I interrogated the authors over at Rock M Nation today, and this is the information gleaned:
1. We haven't seen a "Pinkel/Mizzou Meltdown" yet. Is the team handling late-season expectations and distractions better this year?
So far this team hasn't had the deer-in-the-headlights look that Missouri teams have historically had once things start going south. A lot of that can be directly attributed to the leadership corps of this team, including TE Martin Rucker, DT Lorenzo Williams, QB Chase Daniel, and injured S Pig Brown. They've kept the team focused, on an even keel, and ready for whatever get thrown at them next. A lot of credit goes to the gameplanning of Gary Pinkel, Dave Christensen, and Matt Eberflus. The players know they are going into each game with the best possible plan to cater to their athleticism and their strengths.
2. Does anybody ever mention Mizzou's long losing streak in Manhattan, or is it a non-issue because K-State and Mizzou are not each other's chief rivals?
The streak has been mentioned and is the main reason why the team and the fans have written the phrase "trap game" all over this one. However, it has somewhat been put on the backburner because the team has been breaking streaks and avoiding traps this entire season. Flashback to a couple of weeks ago. It had been awhile since Missouri has won at Folsom Field and Colorado was holding traditions of "altitude" and "fifth downs" over the Tigers. Missouri came out and threw a pick on the second play from scrimmage and quickly surrendered a touchdown, but the Tigers didn't look defeated. One 45-point victory later, the questions about winning in Colorado were gone. Taking care of those demons gives MU fans some confidence trying to exorcise their Manhattan ones this week.
3. Tell me the truth: Is Gary Pinkel going to run it up on us if he gets the chance this weekend?
Odds are that he won't, just don't piss him off. Against Colorado, the Buffs showed a video on the scoreboard from a previous year that the team and the coaching staff felt disrespected Brad Smith, a man still dearly loved by the coaches, the university, and his ex-teammates still at Mizzou. The team begged Pinkel to keep in the starters to make CU pay for that disrespect, but Pinkel put in the second team and ran the ball to kill the clock. The Tigers continued to score, but as Chase Daniel told Pinkel, "We're running the ball every play, it's not like we can take a knee on it." I really don't see Pinkel running it up. The general consensus is to get in and get out with a win and with everyone healthy. If the Tigers have a sizable second half lead, I'd expect a lot of shotgun draws and options and an early appearance by the second team to try to kill the clock and get the hell outta Manhattan and ready for KU.
4. Jordy Nelson is our only hope. Who will (attempt to) cover him?
"Attempt to" may be correct. Having seen him in person earlier in the year (I was dispatched to cover KSU-Baylor), I have a major appreciation for what he brings to the table. The Tigers will likely platoon Darnell Terrell and freshman Carl Gettis on him in certain man coverage situations, with Justin Garrett, Del Howard, and William Moore providing some help over the top. The best odds are that Mizzou will play a soft zone and attempt to punish him (and all KSU receivers) for any catch they make. Mizzou's best defensive games are when the secondary is able to rattle receivers and get inside their heads (see Texas Tech, Nebraska). Honestly, let him have his 8 receptions, 107 yards and a touchdown and hope to get your stops everywhere else.
5. Who ya got, and by how much?
Earlier in the week I had Mizzou 38, KSU 27 and I plan to stick by that. The game will play close early but Mizzou should open things up in the third quarter (by far Mizzou's best quarter this year). Freeman adds numbers with late yardage and a late touchdown to cut the margin of victory to 11.b