Sunday, August 27, 2006

MSU is coming to town (and I don't mean SMS)

By Tiger Fan

With less than a week until kick-off, it’s time to get serious. No more reveling in Brad Smith’s glories of old. No more tales of days gone by. It’s time to look ahead and see what’s coming. And the first team coming? Murray State.

I’ve never heard of the state of Murray, so I got out a map to find it. Still unable to locate this fine institution, I turned to Google. As it turns out, Murray is not actually a state… but Murray State University is located in Murray, Kentucky. It’s also known as Kentucky’s Public Ivy University, whatever that means. But lest you think I am making fun of the good folks at Murray State, I’ll point out that they rank in the top ten among public master’s level universities according to U.S. News and World Report, coming in two spot’s behind Missouri’s own Truman State University (FYI: the state of Truman has also eluded me). Also, some of you may recall that the Racers nearly beat the Tiger basketball team in 2004 in a very forgettable 59-55 game in Columbia. Unfortunately, their football team has not received the same level of acclaim. Despite a somewhat proud history that includes eight conference titles, the Racers finished 2-9 last season competing in the Ohio Valley Conference of NCAA’s I-AA class. Their lone foray into Division 1 last season was a 38-6 loss to Mississippi State. To put it bluntly, if Pinkel loses this one, he should be fired on the spot. Not in the locker room. Not in a post-game press conference. Right there, on the field, after he finishes shaking hands with the Racers coach. Why? Let’s break things down:

Coach

After last season’s disastrous campaign, the Racers fired coach Joe Pannunzio and replaced him with Matt Griffin – who at the time was the coach at conference rival Tennessee-Martin. Griffin seems like a good guy (he loves spending time with his wife and three kids), but his coaching resume is rather short: He was the head coach at Tennessee-Martin for three years, leading them to one winning season (last year’s 6-5) mark. Really not enough there to know what he’s got, so as much as I hate to do it, I have to say Pinkel has the edge. However, it’s worth noting that MSU has produced solid coaches in the past, like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer and Arkansas’ Huston Nutt. If Griffin is on par with those guys, look out.

Advantage: Mizzou

Offense

The Racers return eight starters, led by QB Ryne Salyer who threw for 1,062 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago. But three others – including Marshall transfer Zac Barnard – are all vying for the starting position. Whoever earns that spot will be handing off a lot to RB Chad Cook. The senior led the team in rushing last season with 635 yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Eiland and Rod Harper headline the wide receiving corps. I’m sure these guys are fine, but they’re not match for Chase Daniel, Tony Temple, Will Franklin, Chase Coffman, Martin Rucker, etc.

Advantage: Mizzou

Defense

Seniors Gerald Goldberg and Barry Thomas lead a thin defensive line and could be paired with two freshman for the opener against the Tigers. Nathan Williams, a junior, leads a linebacking corps that also has its share of question marks. The most solid defensive unit for the Racers is the secondary, led by free safety and team captain J.R. Webber. Again, Mizzou’s athleticism will win out in the end. Comparing the units side-by-side, its hard to see how the Racers can match up with a Mizzou d-line that goes seven or eight deep and a secondary highlighted by All-Big XII candidate David Overstreet.

Advantage: Mizzou

Special teams

Murray State returns punter Tim Wright and place-kicker Gary Cross from last year’s squad. Wright averaged more than 35 yards per punt last season. As we all know, Mizzou’s special teams can be, well, special. The kicking game should be hit and miss again this season. But as we’ve seen against I-AA teams in the past, it doesn’t always matter how good the kicker is. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers bust through and block a kick or run one back.

Advantage: Mizzou (but not by much)

Bottom Line:

Let’s see, a Big XII team at home against a team that finished 2-9 last season in the OVC. Even if the Racers and dig deep and hang around for a while, they’ll eventually succumb to Mizzou’s superior athleticism. I’ve complained often about Pinkel, but I don’t even think he can screw this one up. It will be exciting to see what Chase Daniel can do, but Tigers fans should be wary of using this game as a barometer for the season. I’m picking the Tigers to roll, 42-10… setting off a rash of unreasonable expectations in the Tiger nation.

1 comment:

Rocky Mountain Tiger said...

Beatdown-lahoma State. Chase Daniel for Heisman.