- What's probably most impressive about OU's offense is that they score no matter what the situation. They're not particularly great at leverage % (meaning, they don't do a great job of staying out of Passing Downs). They've got a good--but not ridiuclously good--success rate on Non-Passing Downs, and no better than an above average success rate on Passing Downs. But they can score at any moment. (And as they proved against OSU, they will get every bounce...not that I'm bitter or anything.) And they've got other-worldly redzone numbers. Stopping them happens before they get to your 20. After that, they're not only all but guaranteed to put points on the board, but they're all but guaranteed to put a touchdown on the board.
- The other thing about OU's offense is simple: their hurry-up style and aggressive play-calling means that, even if their overall statistics are only good and not ohmigod-these-are-the-best-numbers-ever, they're banking on a) stopping you more than you can stop them, and b) you making more mistakes on defense than they make on offense. Stop them a couple times? Congratulations. Now go stop them another nine times.
- OU's defense has not been as dominant as some thought it would be this year, but the PD/NPD numbers tell the story. If you can keep them off-balance and stay in Non-Passing Downs, where they can't load up on either the run or the pass, you can move the ball effectively against OU. But in Passing Downs, it's lights out. They are not an "all or nothing" defense, but it's that same concept--they are a big play defense, and they take advantage of opportunities for big plays. Stay out of passing downs, and you have a fighting chance.
- Another indication that they're a big-play defense? Look at those ridiculous turnover numbers. It gives them a 4.5-point advantage over Mizzou's turnover numbers.
On to the situational stats...
- To beat OU, you must weather the storm as long as possible. While they are still good deep into the game, they're at their best in Q1. This is Mike Tyson '88 here--they're going for the knockout punch the moment they step on the field. But like the Punch-Out version of Mike Tyson, the longer you dodge the blow, the softer the blows get. If you avoid falling down by 14 in the first 10 minutes, you give yourself a chance. Now...OSU did exactly this, and it didn't work for them (the lucky bounces didn't help matters). It might not work for Mizzou either (hell, Tyson did have to beat opponents by decision occasionally), but it's all they've got.
- Meanwhile, Q3 is Mizzou's best quarter--they proved that again last Saturday, when they flirted with getting blown out in the first half but had all but tied the game by the end of Q3. They started horribly against Kansas obviously (Texas as well), but for the first part they're pretty darn good in Q1 and Q2 as well.
|OU & MU '+' figures and conference ranking*
|Category||OU Off.||OU Def.||MU Off.||MU Def.|
|Success Rates+||103.9 (#6)||116.1 (#1)||115.6 (#2)||103.1 (#6)|
|PPP+||129.2 (#1)||111.5 (#3)||115.1 (#4)||109.3 (#6)|
|S&P+||115.7 (#2)||113.9 (#2)||115.4 (#3)||105.6 (#3)|
|Rushing S&P+||104.6 (#6)||108.6 (#3)||115.6 (#1)||115.7 (#2)|
|Passing S&P+||128.9 (#1)||118.6 (#2)||112.7 (#5)||99.4 (#8)|
|Close-Game S&P+||129.0 (#1)||106.8 (#4)||107.7 (#4)||108.7 (#2)|
|Non-Passing Downs S&P+||112.4 (#2)||106.0 (#4)||118.2 (#1)||109.0 (#2)|
|Passing Downs S&P+||122.3 (#4)||137.7 (#2)||102.0 (#6)||95.7 (#9)|
|Redzone S&P+||113.7 (#3)||105.6 (#6)||109.6 (#4)||107.7 (#5)|
* The close-game figures here are different than what I posted on Tuesday. I have finally gone ahead and re-jiggered the close-game statistics as follows: in Q1, any scoring margin of 24 or less is "close". In Q2, any scoring margin of 21 or less is "close". In Q3-Q4, any scoring margin of 16 points or less (i.e. two possessions) is "close". The idea is to measure how a team plays when the game is truly within reach, and a 21-point lead in Q1 is different than a 21-point lead in Q4.
- When OU has the ball, the two biggest gaps come in the following cateories (looking at OU's offensive numbers vs MU's defensive numbers): PPP+ and Passing Downs S&P+.
- Despite the likely perception of something different, Mizzou has an advantage in terms of Rushing S&P+ when OU has the ball. If OU is gashing Mizzou on the ground, it's probably going to get really ugly.
- When MU has the ball, they have the following solid advantage: Non-Passing Downs S&P+. They have slight advantages in Redzone S&P+, Rushing S&P+, and others, but that is their one main opportunity.
- Meanwhile, when MU has the ball, OU has a significant advantage in Passing Downs S&P+.
