The longer this game stays close, the better for Colorado. Not only do they have greater experience in close-game situations, but after MU failed to come back against OSU, there will be 68,000 butts puckering in the seats if this is a one-possession game in Q4. Plus, CU's obviously performed pretty well in clutch situations, considering they're 4-3 despite being outscored, both in EqPts and actual points.
- CU's defense has done well in forcing offenses into Passing Downs (69% leverage rate). Unfortunately, that good work has been negated by an atrocious offense (61% leverage rate). Cody Nolte-Hawkins isn't a very good QB, but he's an even worse QB when almost half the plays he runs are in Passing Down situations.
- Mizzou's offensive PPP is twice that of Colorado. Colorado's longest play this year: 38 yards. Meanwhile, from an S&P standpoint, MU's and CU's defenses have performed equally, though as we saw in my Big 12 piece on Tuesday, CU's defense gets the nod because they've played better competition overall.
- MU's close-game stats took a hit with their miserable performance last Saturday. Fortunately for them, the performance was so miserable that there weren't enough close-game plays to affect their season stats much! Woohoo!
- Mizzou will be able to run the ball on Colorado. This game comes at a nice time, as Mizzou's O-line is totally devoid of confidence right now, and they need to see some success. Well, CU's D-line just isn't that good, either in run defense or in pass rush. CU's linebackers and secondary have performed well, but notsomuch their line.
- We've heard about the makeshift O-line Colorado has struggled with this year, but CU's Line Yards/carry really haven't been that bad. That suggests that CU's RBs are as much to blame as the OL for the poor rushing performance.
- I'm curious to see how a good Colorado secondary will do against Mizzou with no discernible pass rush. Then again, I said OSU didn't have a pass rush either, and they disrupted Chase Daniel's rhythm all night. I take it back. I didn't say this.
- Colorado has a 41.7% success rate on Non-Passing Downs. Mizzou has a 41.6% success rate on Passing Downs. Ouch.
- If averages stand (and they rarely do), Mizzou stands to gain about 6 points in turnovers. Colorado needs to flip that and reverse it if they have any shot of staying with Mizzou.
Now some By-Quarter and By-Down stats...
- CU's offense is consistently bad, but they're at their worst during the second-half adjustment period. Meanwhile, the MU defense has been pretty consistently decent after Q1. No idea how this changes with Mizzou's new "back to basics on defense" mantra, but we'll assume it won't change much. Colorado, with their one first-drive TD this year, could be in trouble if they don't score early.
- CU's defense has been pretty poor in the "game-planning" quarters (Q1, Q3), but they seem to adjust pretty well as the half progresses. Meanwhile, despite last week's first-half debacle, Mizzou's offensive numbers are still pretty consistently great Q1-Q3.
- The Mizzou defense's best down is 2nd down; meanwhile the Colorado defense's worst down is 2nd down. I don't bring this up for any constructive reason. I just found it strange. There's a story to be told somewhere regarding teams' variances on 2nd downs, but I don't know what that story is yet.
- CU's offense: consistently bad on every down. But hey...consistency's good, right?
Before I move on with any more constructive analysis, I just wanted to share this pic from the CUbuffs.com football homepage. Nick Nolte smiles!
Hey coach, Darrell Scott just turned into the #1 RB in the country!
Anyhoo, moving along...CU's special teams unit is the exact opposite of what it was a couple years ago--they actually have a pretty solid return threat, but their kicking game is atrocious. Josh Smith has emerged as a good return man, averaging 10.5 yards per punt return (with a long of 51) and an outstanding 28.3 yards per kick return (with 1 TD). Mizzou's experimentation with rugby-style punting was brought on by a general fear of Dez Bryant two games ago. I'd almost suggest that Smith is as scary as Bryant is in the return game. I mean...I'd still pick Jeremy Maclin over him and all, but still...Smith = good.
Meanwhile, PK Aric Goodman = terrible. He is 1-for-7 on FG's of 30 yards or more. One-for-seven! His long: 32. Mason Crosby, he is not. Hell, the kicker for my high school team was able to pretty regularly make FGs of less than 40 yards. He even made a 52-yarder once. Needless to say, a) Mizzou draws an advantage here if CU has to rely on Goodman for a late FG, and b) Colorado will likely be going for it on most fourth downs in Mizzou territory.
I spoiled the projections surprise on Tuesday, but I'll elaborate here. From this point on, I will use Big 12 per-game averages and Big 12 '+' rankings to make the projections, and I won't make any more "2008 adjustments." These first couple of projections may suffer from smallsamplesizeitis, but...oh well.
