weakness of the Missouri offense is a relatively low 3rd down conversion percentage (38%) vs their overall offensive output (500 yards per game) and I'm sure Diaz sees that and understands the paramountcy of having some wrinkles on 3rd down to get them off of the field.

On the bright side, playing Mizzou and K-State back-to-back is a great prep for both as they operate in roughly approximate concepts.

Defense

Pretty simple in my view. The closer the Tiger to the ball, the better he probably is. Their DL is good, the LBs are average, the DBs are struggling. We'd prefer exactly the opposite of that, but that doesn't mean we can't make it work.

DL

Both Tech and KU had weak, undersized fronts and we'll see none of that against Mizzou. They go 265-305-295-255 across the board and all of their LBs are 230+.

I like Missouri's front and think they're the third best unit in the league. Dominique Hamilton is an offset nose and he's surprisingly active inside for a big guy. Dominic Espinosa hasn't seen a consistent 1 tech since BYU and I'm curious to see how he responds. DT Sheldon Richardson is a former five star recruit who went JUCO and he's talented. The light appears to be turning on for him, but he's still pretty raw. His athleticism will give us problems if Mizzou cuts him loose to penetrate. Terrell Resono is in the rotation and he's adequate.

DE Jacquies Smith was one of my favorite characters on 227. He's long and energetic. I have no impression of Brad Madison, good or bad.

LB

Andrew Wilson leads the team in tackles, Luke Lambert has been there forever, and former Pflugervillian (worst villain name ever?) Zaviar Gooden is the best athlete of the bunch. Missouri's LBs are OK. The more traditional the offense they face, the better they seem to do. They don't blitz them much and they've got one sack between the three. Missouri wants to cover and get pressure with 4. These guys are there to clean up.

DB

Opponents are hitting 64% of their passes against them and they surrender more than 7 yards per attempt. Safety Braylon Webb won't play in this game and his replacement Matt White was exploited in their game against Baylor. Baylor lit them up, but there's not much we can take from that game that's applicable to us unless you anticipate us playing four wide, running Ash on zone read, and then throwing deep balls and WR screens 40 times.

How We Offend Them

Missouri has a traditional defense, in some ways unsuitable for facing most Big 12 offenses. They have a tough time getting offenses off of the field and they give up 5.5 yards per play. Similarly, Missouri's pace on offense may inflate and aid their statistics, but it seems to betray their defense, which is susceptible to entire quarters of meltdown.

Clearly, David Ash will need to throw the ball more than 7 times and the ability of our passing game to reasonably threaten the Tigers is pretty important for loosening things up. A healthy Jaxon Shipley is a good start. We're not going to line up and run them over and when we do run, we're going to have to focus on deception and multiplicity. Mizzou may not blitz much, but they're definitely going to attack up front, let their LBs clean up, and involve their safeties to limit the run game.

This game is a huge proving ground for David Ash and the OL.

In most of our games against Missouri, contrary to Mack's belief that we always get the other team's best shot, the Tigers have been consistently overawed before the first snap. Maybe that mystique goes out the window with 18 and 19 year olds starting everywhere.

Special Teams

Mizzou has had issues with field goals and the rest of their special teams are unspectacular save pretty solid kick coverage and a good net punting average. I don't see a clear advantage for either side.

Final Thoughts

Missouri is better than their record and they're 3-1 at home. This game boils down to our OL vs their front 4, both in the running game and in pass protection, and the ability of our defense - specifically the DEs and LBs - to play their zone read/play action game.

I expect a close game that goes down to the wire.