- KSU's offensive numbers really aren't too bad, but their Leverage % (% of their plays that are Non-Passing Downs) is gawdawful. One of every three plays is in a Passing Down situation, and one look at their Passing Down #'s tells you that's not a good thing.
- While the success rate allowed by the K-State defense (44.6%) is clearly too high, success rate isn't the main problem--it's Points Per Play allowed (0.40). Of course, if the success rate is too high, offenses are staying in comfortable situations and are more likely to make a big play. It's all connected!!
- Mizzou is +0.318 in S&P difference in close games. That's very good. KSU is +0.005. Not as good.
KSU is allowing 3.14 line yards per carry. That's QUITE bad, and Missouri is crazy if Derrick Washington doesn't get at least 15-20 carries. Then again, KSU's allowing 0.42 PPP passing, so that works too. They're probably fine either way.
- I have to applaud Josh Freeman for KSU's low sack rate allowed. Their O-line isn't terrible, but those are very low numbers...it's hard to bring that big guy down.
- Looking at the Run Rate on Passing Downs is a good way to see how conservative a team (or its opponent) is. For instance, Mizzou's run rate of 23.2% shows that they think they can convert long pass plays most of the time. Heading into the Mizzou game, Colorado had a Run Rate of 39.3%, which suggested that they pretty much give up any time they have a 2nd- or 3rd-and-long situation because they want to avoid disaster. KSU throws most of the time, which suggests they do trust Josh Freeman. But a) their Passing Downs S&P is awful, and b) their turnover #'s are awful...so maybe they should run more in those situations.
- It's also worth noting that Mizzou's opponents have a Passing Downs run rate of 28.4%...which suggests that they think they can exploit Mizzou's occasional lapses in pass defense. Mizzou stops most Passing Downs just fine (in fact, their sack rate on Passing Downs is quite high), but it does show the mindset involved.
- Meanwhile, KSU opponents run about 60% of the time in Non-Passing Downs...which suggests they think they can run all day and dictate the tempo against KSU's front seven.
- Look at those Turnover numbers. Despite losing the Turnover battle against Baylor, Mizzou is still on average about +4.2 points per game in the turnover department. K-State is -6.3 points per game in the turnover department. OUCH. That's a suggested advantage of 10.5 points for Mizzou.
Let's see what the situational stats tell us...
- If Mizzou is up 10 or 14 after Q1, this game is going to be a massive blowout. Mizzou's worst defensive quarter is Q1...and KSU's best offensive quarter is Q1. If Mizzou does indeed come out emotionally drained after the Senior Day ceremony (a distinct possibility), KSU could move the ball early, and this could remain a game for a while. However, look at KSU's 2nd-half offensive stats. There's a considerable drop-off. Mizzou will pull away. And the surge could very well happen in Q3, where (despite the Q3 debacle in Waco) Mizzou has been pretty damn good overall.
- Meanwhile, KSU's defense is pretty consistently bad, and Mizzou's offense is pretty consistently good. Just sayin'.
- Looking at per-down stats, KSU is the anti-Baylor. Baylor thrived on 2nd downs while being average or so on 1st and 3rd downs. KSU is the opposite. They're decent on 1st downs, quite bad on 2nd downs, and good on 3rd downs. For what that's worth. The Mizzou defense, meanwhile, is remarkably consistent by down.
Key Players: Kansas State
WRs Deon Murphy and Aubrey Quarles
Though tiny, KSU's leading WR Brandon Banks is a pretty solid WR, with 48 catches, 773 yards and 7 TD's on the season. However, Carl Gettis will be on him, so Josh Freeman will need somewhere else to turn. Murphy's a big-play threat, averaging 14.7 yards per catch. Unfortunately for K-State, he's also averaging less than three catches per game. He's a great return man, but an iffy receiver, and either he or Quarles (or TE Jeron Mastrud) will need to provide a good target for Freeman...or Murphy will need to have at least a couple of really good returns...else this will be a pretty disastrous day for K-State.
QB Josh Freeman
I hate it when I make the obvious choice, but a) nobody else on this offense can even remotely put this team on his back and win this game (unless Lamark Brown has a career day against his home-state school), and b) this is Freeman's team--with the soap opera that has taken place on the sidelines the last 24 hours or so, leadership will have to come from some place other than the head coach. He's going to have to be amazing for K-State to have a chance, and I doubt he has it in him.
DE Brandon Harold
The freshman from East St. Louis, aside from being one of the only high school recruits in last year's class (and I'm barely exagerrating) has been one of the few defensive standouts this year. He leads KSU in tackles for loss, and he's second in sacks to Ian Campbell. Harold and Campbell could conceivably put together a decent pass rush, which would conceivably allow KSU to get in Chase Daniel's face without blitzing, conceivably allowing KSU to conceivably create some big plays on defense. No, I don't believe it will happen either, but Harold and Campbell are as good as it gets on that side of the ball for KSU.
CB Joshua Moore
Since the boocoos of JUCO players haven't contributed much of anything (Blair Irvin is a JUCO transfer and the other starter at CB, but he doesn't exactly strike fear in my heart), the sophomore Moore has become the secondary's only playmaker. He is the only Wildcat with more than 1 INT on the year. Plus, he has a very respectable 9 pass breakups and 11 passes defended (not totally sure the difference, but whatever). If a big INT is made, Moore's probably the one making it.
Key Players: Mizzou
LB Aaron O'Neal
Sorry. I'm going to go cheesy with this one. For the last four seasons (the most successful 4-year span Missouri has ever had), Mizzou's play has been dedicated to the kid who died at 19 without ever having seen the field for his home-state Tigers. If you listen to Mizzou players talking about him, it's like he's been built into a god at this point. The name "Aaron O'Neal" now reflects everything that is good and right about playing for the Missouri Tigers. His dad will be wearing his jersey on Saturday during what will certainly be one of the more emotional moments in the history of Faurot Field (sans anything that happens during Promise Keepers rallies anyway, natch). He and his memory will have a more direct impact on this game than on any other Mizzou has played. If Mizzou comes out flat or aflame, it's because of the emotion of the moment.
I'll be honest--my finger is nowhere near the pulse of this team right now. I thought the Colorado game would be a sloppy, boring 31-14 win...and it was a 58-0 massacre. I thought Mizzou would easily score 45+ on Baylor, and if not for a field goal that took them a hair over 30, they'd have lost (something of which my colleague rptgwb is more than happy to remind you, ahem). My gut says this one's a blowout, but...well, I'm wrong a lot. So we'll go to the numbers.
This week's projections said Mizzou 42, K-State 22. Taking into account a projected 10-point advantage for Mizzou in turnovers, and that becomes something like 47-17, Mizzou. Which is about what I'd have predicted on my own, but now that it's backed up by SCIENCE!!!, we'll go with that.