- Mizzou Rushing Offense EqPts+: 122.3
- Colorado Rushing Defense EqPts/Gm: 11.9
- Projection #1: 14.55
- Colorado Rushing Defense EqPts+: 109.8
- Mizzou Rushing Offense EqPts/Gm: 9.4
- Projection #2: 8.56
Avg Projected Mizzou Rushing Output: 11.56
- Mizzou Passing Offense EqPts+: 118.5
- Colorado Passing Defense EqPts/Gm: 13.4
- Projection #1: 15.88
- Colorado Passing Defense EqPts+: 121.2
- Mizzou Passing Offense EqPts/Gm: 19.8
- Projection #2: 16.34
Avg Projected Mizzou Passing Output: 16.11
- Colorado Rushing Offense EqPts+: 76.4
- Mizzou Rushing Defense EqPts/Gm: 12.1
- Projection #1: 9.24
- Mizzou Rushing Defense EqPts+: 118.0
- Colorado Rushing Offense EqPts/Gm: 7.5
- Projection #2: 6.36
Projected Colorado Rushing Output: 7.80
- Colorado Passing Offense EqPts+: 58.5
- Mizzou Passing Defense EqPts/Gm: 18.4
- Projection #1: 10.76
- Mizzou Passing Defense EqPts+: 101.3
- Colorado Passing Offense EqPts/Gm: 9.3
- Projection #2: 9.18
Projected Colorado Passing Output: 9.97
Projected EqPts Score: Missouri 27.67, Colorado 17.77
Home Field Adjustment (+~3 for home, -~3 for road): Missouri 31, Colorado 14
Colorado: Key Players
RB Rodney Stewart
It's pretty easy to figure out what CU's likely offensive gameplan will be. Judging by their personnel and the fact that they rushed 57 times last week against Kansas State, it's likely CU will attempt the ball-control, "3 plays, 10 yards, do it again" style against us, and the key to that will be Stewart. While everybody expected a freshman to lead CU in rushing this year, nobody thought it would be the 5'6 Stewart--everybody assumed Everybody's All-American Darrell Scott would be the guy. For whatever reason (nagging injury?), that just hasn't happened. Through seven games, Scott has amassed just 10.51 EqPts (and 167 yards) on the ground. his 0.552 S&P has been downright awful. Stewart, on the other hand, has been far from explosive (just 0.21 PPP), but he's been consistent and reliable, with a 47.9% success rate and 4.9 yards per carry. If CU's going to stay out of passing downs and move the chains, their hopes will lie on the back of the smallest guy on the field.
WR Josh Smith
Unless Darrell Scott suddenly realizes his potential overnight, Smith is CU's only big-play threat. CU has just 8 plays of 30 or more yards all year, but Smith has three of them. He is the only CU WR who averages more than 10.3 yards per reception (14.3). You may be able to work a length-of-the-field-at-4-yards-a-play drive against Missouri once, maybe even twice. But at some point, to beat Missouri you're going to have to come up with a big play or two, and if Smith can't do it (either receiving or in the return game), I don't know if anybody can.
DT George Hypolite
Mizzou's offensive line is vulnerable, so now would be a good time for Hypolite to break out of his season-long doldrums. As CU's only proven DL threat, Hypolite has been double-teamed a lot, but with out a strong pass rush (starting DEs Maurice Lucas and Jason Brace have combined for 1.5 sacks), he will need to be a dominant force if CU is going to get any pressure on Chase Daniel. OSU provided a blueprint for getting to Chase, but I'm not sure CU has the personnel to do it.
FS Ryan Walters
Walters has forced three fumbles this year and recovered two. CU has to come up big in the turnover game, and considering their INTs leader (Cha'pelle Brown) has all of two, I'd say Walters is the leading candidate to do something.
Missouri: Key Players
OLs Colin Brown, Kurtis Gregory, Tim Barnes, Ryan Madison, Elvis Fisher, Dan Hoch, Austin Wuebbels, and whoever else is going to be getting playing time
Chase Daniel was alright, Jeremy Maclin was good, Chase Coffman was amazing...and Missouri scored 3 points in the first half against Texas last week. Texas' D-line was by far the best Mizzou will face this year, but for two straight games the Mizzou offensive line has been terrible, and it's time for them to prove something. We know they're capable of good things--just look at the Nebraska and Illinois games--but it's time they proved they're still capable.
RB Derrick Washington
It hasn't really been his fault, but Washington has been the forgotten man the last two weeks. He torched Nebraska for 13.52 EqPts. He put 11.39 EqPts up against Illinois. But against OSU and Texas, he combined for just 8.90. If the O-line's blocking better, and if Washington is running mean, Mizzou will trounce Colorado.
FS William Moore
With Mizzou trailing 14-0 and in desperate need of a play, Colt McCoy fired one toward the endzone on 3rd-and-20, and Willy Mo came from the inside of the WR, jumped to pick off the pass...and missed. The ball touched his hands but ended up in the hands of Malcolm Williams. It was the perfect representation of Moore's season to date. He was hampered early in the season by injury, and he has yet to have the typical Willy Mo game yet. I will continue to put him on this list until he does something.
LB Sean Weatherspoon
I've defended the Mizzou defense a decent amount this week--sure, they got embarrassed by Texas last week, but Texas was going to embarrass anybody in the country last week. They were not going to be stopped. Mizzou's defense actually shut down a decent offense in Nebraska's and held a good OSU offense below (or right at) its averages.
All that said, the defense needs some confidence, and it needs to start making some damn plays. If Willy Mo isn't going to do it, then my eyes turn to 'Spoon, Mizzou's leading playmaker so far this year. This last week has to have eaten 'Spoon up--not only did his defense get obliterated last week, but he completely disappeared against the home state school that didn't bother to recruit him. He should play pissed off on Saturday. He better play pissed off on Saturday.
My initial instinct last Saturday night and Sunday was to think, "Holy crap, Missouri is going to DESTROY Colorado next weekend." The more I think about it, the more I think that that's only partially right. After last year's 55-10 debacle in Boulder, I see Colorado doing everything in its power to keep this game slow and close. No more Cover-1 defense (meaning, unfortunately, Chase likely won't complete 46 deep balls like he did in Boulder)--keep everything in front of you and make Missouri go the length of the field. Meanwhile, the part-time presence of freshman dual-threat QB Tyler Hansen means CU will likely run the ball whenever possible and do whatever it can to get 10 yards in 3 plays and eat up the clock.
Because of this, Missouri's time of possession could be about as bad as it was against Nebraska. Of course, despite running 15 fewer plays than NU, Mizzou still managed to score 52 and win easy. This isn't as confident a bunch of players as what took the field in Lincoln just three weeks ago, and CU's defense is better than NU's, so I definitely don't see a repeat of that performance. But I do see Mizzou coasting to a relatively boring (for them), low-scoring (for them) win. They might not cover, but they probably won't struggle much either. Mizzou 35, Colorado 14.