Missouri at Indiana preview: Expect a lot of big plays

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The offenses hold the advantages in Saturday night's battle between Missouri and Indiana.

Confused? Visit the Advanced Stats glossary here. Or just skip to the words. I won't be offended. (Okay, I'll only be a little offended.)

Take a deep breath and realize something: Missouri could play reasonably well and lose on Saturday. Indiana is explosive enough on offense to score enough points to win whether Mizzou is doing the Hoosiers any favors or not, and the Tigers will have to play pretty well to win. This is an enormous game for IU; a 3-1 start with upcoming home games versus Minnesota, Illinois, and Purdue means you can get to 6-6 without pulling a conference upset or even winning on the road, and 6-6 would be an incredible sign of growth for Kevin Wilson's young Hoosiers. And one has to assume they will play like their season depends on it.

Of course, this is quite possibly the most important game of the season for Missouri, too. Start 4-0, and you can raise your expectations pretty high. Seven or eight wins becomes a distinct possibility even if the defense never completely comes around. But lose to Indiana, and all goals beyond "Bowl eligibility or bust" go off of the table. And while bowl eligibility is certainly a worthy goal, you don't want it to be the only one you have left before the end of September.

To the numbers!

Indiana (after 3 games)

Indiana Opp. Indiana Opp.
Close % 68.4% STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 56.8% 49.1% Success Rate 47.8% 55.4%
Leverage % 77.9% 72.4% PPP 0.73 0.51
S&P 1.210 1.059
TOTAL
EqPts/Game 55.3 38.1 PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 49.0% 47.9% Success Rate 52.8% 26.2%
Close PPP 0.78 0.51 PPP 0.94 0.54
Close S&P 1.272 0.992 S&P 1.467 0.799
RUSHING TURNOVERS
EqPts/Game 23.4 23.0 Number/Game 2.0 1.3
Close Success Rate 42.9% 52.8% Turnover Pts/Game 10.7 5.8
Close PPP 0.61 0.51 Turnover Pts Margin -4.9 +4.9
Close S&P 1.046 1.041
Line Yards/carry 3.03 3.33 Q1 S&P 1.004 1.008
Q2 S&P 1.221 1.028
PASSING Q3 S&P 1.612 0.815
EqPts/Game 31.8 15.1 Q4 S&P 1.085 0.904
Close Success Rate 55.4% 38.6%
Close PPP 0.95 0.51 1st Down S&P 1.210 1.040
Close S&P 1.506 0.901 2nd Down S&P 1.203 1.061
SD/PD Sack Rate 2.2% / 3.6% 9.4% / 8.0% 3rd Down S&P 1.274 0.703
Projected Pt. Margin: Indiana +12.3/game
Actual Pt. Margin: Indiana +21.3/game

Thus far, big plays have mostly saved Indiana from its own mistakes and shaky defense. Yes, the Hoosiers lost to Navy, but 2009 wasn't that long ago; Mizzou fans should know as well as anybody that playing Navy is like playing a different sport entirely. That IU couldn't stop the Navy option to save its life doesn't say an incredible amount, good or bad, about its ability to stop Missouri's spread offense. I think both offenses have significant advantages over both defenses, and one just has to hope that IU's advantages are smaller than Missouri's.

Quarterbacks

Nate Sudfeld (6'5, 230, So.) -- 60-for-85 (70.6%), 917 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks (10.2 yards/attempt); 8 carries, 40 yards, 1 TD
Tre Roberson (6'0, 200, So.) -- 3-for-7 (42.9%), 71 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT (10.1 yards/att); 12 carries, 43 yards, 1 TD
Cameron Coffman (6'2, 205, Jr.) -- 3-for-7 (42.9%), 29 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack (3.1 yards/att)

Indiana has had quite the QB derby over the last year or so, with Tre Roberson emerging then getting hurt and Cameron "Yes, Chase's Brother" Coffman starting for a while by default. But it appears Nate Sudfeld has seized control of the job, and that's probably a good thing for Indiana. Roberson is regarded as more mobile, but he's also more predictable; he was still used in some short-yardage situations last week, but it wasn't very effective, so it wouldn't totally surprise me if Wilson went all-in on Sudfeld at some point.

