Kicking the Tires: Missouri Tigers

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 24: Quarterback James Franklin #1 of the Missouri Tigers scrambles during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners on September 24, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma leads Missouri 24-14 at the half. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

In what could be the last ride of the Unholy Alliance, the Missouri Tigers visit Manhattan this Saturday. Missouri is 2-2 on the season, with respectable losses at Arizona State and at Oklahoma. In both losses, the Tigers were competitive to the end, taking Arizona State to overtime in a game Mizzou probably should have won in regulation (THANKS PINKLE!!!). Two weeks ago, Missouri took an early lead against OU, only to see the Sooners roar back and open up a big lead before Missouri made the final respectable.

Missouri is an odd team in that its losses are very respectable, while its wins aren't particularly impressive. Well, I take that back. One of its wins is impressive, score- and stat-wise, but Western Illinois is hardly a powerhouse opponent. Missouri slugged out an ugly season-opening win against Miami (OH). K-State fans are all too familiar with slugging out ugly season-opening wins.

Anyway, Missouri comes into this game off a bye week and facing a fork in the road in its season. Lose to K-State for the first time in five years, and the Tigers will be fighting for bowl eligibility, with only the Iowa State and KU games remaining as safe wins this season. With a win, Missouri keeps alive legitimate hopes of an eight- or nine-win season. Bill's stats show this game is basically a tossup, and I have little doubt it won't be decided until late in the fourth quarter. Get used to it, K-State fans, this is your team this year.

Players to Watch:

K-State

Passing: Collin Klein, 47-85-2, 481 yards, 6 TD, 120.2 yards/game, 5.7 yards/attempt

Rushing: John Hubert, 60 carries, 343 yards, 1 TD, 85.8 yards/game, 5.7 yards/carry

Receiving: Chris Harper, 17 receptions, 189 yards, 2 TD, 47.2 yards/game, 11.1 yards/reception

Missouri

Passing: James Franklin (1), 77-126-1, 985 yards, 7 TD, 246.2 yards/game, 7.8 yards/attempt

Rushing: Henry Josey (20), 43 carries, 533 yards, 4 TD, 133.2 yards/game, 12.4 yards/attempt (!)

Receiving: T.J. Moe (28), 23 receptions, 291 yards, 1 TD, 72.8 yards/game, 12.7 yards/reception

Obvious stat is obvious, but holy God is Henry Josey having a good year at running back. Even if you take away the debacle of a game that was the Western Illinois outing, Josey is still averaging 9.3 yards per carry. That includes 133 yards on 14 carries against Oklahoma. The kid can run, and K-State needs to account for him at all times. As we saw occasionally with Robert Griffin III last week, don't be surprised if Arthur Brown is assigned as a spy on Josey on occasion this Saturday.

Other than that, Missouri is a solid team offensively. James Franklin is doing a very nice job for a sophomore quarterback in his first year as a starter. It's even more impressive when you consider that he's played on the road in Tempe, Ariz., and Norman, Okla. Mizzou is not the fear-inducing offense that Baylor was a week ago, but there's plenty of reason to worry about how well K-State will do slowing down the Tigers.

Team Statistics (stats from NCAAFootball.com)

Rushing Offense

K-State: 18th, 217.25 yards/game

Missouri: 8th, 253.25 yards/game

Passing Offense

K-State: 115th, 137.75 yards/game

Missouri: 37th, 263.75 yards/game

Total Offense

K-State: 91st, 348 yards/game

Missouri: 11th, 517 yards/game

Rushing Defense

K-State:17th, 87.5 yards/game

Missouri:16th, 87.0 yards/game

Pass Efficiency Defense

K-State: 60th, 128.36 yards/game

Missouri:99th, 143.22 yards/game

Total Defense

K-State:16th, 292.0 yards/game

Missouri: 44th, 349.5 yards/game

On paper, this looks like a game where you would pick Mizzou as a favorite, if not a comfortable or overwhelming favorite. Missouri matches a slightly above-average defense with a strong offense. K-State counters Mizzou's strong offense with a strong defense, but counters Missouri's average defense with a weak offense. Missouri has amassed its offensive numbers against two top-30 passing defenses (No. 14 Oklahoma, No. 30 Arizona State) and two bad passing defenses (No. 103 Ball State and FCS Western Illinois); two average rushing defenses (No. 41 Arizona State, No. 50 Oklahoma) and two bad rushing defenses (No. 109 Ball State and FCS Western Illinois). Meanwhile, K-State has faced three top-50(ish) pass defenses (No. 18 Kent State, No. 29 Miami, and No. 53 Baylor), and three average-to-bad rushing defenses (No. 61 Kent State, No. 76 Baylor and No. 104 Miami).

In other words, the teams have faced relatively similar defenses thus far. It's no secret that there's a big power outage on offense for K-State this year. But K-State does a good job of milking the clock when it does sustain drives, and with its focus on maximizing time of possession by running the opposite of the Oregon offense, it limits opposing offenses' opportunities to hurt K-State and wears down defenses.

On the other side of the ball, K-State has amassed its defensive numbers against one very good offense (No. 5 Baylor) and two bad offenses (No. 81 Miami and No. 120 Kent State). Mizzou has faced one excellent offense (No. 4 Oklahoma), one average offenses (No. 42 Arizona State) and one bad offense (No. 88 Ball State).

The point of that excessive numbers crunch is that, despite K-State's big wins over Miami and Baylor, Missouri has played at least as difficult of a schedule so far as has K-State. Keep in mind also that Missouri has played two games on the road in hostile environments, including night games against Arizona State and Oklahoma. Granted, the Tigers haven't won either of these contests, but they should be getting accustomed to life on the road.

Conclusion

With a hostile home crowd and a lot of confidence on its side, K-State has a realistic chance of winning this game. The oddsmakers initially installed Missouri as a slight favorite, and I wouldn't be surprised to see K-State cover. I can buy into this team as a group, but Missouri concerns me. The Tigers are coming off a bye week, and they should be playing as if their season is on the line because, frankly, it is. I don't particularly think that Gary Pinkel is Bill Snyder's equal when it comes to setting up a game plan, I think he probably has some tricks up his sleeve after the off week. That's a dangerous combination, and given the fact that it's been years since K-State last won this game. I hate to keep picking against K-State, but I will.

Missouri 31, K-State 26

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