So here we go. We can talk all we want about how 2007 Missouri is different from 2006 Missouri (and 2005, and 2004...), but the bottom line is, tomorrow's is the first game all season (second, if you count Illinois...your choice) where said difference might come to play. 2006 Missouri would be 3-1 in conference right now just like 2007 Missouri is. However, if this were last year's team, I'd be picking a tight CU win right now. 2007 Missouri? Not so much. Time to prove all the "this year is different" people right, guys.
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Mizzou QB vs Colorado Defense
I've been going along with the "stout Colorado D" storyline all week even though my own numbers call that into question. I think it's safe to say, though, that while CU might occasionally get the best of Chase, getting the best of him for an entire game is an entirely different matter. Edge: Mizzou.
Mizzou RB vs Colorado LBs
I really like the progress Mizzou's running game has made in the last couple of weeks. In Tony Temple, we have a potential homerun threat whose efficiency numbers virtually rival Hugh Charles'. In Jimmy Jackson, we have an honest-to-god short-yardage back, a guy who don't need no stinkin' fullback to score from the 2. But Colorado has Jordan Dizon, Jeff Smart, and one helluva LB success rate. Edge: Buffs.
Mizzou WR/TEs vs Colorado DBs
I'm pretty sure Terrence Wheatley played for CU's national title team in 1990. He's gotta be approaching 40 years old, but he's still got some wheels. That said, he can't cover Franklin, Maclin, Coffman, Rucker, Alexander, and Saunders at the same time. Edge: Mizzou.
Mizzou OL vs Colorado DL
This should be a pretty good matchup. Brandon Nicolas and George Hypolite are playmakers, and the CU DL has a strong 80+% success rate for the season. But when's the last time Chase Daniel's jersey got dirty? That's not just because we play our games on field turf. Edge: Mizzou.
Colorado QB vs Mizzou Defense
Cody Hawkins does seem to have the 'coach's son' mentality. He's smart and patient, and at times he doesn't play like a redshirt freshman. However, get some pressure on him...confuse him a bit...and the inexperience begins to show. The way Mizzou's front four have been playing as of late, they should be able to get in Hawkins' face and take him out of his comfort zone. Edge: Mizzou.
Colorado RB vs Mizzou LBs
Hugh Charles flew under the radar most of last season, but he's beginning to thrive after an injury-plagued September. He's super-elusive, and while he's not a world-beater, neither is Alexander Robinson, who had a career game against Mizzou last week. I still have confidence in the Mizzou LBs, but they had a bad game against ISU, and until they prove themselves again...Edge: Colorado.
Colorado WR/TEs vs Mizzou DBs
I talked yesterday about the threat of a TE (DeVree, Geer) wandering wide-open over the middle with Mizzou breaking in a new starting safety. In all, though, if you've gotta break one in, Colorado's not a bad first opponent to have. The playcalling is good, but CU's WR's are three steps beyond green. I can't give CU an edge here...but I can't really give Mizzou one either. That sounds like the definition of...Edge: Push.
Colorado OL vs Mizzou DL
Hugh Charles' shiftiness and speed make CU's O-line seem better than it is, while Cody Hawkins' freshman brainfarts when pressured make them seem worse. In all, this is a relatively average O-line, and after watching Mizzou hold its own against a strong OU line and dominate a strong Tech line, I have to think Mizzou has the advantage here. Edge: Mizzou.
Jeremy Maclin has been neutralized recently by directional and/or really really high, fair-catch-is-the-only-option punts. In the thin air of Boulder, it's doubtful he'll get much return yardage in the kicking game. Hopefully Mizzou will give him opportunities by forcing lots of punts, but we'll see about that. So really this category comes down to the kicking game, and (knock on wood) Mizzou's has been quietly impressive as of late. Adam Crossett's rare punts have (KNOCK ON WOOD) been strong and high, and Jeff Wolfert's found his groove.
Meanwhile, Colorado's missed 7 FG's, and their net punting average (~37/kick) is only average. By means of comparison, Adam Crossett's has been ~40/kick in conference play. In other words, Edge: Mizzou.
Really, coaching matchups aren't as much about who's the overall better or more successful coach. It really comes down to how they've fared head-to-head. In all, Gary Pinkel's been a pretty strong coach against Bob Stoops (despite the lack of victories), but Dan McCarney gave him fits. Go figure. There's only been one Pinkel vs Hawkins matchup, and while it was more competitive than I wanted it to be, Mizzou won comfortably, just as they were supposed to. With that flawless logic, I say Slight Edge: Mizzou.
It's November, and while we can say all we want about how "this year is different", we won't know for sure until Mizzou proves this year is different. In other words, Edge: Colorado.
So we have 7-3-1 Mizzou. That suggests something like a 35-17 Mizzou victory...but I just can't make that call. The "this year is different" mantra has been beaten into my head, and I believe it (I think), but I still think this game will be a bit of a struggle.
Honestly, I think it comes down to this: this CU defense obviously handled the Tech spread well, but Mizzou has the best TEs in the nation (Tech doesn't have TEs, period), and that will weaken CU's biggest advantage, their LBs. Either they have to sacrifice LBs for DBs in a nickel or dime package, or they have to line their LBs up wide against Rucker and Coffman. No matter what, the key matchups don't favor Mizzou. Oh, and Chase Daniel >>> Cody Hawkins. It's a fight, but I'll go with what my numbers told me: 28-23 Mizzou.