Sudfeld's good. He's big like a pro-style QB, and against Bowling Green (which has one of the better mid-major defenses in the country, by the way), he was able to both throw accurate timing routes and escape closing pockets to effectively buy time. Wilson's system is designed to be super-aggressive -- the out routes are frequently 10-12 yards, not 4-8, and when Sudfeld escapes the pocket, the receivers don't come back toward the ball, they try to leak open deep downfield. They caught BGSU's defense becoming over-confident and/or over-aggressive at times; Mizzou will have to remain disciplined.

Running Backs

Tevin Coleman (6'1, 205, So) -- 41 carries, 332 yards (8.1/carry), 5 TD; 6 targets, 4 catches, 35 yards (5.8/target)
Stephen Houston (6'0, 230, Sr.) -- 28 carries, 194 yards (6.9); 5 targets, 3 catches, 50 yards (10.0)
D'Angelo Roberts (5'10, 205, Jr.) -- 6 carries, 7 yards (1.2); 3 targets, 2 catches, 13 yards (4.3)

Spoiler alert: Indiana's offensive line stinks. That Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston are averaging a combined 7.6 yards per carry says fantastic things about what they can do in the open field because they haven't necessarily gotten that many shots in the open field. Using my highlight yardage measure (which is basically the yardage you get after the line gets you five yards up field), Coleman is averaging 11.7 highlight yards per opportunity, and Houston is averaging 10.5. That would have ranked both of them in the 90th percentile or higher last year in terms of explosiveness. They don't need the line to do much to do damage; but they don't necessarily get even "much" from the line.

Receiving Corps

WR
Kofi Hughes (6'2, 217, Sr.) -- 19 targets, 13 catches, 205 yards (10.8/target), 3 TD
Nick Stoner (6'1, 182, Jr.) -- 7 targets, 5 catches, 98 yards (14.0), 1 TD

WR
Cody Latimer (6'3, 215, Jr.) -- 18 targets, 11 catches, 210 yards (11.7), 1 TD
Duwyce Wilson (6'3, 201, Sr.) -- 5 targets, 3 catches, 33 yards (6.6)

WR
Shane Wynn (5'7, 170, Jr.) -- 12 targets, 9 catches, 185 yards (15.4), 3 TD
Isaiah Roundtree (5'11, 195, Jr.) -- 5 targets, 2 catches, 42 yards (8.4)

TE
Ted Bolser (6'6, 252, Sr.) -- 14 targets, 12 catches, 146 yards (10.4), 4 TD
Anthony Corsaro (6'1, 252, So.) -- 2 targets, 1 catch, 0 yards (0.0)

There is quite a bit to like (or fear, I guess) about Indiana's skill position lineup. They don't overwhelm you with terrifying athleticism, but Wilson's a smart guy, and he appears to have a smart quarterback in Sudfeld. When a guy gets open, the ball gets there. And again, considering this isn't a lineup overloaded with former star recruits, the Hoosiers have mastered the art of the big play. Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes are big guys with good positioning downfield, and Shane Wynn is a fast, terrifying scatback type. (Wynn also has loads of potential in the return game.) And IU goes out of its way to create positive matchups for big Ted Bolser, too; they lined him up wide quite a few times against BGSU. All five players targeted at least seven times are averaging at least 10.4 yards per target. That's fantastic.

Offensive Line

LT
Jason Spriggs (6'7, 297, So.) -- 15 career starts
Dimitric Camiel (6'7, 304, RSFr.)

LG
Jake Reed (6'4, 291, So.) -- 1 career start
Pete Bachman (6'5, 298, Jr.)

C
Collin Rahrig (6'2, 285, Jr.) -- 16 career starts
Jake Reed (6'4, 291, So.) -- 1 career start

RG
David Kaminski (6'4, 300, So.) -- 3 career starts
Jacob Bailey (6'5, 301, RSFr.)

