A commenter earlier in the week called this one of the most even head-to-head matchups of the year, and I think that was pretty accurate. This game could be determined by special teams, home-field advantage (hopefully) and (as with last week's game) turnovers.
Let's get to the matchups!
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These first 8 unit comparisons are going to be pretty boring. I could pore through some numbers, but the edges in most are pretty obvious.
Mizzou QB vs Tech Defense
The Chase Daniel-led Mizzou offense didn't go completely crazy in Lubbock last year--Mizzou won mostly because of turnovers--but it did enough. That, and Chase is better, while the Tech defense has been, until the last couple weeks at least, worse. Edge: Mizzou.
Mizzou RBs vs Tech LBs
LBs are the strength of the Tech defense, as their two best playmakers--Paul Williams (36 'successful' plays) and Marlon Williams (24)--reside in this unit. Mizzou would have had the advantage, however, if Tony Temple were healthy. Jimmy Jackson played well against OU, and he will have to do so again, though rumor has it this could be Derrick Washington's coming out party. We shall see. Without Temple, though...Edge: Tech.
Mizzou WR/TEs vs Tech DBs
Yeah. Edge: Mizzou.
Mizzou OL vs Tech DL
OU got a couple of coverage sacks last week, but for the most part Chase Daniel has been untouched in the pocket since week one against Illinois. Meanwhile, as I mentioned yesterday, Tech's D-line has a horrid success rate and makes very few plays despite the fact that a lot of teams try to run a lot against them. Bad sign. Edge: Mizzou.
Tech QB vs Mizzou Defense
Mizzou's been pretty solid at the bend-but-don't-break routine, and the play of the front seven has improved greatly since the start of conference play. Graham Harrell, however, has a 31-3 TD-INT ratio. Yikes. Hopefully he starts having flashbacks to last year's MU-Tech game when he's on the field, but...Edge: Tech.
Tech RBs vs Mizzou LBs
Shannon Woods has been damn near perfect in the "surprise 'em with the run" role. However, I've been extremely impressed with how LB's Brock Christopher (38 'successful' plays) and Sean Weatherspoon (33) have tackled recently. Don't miss tackles, and you can contain this offense, somewhat at least. Edge: Push.
Tech WR/TEs vs Mizzou DBs
Yeah. Edge: Tech.
Tech OL vs Mizzou DL
Tech throws roughly 70% of the time, and they simply do not give up many sacks. In other words, they perform their roles brilliantly. The Mizzou DL has improved in recent weeks, really holding their own against the OU run last Saturday...however, Edge: Tech.
Tech's true freshman punter has been quite solid, and their return game is always something of a threat. However, they don't have Jeremy Maclin. And Adam Crossett and Jeff Wolfert have been delightfully anonymous the last two games. Tech has a nice weapon in Alex Trlica's deep kickoffs, but Edge: Mizzou.
Mike Leach and Gary Pinkel have faced each other three times--in 2002, 2003, and 2006--and Pinkel outcoached Leach in 2 of 3 occasions. Pinkel and Matt Eberflus have been able to put together some pretty decent defensive gameplans against Tech, most notably the complete Front Four line change every three or four plays. Whatever it is, it seems to have worked pretty well. Edge: Mizzou.
Part of me always just assumes that karma has it out for Mizzou, especially after last week's fumbled Daniel/Maclin exchange that came at the exact moment you thought that maybe, just maybe, Mizzou was going to be in the game till the very end. However, they've performed well against Tech recently, and as The Beef pointed out in the RMN Roundtable, Saturday could see the most honest-to-god Mizzou fans in attendance since, I dunno, the '70s? That's gotta be a good thing, right? That's gotta outweigh Tech's desire for revenge, right? I say yes. Edge: Mizzou.
That's a 6-4-1 advantage for Mizzou. We know Michael Crabtree will get his 2 TD's, and we know Graham Harrell will throw for 400 yards, but Mizzou just has more going for them. A pick here, a fumble there, and Mizzou wins by 10 points. I said 42-31 Mizzou in the Roundtable earlier...for lack of some divine inspiration, I'll stick with that score. Go Tigers!