Friday, September 7, 2007

Mizzou-Ole Miss Preview

Fun fact: the last time Mizzou played two games away from home before their home opener was 2003. The time before that? As far as I can tell, 1968. Just thought I’d point that out. That way, you're sure to get at least something original from what is a tired concept now--the matchups comparison.

This weird schedule—six home games, four road games, two neutral site bookends—sends Mizzou to Oxford this Saturday, where it will apparently be mid-80s and either rainy or horribly muggy. Mizzou seemed to be in pretty good shape in the fourth quarter while half of Illinois’ team was cramping up, but I’d say this might be a pretty good endurance test.

MU QB vs UM Defense

Chase Daniel torched the Rebel defense last year in his first start against a D1 team. Now Chase is better, and the Rebel defense is possibly worse. Ole Miss was opportunistic last week against Memphis QB Martin Hankins, picking him off 4 times. If the D-Line can get some pressure on Daniel, they might be able to pick off one or two. Then again, Illinois was in Chase’s face all game, and he only really threw one bad pass—the Jerry Brown ‘almost’ INT. Edge: Mizzou.

MU RB vs UM LB’s

Against Illinois, we didn’t see the aggressive Tony Temple that we saw against KU and Oregon State at the end of 2006. But there’s probably a pretty good reason for that—90% of the time, he was dodging tacklers the moment he took the handoff. I’ll give him something of a pass in that case. And since Patrick Willis is no longer an Ole Miss LB, I'll very hopefully say...Edge: Mizzou.


Even without Danario Alexander, Mizzou just has too many damn weapons. At this point, MU’s TE’s are so dominant that they’re aiming for degree of difficulty—Martin Rucker lined up at QB twice, and Chase Coffman fumbled a ball in the third quarter just so he could recover it between his legs! Okay, I doubt the fumble was intentional, but...again, I don’t see Mizzou losing this category too often. When they weren’t picking off four passes, the Rebel secondary was holding Memphis to only 8.4 yards per completion, which really isn’t too bad. But Duke Calhoun and Carlos Singleton aren’t Will Franklin and Jeremy Maclin, much less Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman. Edge: Mizzou.


Ole Miss's front line is young and talented...and honestly, after last week’s performance, I’d pick Illinois State's D-line against the MU O-Line right now. Show me something, guys. Edge: Ole Miss.

UM QB vs MU Defense

Seth Adams is a relative unknown, making only his second start. Plus, the MU defense has to completely and totally change its focus from last week’s gameplan (which geared up to stop a mobile QB as much as anything). Adams isn’t great (last week’s 130.6 passer rating was pretty decent, but UM only scored 1 offensive TD...against defensive non-juggernaut Memphis), but I’m a big believer in the power of the unknown. Mizzou can’t scout Adams much, and therefore...Edge: Ole Miss.

UM RB vs MU LB’s

I keep hearing about how good Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis is, but he showed me nothing last year (though I admittedly only saw him run once...a pretty tiny sample size, I would say). And last week, he only gained 3.4 yards per carry against the Memphis D. I'm not sold on the Mizzou Run D or anything, but I'd say it's at least as good as Memphis'. Mizzou did a decent job handling a fast RB in Rashard Mendenhall last week—as somebody pointed out, the only play that really drew any success at all for Illinois was the read option, a play that Ole Miss is unlikely to run due to Adams being a relatively immobile QB—and I’m pretty sure all three of MU’s LB’s are faster than BJGE (and bigger, for that matter). Edge: Mizzou.


Hey, if the Tiger safeties can average four takeaways a week, I’d say they’ll always win out here!

Realistically, it’s hard to judge the MU DB’s. Hardy Ricks had some great hits, Pig Brown played as well as a safety can possibly play, William Moore only missed one tackle that I can recall (when he was stiff-armed badly on Mendenhall’s TD), Carl Gettis and Del Howard were solid, and Darnell Terrell was at least above average. However...Terrell got smoked for a TD in the third quarter, Ricks is a lot better at hitting than covering, and Moore and Brown have yet to show they can play consistently (though last Saturday was obviously a good start). As for the Ole Miss WR’s...their longest gain against Memphis was 23 yards, and none of their WR’s who caught passes last week are bigger than 6’1 or heavier than 200. They use the TE some, but not a least not by Big 12 standards (nobody uses TE's more than the Big 12 at this point). Mizzou’s relatively large secondary will need to physically the Ole Miss WR's, and the odds are decent they can do so. Edge: Mizzou.


Mississippi gained only 2.6 yards per carry against Memphis overall and gave up a couple sacks. MU’s D-Line was far from dominant against Illinois, but...yeah, I’m just not impressed. Edge: Mizzou.

Special Teams

I mentioned above that it’s difficult to judge MU’s secondary.’s damn near impossible to judge MU special teams. They gave up a blocked punt TD but returned a punt for a TD. They missed a FG (albeit a long one) but blocked a PAT. They had a 0-yard punt but forced a fumble on a kick return. All I can say about Mississippi is, they too blocked a punt for a TD, and they have some decent athletes returning kicks. That a relatively vague compliment, I realize, but...Edge: Ole Miss.


Pinkel coached laps around Orgeron in Columbia last year, and as long as the 2-point conversion card in his pocket has been corrected...Edge: Mizzou.


There are three 'karmic' forces at work here (really, "Intangibles" would be a better title than "Karma", but...well, "Intangibles" is already used a lot...I like to be different): unique home-field advantage (as we've heard plenty recently, Ole Miss almost beat LSU at home), revenge, and desperation/hunger for a huge season. Ole Miss has the first two, Mizzou only the latter. Edge: Ole Miss.


That’s a 7-4 advantage for Mizzou. Last week I had a 7-2-2 advantage, and Mizzou won by 6 points. Hmm. However, last week I also said “Anything can happen,” and anything did, both for and against Mizzou. I say our “anything” coefficient regresses back toward the mean this week (in other words, not quite as many crazy special teams plays and game-changing turnovers), which would be good for Mizzou. This won’t be easy—road games usually aren’t, especially for Mizzou—but I’m once again going to close my eyes and convince myself that Mizzou will come to play and find a way to win. I predicted a 34-17 Mizzou win Wednesday in the Roundtable, and as always, as the week progresses, I lose confidence. I say 27-17 now. Come game time tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be saying 20-17, but for now, 27-17.