RT
Peyton Eckert (6'6, 310, Jr.) -- 18 career starts
Ralston Evans (6'4, 285, So.) -- 3 career starts

Power Success Rate: 43.8% (Rank: 114th | National average: 68.4%)
Stuff Rate: 23.4% (Rank: 109th | National average: 18.6%)

If you watched the Bowling Green game, you saw two things: 1) Indiana's offense has fantastic big-play potential, and 2) the Hoosiers will shoot themselves in the foot if you let them. Most of the reason for that is that the line just isn't very good. It cannot open any daylight in short-yardage situations, and it allows defenders into the backfield at will.

It's probably not a coincidence, by the way, that the line is also ridiculously young, with three sophomore starters and no seniors on the current two-deep. Perhaps the best lineman, left guard Bernard Taylor, is not listed because of an ankle injury; tackle Peyton Eckert has been nursing a back injury as well. Regardless of the reason for the struggles, Missouri's defensive line must wreak havoc up front if the Tigers are going to make enough stops to win. Clog lanes for the running backs, force quick throws from Sudfeld, win. We've been relatively disappointed in Kony Ealy's play so far this season, but a big game from him could go a long way in determining the winner of the game.

Defensive Line

DE
Ryan Phillis (6'3, 260, Jr.) -- 2.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack)
John Laihinen (6'4, 255, Jr.) -- 0.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)

DT
Bobby Richardson (6'3, 281, Jr.) -- 11.5 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU
Adarius Rayner (6'2, 305, So.) -- 3.5 tackles, 2 TFL (2 sacks)

DT
Alex Todd (6'3, 301, So.)
Ralphael Green (6'5, 307, RSFr.) -- 1.5 tackles
Christopher Cormier (6'2, 310, Jr.)

DE
Nick Mangieri (6'5, 260, So.) -- 8.0 tackles, 3.5 TFL (2.5 sacks), 1 INT, 1 PBU
Zack Shaw (6'3, 255, So.) -- 7.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 FR
Shaw Heffern (6'6, 256, RSFr.) -- 0.5 tackles

Power Success Rate: 50.0% (Rank: 35th | National average: 68.4%)
Stuff Rate: 10.9% (Rank: 121st | National average: 18.6%)

Indiana can rush the passer, I'll say that much. Nick Mangieri has shown a lot of potential, and tackle Bobby Richardson is a quick, active tackle. Indiana's sack rates are quite strong, even on standard downs when you can't blitz or just pin your ears back.

That said, the run defense is ... lacking. Yes, a lot of the damage done to the Hoosiers this year was done by Navy, and we've covered that this doesn't really apply to other teams. But the Hoosiers don't have much of a presence in the backfield (almost none, actually), and though Indiana State's Shakir Bell and Rob Tonyan, Jr., do not play for Navy, they still combined to rush for 130 yards in 21 carries. (Bowling Green's four running backs rushed for 113 yards in 23 carries.)

It is a common thought that the last place a program turns around is in the trenches. We saw that at Missouri, when the mediocre 2002-05 lines became the mostly awesome 2008-10 lines. Well, this is only Kevin Wilson's third year in Bloomington; the Hoosiers are firmly in the "2002-05" part of the rebuild. And hopefully Missouri can take advantage.

Linebackers

SLB
David Cooper (6'1, 235, Jr.) -- 20.0 tackles, 1 TFL (0.5 sacks)
Steven Funderburk (6'3, 235, Jr.) -- 5.5 tackles, 2 PBU

MLB
T.J. Simmons (6'0, 240, Fr.) -- 16.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Jake Michalek (6'2, 243, Jr.) -- 2.0 tackles
Marcus Oliver (6'1, 235, Fr.) -- 5.0 tackles, 1 FF

WLB
Forisse Hardin (6'1, 225, Jr.) -- 13.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF
Griffen Dahlstrom (6'3, 235, Sr.) -- 1.0 tackle
Clyde Newton (6'1, 220, Fr.) -- 3.0 tackles

Of the 65.5 tackles the Indiana linebacking corps has made, seniors have made exactly 1.0 of them. That's more of a senior presence than the defensive line has. This is a super-young front seven, in other words, and it has predictably struggled. (Pitting a green front seven against Navy was just mean.)

