Mizzou vs South Dakota St.: A Preview

FINALLY, NCAA football is back!

And more importantly, Mizzou football is back!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to see Mizzou back out on the field to start their defense of the SEC Eastern Division title. After falling just short of winning the SEC outright and getting a BCS bid, Mizzou ended the 2013-2014 campaign by defeating their old Big-12 foe in Oklahoma St. at the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

Now the 2014-2015 season is here and Mizzou is not the same team. Turnover has come and taken the team like a violent thunderstorm in the Midwest. New quarterback, new wide receivers, new personnel on defense.  Here are five things I’m watching this week.

  1. James Franklin is gone. Maty Mauk has won the starting job in the offseason—I think his 3-1 record last season probably did it. He played extremely well and should have been undefeated while filling in for the injured senior QB except South Carolina changed QBs in the second half of the homecoming game and a gassed Mizzou defense couldn’t adjust. Now Mauk is the starter outright and it is up to him to show that he is the guy going forward. He can’t be just a product of last year’s receiving corps, including DGB and others. He’s got to show he’s the man.
  2. Speaking of receivers, Mizzou has had a lot of turnover there. Coach Pinkel has said, his new corps played a lot of meaningful snaps. Pinkel always tries to get his reserves in meaningful points in the games so that they are ready when their number gets called later on in their careers. With the NFL, graduation, and DGB being dismissed from the team for repeated misconduct—including accusations of assaulting a woman—Mizzou’s perimeter players look different. They need to show themselves capable of stepping up to the plate and produce big for the offense.

    Mizzou defense lined up in a 3-3-5.

  3. Mizzou runs a base 4-2-5 defense. Basically they look like 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers (4-3 defense). But one of the linebackers for Mizzou is a hybrid linebacker/safety/cornerback who can play against the run with the o-linemen and yet cover clot receivers and tight ends. Hence the designation 4-2-5. Sometimes a defensive lineman will be replaced with a true linebacker to create a 3-3-5 (aka 33/30/35 stack). But both formations require high talent from the defensive end position. Mizzou lost two extremely talented DEs in Koney Ealy and Michael Sam (SEC co-DPoY). Can Shane Ray and Markus Golden—both of whom played significant amounts of time last seas—provide the same rush from the base defenses, which is usually run as sub-packages everywhere else?
  4. As the South Carolina and SEC Championship games proved, Mizzou’s front seven (defensive linemen and linebackers) struggle against effective screens and running attacks. Auburn gashed Mizzou’s run defense—as they did everyone else in 2013—on their way to appear in the BCS National Championship Game. This is due in part to Mizzou’s linebackers not being fast enough laterally to attack the screens (i.e. Andrew Wilson, MLB #48) and the d-line not being able to win at the point of attack. Mizzou could see Auburn again in a rematch for the SEC Championship in Atlanta—both teams need to get there of course. The front four, the d-line, need to assert control of the line of scrimmage this year to allow the linebackers to read the play and attack better. Hopefully they do this. And I’m hoping Mizzou’s 330-lb. defensive tackle can get on the field and be a Vince Wilfork or Dontari Poe-esque NT to anchor the Mizzou run defense.
  5. The defensive backfield lost some great talent. Guys like E.J. Gaines—a third-round pick by the St. Louis Rams—are gone. Can the secondary (and the linebacking corps) need to be able to maintain what they did last year; in fact the defense has gone some 40 games forcing a turnover and that needs to keep up. They will need to cover to give the d-line time to pressure the QB—the defensive levels work together all the time! And the corners and nickel CBs/Safeties have to help in the run/screen game. That was part of the problem.

I’m confident that Mizzou will take care of business against tough team, but a team that is still FCS (I-AA) and not FBS (I-A). Today is about the team seeing who they are and what they can do. I’m hoping they can defend their SEC East title with a repeat—only this time they win in Atlanta! And I hope that the Mizzou defense can continue to run variations of the 33 stack and other three-man fronts. And I hope the corners and safeties can allow for some man-to-man and single-high safeties (also known as a Cover-1) instead of the two-deep looks that get torched (aka Cover-2).

~ by hankimler on August 30, 2014.

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