Thursday, September 28, 2006

Your Saturday game preview

It’s almost game time, Tiger fans. Time to get up. Really. Seriously. Stop worrying, stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. It isn’t. At least not this week against Colorado. Trust me – the Tigers are going to exterminate the Buffaloes on Saturday even more completely than westward-expanding Americans did in the 1900s. And I’m going to tell you why.

TigerFan is in Columbus trying to convince a law firm to employ him for the summer, so you’ll get my take of things this week. Hey, it was either that or let Fanette handle the gig, and I don’t think anyone wants that, do we?

All right, let’s get to business:

MU’s offense vs. CU’s defense – Colorado’s D is by far the strength of this team. It’s front seven is fast and formidable, and its safeties are pretty good, too. Defensive tackle George Hypolite was a terror against Georgia, and his impact must be limited. The Buffs held Arizona State in check and shut down Georgia’s offense until late. But according to my sources (and unlike Chris Mortenson, I actually have them), Rudy Carpenter isn’t nearly as good as we all thought before the season, and that Georgia’s offense is extremely mediocre … I see four keys for Mizzou’s offense to line Colorado up in the sights of its buffalo gun:
1) Chase Daniel must limit his mistakes. Chase hasn’t been as accurate the past two weeks, and he must regain that form for Mizzou’s offense to hum. No picks, and no fumbles, either, please. (Can you pass that memo to Marcus Woods, please? And maybe show him how to call for a fair catch?)
2) The offensive line must come up big. This will be by far the most talented line and linebacking group Missouri has faced, and the men in the trenches must give Daniel time to throw and also create some creases for Tony Temple. Keep an eye on youngster Ryan Madison, who needs to help center Adam Spieker and Monte Wyrick keep Hypolite in check. If the line can give Daniel time, the Tigers should be able to hit a deep throw or two to a receiver on a double-move.
3) The receivers and backs must take care of the ball. This team is good enough to get away with a negative turnover margin in nonconference play, but that will kill them in Big 12 play. (Side note: we should be relieved that Mizzou now is good enough to overcome such mistakes in nonconference play – they would have killed the Tigers in the past).
4) Missouri must use the tight ends to open up the middle and draw attention from safeties and linebackers. This open up the short passing game with the receiver

Advantage: Missouri. Colorado’s D is very good, but Missouri is balanced enough to and post 21-30 points if it executes efficiently.

CU’s offense vs. MU’s defense – Colorado’s offense has been horrible this year, and we all know what MU’s defense has done (for those of you who don’t: No. 1 in the nation). Colorado quarterback Bernard Jackson is a great runner, but he has struggled throwing the ball this year, and the receivers aren’t imposing. Center Mark Fenton, the team’s best lineman, also is questionable for the game as I write this. This matchup does not break CU’s way: scrambling quarterbacks generally have a tough time against cover 2 schemes, and that’s exactly what Missouri runs. The defensive line must shut down Colorado’s running game by itself for the Tigers’ D to be most effective, and it has the depth and talent to do so. But don’t fear: Even if the Tigers are forced to play David Overstreet or Brandon Massey in the box as an extra run defender, Darnell Terrell, Dom Johnson and Hardy Ricks are more than capable of shutting down the Colorado receivers in one-on-one matchups.
Advantage: Missouri. Jackson will make a few big plays with his feet, but as long as Missouri stays fundamentally sound in its scheme and tackling, Colorado should continue to have problems moving the chains.

Special Teams – Colorado has Mason Crosby, which is enough to tip this matchup the Buffs’ way. But Jeff Wolfert has been steady as Mizzou’s placekicker, and kicker-turned-punter Adam Crossett has showed a nice leg and an ability to pin teams deep. I’d say something about CU’s punting game, but does anyone really care?
Advantage: Colorado. Two words: Mason. Crosby.

Coaching – I hate to say it, but I’m starting to believe a little in Gary Pinkel. Missouri actually made adjustments at halftime last week, and the result was a dominating performance by the defense in the second half. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is great, there’s no doubt, and normally I’d give him the edge here, but I think the fact that he doesn’t have his own players yet limits his impact on the offense. He has breathed life into his defense, but he’d need a trip from Barry Bonds’ training staff to bulk up the offense.

Advantage: Even. Pinkel has his system in place, and it’s amazing how much better he looks with a QB that can chuck it. MU’s playcalling still could use some help, but Hawkins’ has exactly turned this offense into a world beater, either.

Prediction:
Missouri is too talented and deep on defense for Colorado’s undermanned offense to be a true threat. The only way Missouri blows this game is if they have several turnovers in Crosby field-goal range and are unable to move the ball against the Buffs’ D. Don’t see that happening.

Missouri goes to 5-0 on the year with a 31-13 win, and we never hear rumors about Gary Barnett becoming the coach at Missouri again.

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