What Has to Happen for Mizzou to Win
- Score a lot.
- Stop them a lot.
- In the end, try to have more points on the scoreboard.
Just kidding. I'm going to try to move past the generic ones here. Instead of "Key Players" this week (let's face it--we all know all of our own key players, and all of their key players as well), I thought I'd go with this format.
Limit the OU run. OU's going to move the ball via the passing game. There's just no way around it. But if you can slow down OU's rushing attack and force as many Passing Downs as humanly possible, that's going to be the key to stopping them. OU's very good in Passing Downs compared to other teams, and MU's not very good at stopping teams on Passing Downs, but regardless--Mizzou's odds still improve in those situations. Mizzou has the rushing defense to slow OU down, and they did just that last year--everybody talks about how OU ran all over MU last year, but they really didn't. Even in last year's Big 12 title game, OU only ran for 165 yards. The problem in that game was that Mizzou stopped being able to move the ball, and eventually the defense wore down.
- Tackle really freaking well. Sam Bradford's got torn ligaments in his non-throwing hand. It caused him to drop some snaps on Saturday. It's going to be stabilized and not much of a factor tomorrow, BUT...the more snaps you make him take, the more opportunities you give yourself to hit him and make him feel those torn ligaments (legally...don't try to play a game of Mercy with him after the play is dead or something), the more chance you have of him making a mistake. Let DeMarco Murray or Juaquin Iglesias or Ryan Broyles bounce around and avoid the tackle...or let Jermaine Gresham and Manny Johnson beat you deep...and you've given them an out. Do what defenses have attempted to do to Mizzou for the last two years: earn every yard.
Move the ball on 1st-and-10. I've already stressed it like three times, but the key to moving the ball on OU is staying in downs where they don't know if you're going to run or pass (i.e. Non-Passing Downs). This is OU--they know how to defend the spread. They're going to contain and tackle. They're going to drop 7 guys into coverage a lot (7 different guys every time, most likely). They're going to keep everything in front of them and make Mizzou go the length of the field. Mizzou MUST stay patient, take advantage of intermediate of shorter routes, and by all means take advantage of the fact that they're now on their fourth middle linebacker of the year. Stay in 2nd-and-5 situations, and you can move the ball. 2nd-and-11? You're dead. Even at 80%, Chase Coffman (and to a lesser extent, Andrew Jones) could be key here.
- Take the seven points OU gives away. Opponents are averaging 24.8 yards per kickoff return and have scored 4 kick return TDs on OU this year. And let's face it: OU will probably be kicking off more than they're punting. Jeremy Maclin will have an opportunity to break a big one, and he HAS TO HAS TO HAS TO take advantage of it. Even if he doesn't break on for a TD, he has to give Mizzou a short field at least once or twice.
- Please, for the love of God, don't hand them anything. All Mizzou fans are still having Curtis Lofton flashbacks from 2007. Lofton was a great LB by all means, but he earned the "Mizzou Killer" nickname by circumstance, not by any great feat. In Norman, Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin screwed up an exchange, and Lofton was standing right there to grab the ball and take it to the house. In San Antonio, Martin Rucker didn't raise his arms fast enough to handle a Daniel fastball, and the ball deflected into Lofton's hands. OU fans, at their most arrogant, call the phenomenon of them getting lucky plays because they're OU, "Sooner Magic." Keep a lid on the Sooner Magic crap, and you give yourself a fighting chance. Hand them free points, and you've got about a 0.4% chance of winning.
Summary and Prediction
If Missouri is going to win this game--and no matter how pessimistic most of us may feel right now, make no mistake...Mizzou's definitely got a fighting chance--it's going to be in the 41-31 or 38-34 neighborhood, where they weather the Q1 storm, force a couple of Q2 mistakes, got a decent-sized lead, hand some of it back, and hold off the OU passing attack at the end.
That said, everybody reading this knows that Mizzou's odds aren't great. They just aren't. This week's BTBS projections, notoriously conservative on the scoring margin side of things, said OU 33, MU 30. When I changed the close-game math, that changed to 35-30. Add in the likely turnover margin, and you're looking at something like 40-30. That's the most likely outcome, but if Mizzou isn't sharp in Q1, they could find themselves down 14-0, abandon the run, and watch Chase Daniel run for his life against Auston English, Jeremy Beal, etc., and it could get really, really ugly.
Because nobody actually holds me to these predictions, I'll make three of them:
25% chance - Mizzou 38, Oklahoma 31
50% chance - Oklahoma 42, Mizzou 28
25% chance - Oklahoma 66, Mizzou 24
Average that out, and I'm predicting something like OU 46, MU 30. Whatever. Take the poll and tell me which one you think is most likely.