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Mizzou-Nebraska Preview

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Update [2007-10-5 11:55:13 by The Boy]:We'll make this a predictions open thread...feel free to add your own game predictions in the comments.

Thank God this game is almost here.  I'm tired of thinking about it.  I'm tired of starting to feel confident, then becoming overwhelmed by paranoia.  Ugh.  If the team kicking off with the Tigers tomorrow night weren't wearing red and white with an N on their helmet, I'd be pretty damn confident right now.  They're solid, but they're extremely beatable.  

However...I was there in 1997 for the kick.  I was there in 1998 when the tying TD pass went right through John Dausman's hands and we lost to the Count of Monte Cristo.  I was there in 1999 when we just knew it was revenge time...and the game was over 5 minutes and two horrid punt snaps later.  I was there in 2000 (okay, no I wasn't, but I was watching on TV) when an awful Mizzou team was giving #1 Nebraska everything it could handle until Kirk Farmer broke a bone (again).  I was there in 2001 when Eric Crouch...well, let's just say that if it were possible to pull off a 111-yard run, Crouch would have done it right there.  In other words, I'm scarred.  Nebraska just is not what they were 5 or 10 years ago.  But scars take forever to heal.  

Hopefully one more 41-24 win should just about do it.

Click "full story" for more.

Mizzou QB vs Nebraska Defense

The short answer: after playing Nebraska, Ball State QB Nate Davis was suddenly an NFL prospect.  The long answer: actually, the short answer worked pretty well.

Okay, fine...longer answer.  Last year, Nebraska confused and frustrated Chase Daniel, led by two deflected INTs and spectacular play from Adam Carriker, Jay Moore, and Andrew Shanle.  Well, Carriker, Moore, and Shanle are gone.  Oh, and one more thing: as I mentioned in this week's Beyond the Box Score preview, the Chase Daniel-led Mizzou offense is leading the nation in 3rd down conversions, while Nebraska has recorded one third down sack all season...one that came late in the third quarter against Nevada, with NU up 38-10.  Woo.  Edge: Mizzou.

Mizzou RB's vs Nebraska LB's

As plenty have noted, this unit of NU LB's was supposed to be one of their best in a long time...and it just hasn't happened yet.  Take away Bo Ruud's two INT's for TD's, and the LB's have gone almost unnoticeable.  Meanwhile, Tony Temple has gotten slightly better each game this season.  Edge: Mizzou.

Mizzou WR/TE's vs Nebraska DB's

Cortney Grixby is playing pretty well for Nebraska.  Jeremy Maclin and Will Franklin are playing well for Mizzou.  And Tommy Saunders.  And Danario Alexander is returning from injury.  Oh yeah, and Mizzou has the best tight end in the country.  And their backup TE is probably Top 5 in the country.  Edge: Mizzou.

Mizzou OL vs Nebraska DL

Against the run, this is probably a stalemate.  Mizzou's line has improved steadily in opening up holes for Tony Temple, while Ndamukong Suh leads a pretty solid run defense.  Against the pass?  In four games, Chase Daniel's been sacked once on third down.  In five games, Nebraska has recorded one sack on third down.  Edge: Mizzou.

Nebraska QB vs Mizzou Defense

I've been saying for a while, to anybody who will listen, that if you get a hand in Sam Keller's face...if you get even remotely on his radar screen, he either freezes or rushes an inaccurate pass.  However, Mizzou hasn't proven it can get onto Sam Keller's radar screen with any regularity.  Edge: Nebraska.

Nebraska RB's vs Mizzou LB's

I mentioned earlier this week that I don't understand how that screen to the RB can work as consistently as it has for NU in recent years...and I've read a lot of quotes from Mizzou defenders about how the "Marshall Faulk rules" are in play...meaning, never take your eye off the RB in a passing situation, and hit him whenever you can.  I'm very close to being optimistic here, but...yeah, Geno Blow went for 100+ yards against Mizzou two weeks ago.  Marlon Lucky can't create much for himself, but he follows blockers extraordinarily well.  And there will probably be plenty of blocking for him to follow.  Edge: Nebraska.

Nebraska WR/TE's vs Mizzou DB's

Pig Brown and William Moore are takeaway machines.  They'll probably have a couple of decent opportunities to make some picks...and they better take advantage of them because Sam Keller will have plenty of time to throw, and he'll probably have some receivers getting open.  If Maurice Purify doesn't play (I've heard he probably will), then NU's edge becomes a little smaller...but it's still an edge.  Edge: Nebraska.

Nebraska OL vs Mizzou DL

Of the eight unit matchups here, this is probably the closest one (or maybe Temple vs NU LB's).  A lot of NU's best plays come off that RB screen, when the O-line's main job is to 'ole' the D-line.  Yes, that's an oversimplification, but it's the best way I can think of to say that the NU O-line isn't all that hot.  But neither is the Mizzou D-line, especially on the exterior.  Lorenzo Williams continues to play quite well, but Ziggy Hood has been a non-factor so far, and aside from his one sack per game, Stryker Sulak is mostly a non-factor.  Really, the most important thing for the DE's in this game is to read the screen and drop back to cover.  Doing that might be as important as getting pressure on Keller.  Edge: Nebraska.

Special Teams

Never mind Jeff Wolfert's struggles, or whose punter is better.  NU has one of the best weapons you can have against Mizzou--a kicker (Adi Kunalic) who frequently hits the endzone on kickoffs.  Let's just say that a touchback is an infinitely better option than kicking to Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin's punt returns could make a difference, but let's be honest...he probably won't get too many punt return opportunities.  Edge: Nebraska.

Coaching

All three times Gary Pinkel's Tigers have faced Bill Callahan's Huskers, the home coach has significantly outcoached the road one.  In 2004, Pinkel went to Lincoln and lost his mind--tearing off Tony Temple's redshirt and deciding that Brad Smith should throw 50 times in 50mph winds.  In 2005, Callahan and his DC (Cosgrove) decided it would be a great idea to blitz and crowd Brad Smith, even though other North defenses had long since figured out that you contain him, you don't attack him...and Brad Smith ran for about 689 yards.  In 2006, the NU defense played some three-man front, alternated defenses a lot, and confused Chase Daniel enough in the first half that they had jumped out to a 24-point lead before Chase could figure out what was going on.  I guess I could say Callahan owns a 2-1 advantage there, but this game's in Columbia.  That seems to help.  Edge: Mizzou.

Karma

So it comes to this.  Do I believe the 1997-2001 scars, or do I believe in back to back 41-24 wins at Faurot?  Well, the wins are more recent.  Edge: Mizzou.

Summary

So Mizzou holds a 6-5 advantage.  Maybe some of MU's advantages are stronger than NU's advantages--and I do think Mizzou will win this game because of those advantages--but the matchups aren't just amazingly favorable here.  If Mizzou jumps on Nebraska early (like NU did to MU last year) and is able to pin its ears back and blitz blitz blitz on Keller, then the score could get pretty bad--it's a hunch, but I don't see them going on cruise control with a big lead this time (then again, that's exactly what happened in 2005).  But if this is more of a 'trading blows' type of game, where both offenses are clicking, I still like Mizzou's chances, but a lucky bounce or an unlucky fumble could make a huge difference.

But hey, where's the fun in picking a 31-30 win or something??  I only have one score in mind, and I'm not going to let my own preview of tight matchups get in the way.

That's right, Mizzou wins 41-24.