Secondary

CB
Tim Bennett (5'9, 190, Jr.) -- 17.0 tackles, 7 PBU
Kenny Mullen (5'10, 185, Jr.) -- 1.0 tackle, 1 PBU

CB
Michael Hunter (6'1, 190, So.) -- 3.5 tackles, 1 INT, 4 PBU
Ryan Thompson (5'10, 195, Sr.)
Brian Williams (6'0, 195, Jr.) -- 1.5 tackles

S
Mark Murphy (6'2, 210, Jr.) -- 12.0 tackles, 0.5 TFL
Antonio Allen (5'10, 205, Fr.) -- 11.0 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 FR

S
Greg Heban (6'1, 205, Sr.) -- 21.0 tackles
Dawson Fletcher (6'0, 207, So.) -- 0.5 tackles

The saving grace for the Indiana defense (when it has had one, anyway) has been the secondary. Greg Heban, Mark Murphy, and Antonio Allen have been asked to clean up a lot of messes and have done so, while there might not be a more active pair of corners in the country than Tim Bennett and Michael Hunter. Despite playing Navy (in other words, despite playing one game against a team that doesn't pass), IU is ninth in the country with 20 passes defensed. Only two of the 20 have been picked off, but that's partially bad luck. This is a wonderful secondary.

Case in point: look again at the success rates above. Opponents have been brutally efficient against Indiana, matching the Hoosiers in overall success rate (IU 49%, opponents 48%) and dwarfing them both in rushing and on standard downs. But Indiana is simply racking up far more big plays; IU hasn't been amazing at preventing them, but it doesn't have to be with that offense. The secondary does just enough things well, and the line makes the occasional play, and that's the difference.

Special Teams

K
Micah Ewald (5'10, 176, Sr.) -- 21-for-21 PAT, 1-for-1 FG (26 yards); 22 kickoffs, 14 touchbacks, 64.6 average

P
Erich Toth (6'3, 206, So.) -- 4 punts, 42.2 average, 3 I20

KR
Tevin Coleman (6'1, 205, So.) -- 5 returns, 20.4 average (long: 28)
Isaiah Roundtree (5'11, 195, Jr.): 2 returns, 19.0 average (long: 20)

PR
Shane Wynn (5'7, 170, Jr.) -- 1 return, 58 yards, 1 TD
Nick Stoner (6'1, 182, Jr.)

A full 20 percent of Indiana's punts have been blocked this year! Okay, that's one of five. And that one was one of the coolest blocked punts you'll ever see. But still ... this is your time, DGB, Punt Blocker Extraordinaire!

Okay, beyond that, Indiana's special teams unit is just fine. The kicking is solid, the kick returns are nothing special, the punt returns are good to great, and really, punting might be solid with a bigger sample size.

Summary

This is a "See what you want to see" game. If you feel like wringing your hands or predicting a loss, just point to Indiana's explosiveness, the secondary's play-making (and play-preventing) ability, and the fact that this is an important game for Indiana being played at night in front of what should be a pretty full crowd. That's not a tremendously appealing recipe there.

At the same time, if you want to feel optimistic, just point to that awful offensive line and defensive front seven. Mizzou's offensive line is not great, and the defensive line is still figuring things out, but the Tigers have the advantage in both of those matchups. And if Mizzou's big-play guys -- Dorial Green-Beckham and L'Damian Washington, of course, but really Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy, and Russell Hansbrough -- have more room to run than Indiana's, they'll win. I didn't remember I'd already made a prediction for this game until Fullback U. reminded me (I hate predictions), but I guess I'll stick with it for posterity. Missouri 38, Indiana 30, but this one could go either way.

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