Friday, September 21, 2007

Mizzou-Illinois State Preview

Repeat after me.

Illinois State is not Appalachian State. (Illinois State is not Appalachian State.)

Illinois State lost to Drake. (Illinois State lost to Drake.)

Illinois State’s offense is nowhere near as good as Western Michigan’s. (Illinois State’s offense is nowhere near as good as Western Michigan’s.)

Illinois State is worse than Western Michigan, and we beat Western Michigan by 28 points despite not playing particularly well. (Illinois State is worse than Western Michigan, and...that’s too many words to repeat at once.)

Look, I’m not really aiming to denigrate Illinois State here. Honest. I totally respect them for almost knocking off K-State last year. I’m just getting sick of the “REMEMBER APPALACHIAN STATE!” crap. There’s a reason Appalachian State’s win over Michigan was so momentous—because it never happens. ASU’s probably the best team Division 1-AA has had to offer since the early-‘90s Marshall teams (yes, I said 1-AA, not Division 1 Championship Subdivision), and Missouri crushed one of those early-‘90s Marshall teams. Yes, ISU almost beat KSU last year—KSU was devoid of a QB and was breaking in a bunch of newcomers (especially since Ron Prince scared off every Bill Snyder recruit sans Jordy Nelson...and he just decided not to play him until the last month of the season). Yes, Montana State beat Colorado last year. Illinois State is not Appalachian State, Missouri is not 2006 Colorado, and Illinois State will lose badly to Missouri tomorrow. Sorry, but it’s true.

What’s strange is, that mini-rant right there is mostly in response to an article in which Graham Watson does indeed pick Mizzou to win by 5 TD’s. While Graham doesn’t mess around in her predicition, she gives ISU a 6-4-1 advantage in the ‘categories’ in which she bases her preview. I like Graham quite a bit--she is a friend of Sanity, after all--but...if you’re going to do that, you might as well suck it up and pick a 28-27 ISU win or something. Don’t say “Watch your backs! ISU has a chance!” and then pick them to lose by 5 TD’s. Don’t say that ISU has the advantage in all of their offensive categories—and both kicker categories—and then say they’re only going to score 3 TD’s to Mizzou’s 8. Go all the way.

MU QB vs ISU Defense

There is no debate about this one, even from the most hand-wringingly of hand-wringers. Edge: Mizzou.

MU RB’s vs ISU LB’s

Injuries seem to have beset an ISU LB corps that wasn’t exactly on top of the world to begin with. Edge: Mizzou.

MU WR’s/TE’s vs ISU DB’s

There is no debate about this one, even from the most hand-wringingly of hand-wringers. Edge: Mizzou.


Injuries seem to have beset an ISU D-line that wasn’t exactly on top of the world to begin with. Edge: Mizzou.

ISU QB vs MU Defense

From what I’ve been able to gather, ISU’s offensive scheme is a lot more Ole Miss than Western Michigan. Ole Miss torched our defense once we were up big, and I figure ISU is capable of doing something similar...when we’re up big. ISU’s Luke Drone is an all-conference performer, and that’s fine. But I’m making a point here. When the game is close (and that’s all that’s important), ISU will do next to nothing on offense. Edge: Mizzou.

ISU RB’s vs MU LB’s

I’ve read quite a bit about Rafael Rice lately, and it really does sound like he’s a strong performer. Mizzou, meanwhile, has 2/3 of a strong LB corps. That should be enough. Even though Graham says Rice “will have little trouble getting through a Missouri defense that has struggled against the run this year,” WMU was ‘successful’ (See Beyond the Box Score posts for what ‘successful’ means) on only 3-of-10 rushes when the game was close, and while Rice might do a hair better than that, it won’t be enough. Edge: Mizzou.

ISU WR’s/TE’s vs MU DB’s

ISU has two strengths here: 1) top WR Jason Horton has had a strong first quarter of the season, racking up 17 catches for 283 yards and 2 TD’s, 2) the name “Jason Horton” hasn’t been particularly kind to Mizzou. Assuming we once again keep all of our blitz packages in our pockets until the Nebraska game, Luke Drone will occasionally have some time to throw the ball, and Horton will get open a few times, I’m sure. And once Mizzou’s up big, he’ll probably get open a few more times. But when the game is on the line, Missouri will do enough. Again, I’m making a point here. Edge: Mizzou.


I hope Mizzou’s DE’s are good enough to do some damage against the one of the worst O-lines they will see this year, especially considering Stryker Sulak began to show signs of life last week. But even if the DE’s are neutralized, ISU will not be able to handle Lorenzo Williams in the middle; hopefully Ziggy Hood will show signs of life himself. ISU’s line has only given up 2 sacks, but they’ve been blown up occasionally, giving up 4 tackles-for-loss per game. Williams might get four himself. Edge: Mizzou.


Track record still applies a bit here. Yes, ISU’s Tyler Funk (FUNK!) has made both of his FG’s and all of his PAT’s this year. But even with another lackluster crowd of 50,000 (or less) on Saturday, he’ll be kicking in a more hostile atmosphere than he’s used to. Meanwhile, Jeff Wolfert has one more miss left on his 2006 grace period, and then I start to worry. Both teams’ return games have been solid, but MU’s has been solid against D1 athletes, so they get the advantage there. Punting is a wash. Edge: Mizzou.


The main job of a 1-A coach in preparing his team to play a 1-AA team is to make sure they’re focused and clear-headed. Yes, the NU game is lingering on the calendar, but a) there’s an off-week next week—that helps, and b) every quote I’ve read this week from a Mizzou player has toed the company line correctly, as best signified here: “You spend just as much time preparing yourself for what’s going to be thrown at you as you would an Oklahoma, Miami or Nebraska. They’re a great team. They like to play some Cover 2, Cover 4. They blitz a lot. They play a lot of two-man stuff. We look forward to that.”

In other words, Edge: Mizzou.


You don’t want to overlook a team like this, otherwise karma will bite you in the ass. Between Chase’s quote above and the fact that we have fans on message boards who have actually said “I’m worried about this game,” I’d say that’s not a problem. Edge: Mizzou.


Mizzou fans (and those who cover Mizzou) are always very good at talking themselves into being super-afraid of things. I’m the same way to an extent—I’m always at my most paranoid the day or so before the game. But...seriously, why waste energy worrying about this? Look, anything can happen—of course it can. We could fumble 12 times. They could fumble and have the ball bounce right into the hands of an O-lineman running full-speed toward the endzone. What? That one already happened? Well it could happen twice then. Hell, there could be a freak accident on the sideline where the bench collapses and breaks the femur bone of every scholarship offensive player at the same time. We’d really be in trouble then! And I’ll be due for one helluva mea culpa! But you know what? As always, anything probably won’t happen. You know I’m right. MU 51, Illinois State 6.