Confused? Catch up with the BTBS Primer.
I mentioned at the beginning of Saturday's postgame podcast that this was, in the end, a pretty simple game to explain. That didn't stop Ross and me from talking about it for 40+ minutes then, and it won't stop me from diving into the numbers to see what I can find. This game really was a nice reminder that Mizzou's still got a fast (and young) team with a world of potential, but if that's not reason enough to check out the stats with me, I'll just mention that there's a fun Labatt Blue reference somewhere in the post. So you've got THAT to look forward to...
|Field Position %
|Close Success Rate||39.6%||25.7%|
|Close Success Rate||37.9%||27.3%|
|Close Success Rate||41.7%||25.0%|
|SD/PD Sack Rate
||0.0% / 13.0%||6.3% / 23.8%|
|Turnover Pts Margin
|1st Down S&P||0.718||0.590|
|2nd Down S&P||0.524||0.462|
|3rd Down S&P||0.737||0.176|
|Projected Pt. Margin
|Actual Pt. Margin
Understated: Missouri's defensive success. Mizzou took on a bad offense and made them look like an NAIA offense, holding them to 176 yards and a 0.306 S&P. They were bigger, stronger and faster than CU. It was fun to watch. And with the game a play or two away from becoming competitive again, Mizzou allowed just a 0.069 S&P in the fourth quarter.
- Overstated: Missouri's offensive success. Heading into this game, CU was in a battle with MU for the second-best defense in the North, but after a lovely first quarter, Mizzou did almost nothing offensively. They didn't necessarily need to do anything, and that's fine, but still.
- You'll win a lot of games giving up a 0.176 S&P on third downs.
- This game demonstrated the need for both efficiency and explosiveness. On Standard Downs, when many games are won and lost, MU and CU had nearly identical success rates (efficiency). But even when CU was moving efficiently, they still weren't getting anywhere. Mizzou's big-play threats--the long pass to Danario Alexander, and the nice, long runs by Derrick Washington and De'Vion Moore--got Mizzou a couple of easy scores in a game where points were hard to come by in the last 35-40 minutes.
- I love it when the projected and actual margins match up so perfectly.
Other thoughts after the jump.
I guess the defense can't count for all three, huh? You expect good defensive numbers when you face a bad offensive team, but Mizzou was positively dominant. I can't even cite a specific number to explain how dominant they were, because all of them tell the story equally well.
Aldon Smith. Agent Smith in his last two games: 16 solo tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass break-up. WOW. And half of that came against the best offense Missouri will see this year (Texas). With 4-6 games remaining this season, you do wonder what numbers he'll have put up by the end of the season. As I mentioned on Sunday, #85 is already threatening to leave Justin Smith's freshman numbers in the dust, and that's not even taking into account the increased pace of play-making he has put together in the last two weeks. The entire defense played well on Saturday, but this guy was a cut above the rest.
Blaine Gabbert's ankle looked fine!!! His first carry of the game was a simple 4-yarder, and all of Rock M Nation held its breath...but Gabbert not only was able to cut and change directions for the first time since September, but he also got up with no trouble. What a sigh of relief this is. Gabbert struggled after the first quarter, and CU took advantage of his further pass-telegraphing a couple of times, but if his ankle troubles are mostly behind him, we can actually start looking for signs of growth in #11 again, instead of just signs of survival.
(Also: I still can't say enough about how well he looked off the linebacker on the long TD to Danario. The LB was exactly in the way of the pass Gabbert wanted to make, so he looked to the right until the LB moved, then flicked the ball right where the LB was. Gorgeous. More of that, less locking onto receivers, please.)
And just for fun...a fourth positive:
- In light of last night's 2010 post, I should point out that Aldon Smith, Kevin Rutland, Dominique Hamilton, Zaviar Gooden, Will Ebner, Andrew Gachkar, Kenji Jackson, and Jarrell Harrison all made multiple stellar plays on defense. All of those players look better now than they did in early September, and all of them return in 2010, along with Jacquies Smith, Carl Gettis, Jasper Simmons, and others who have already made plenty of plays this year.
After the first quarter, the offense was just horrendous. The struggles were disguised by field position and a perfect fake field goal (JACQUIES SMITH FOR TIGHT END!!!1!!!!) in the second quarter, and the offense went into an intentional shell in the fourth quarter, but still...while the Q1 pace was probably unsustainable, the S&P for the final 45 minutes was under 0.400. That's quite bad...that's almost Colorado bad (almost).
The defense took its foot off the gas just long enough to give Colorado hope. Colorado managed just 176 yards all game, but 105 of them came in back-to-back drives sandwiching halftime, and it gave Colorado some much-needed momentum. Mizzou quickly righted the ship, and you really can't expect a squad this young to not suffer a lapse at some point in a game, but regardless, the momentum CU generated there allowed them to get within two possessions in a game Mizzou led by 33 at one point.
A 37.5% success rate on Standard Downs (and resulting 64.9% leverage rate) simply will not get the job done. This was caused mostly by the second-half funk--things were still pretty strong for much of the first half; however, it's simply too low. Now matter how iffy the next few teams are on the schedule, if you put yourself into too many Passing Downs, you're begging to turn the ball over and find yourself in a closer-than-it-should-be contest. Efficiency is godliness (that's the old saying, right?), and thanks mostly to iffy running and/or run blocking after the early going, Mizzou had none of it.
Three Keys Revisited
In conference play, [Colorado had] averaged just two sustained drives per game, but they have been handed three scores on short fields. Get rid of the short fields, caused mostly by turnovers and special teams mishaps, and you only have to score about 17 points to beat them. Of course, that's easier said than done for Missouri. Coinciding perfectly with Gabbert's injury, Missouri has averaged a -9.8 turnover points differential per game in conference play. Plus, Mizzou has gotten murdered in the field position battle the last two weeks (partially due to turnovers). Hand Colorado 10 points and good field position, and they can absolutely beat you. Turnovers are always key, but never more than against Colorado.
Field position was the major reason Mizzou found themselves up 30+ in the first half, and the major reason CU got within 16 in the second half. Mizzou does not have the same type of "could score from anywhere, at any time" offense as they did in 2007 and 2008, and the little things matter more. They cannot allow a sustained funk to take place like they did in Q3 Saturday. But on the bright side, Mizzou won the turnover points battle for the first time in conference play, though not by much.
Missouri's defensive line
Simply put, a) Colorado's running backs aren't good enough to create good rushes on their own, and b) Colorado's quarterbacks aren't good enough to make big plays with under pressure. If the Missouri defensive line wins its battles versus the Colorado offensive line, Colorado simply cannot score enough to win, even with a handicapped Missouri offense.
Eight sacks and a 0.301 Rushing S&P. Um, yeah. Mizzou won this battle, to say the very least.
Derrick Washington, Kendial Lawrence, De'Vion Moore
I listed them as keys to the Oklahoma State game as well, and while they performed relatively well, they didn't make enough of a difference to swing the game in Missouri's favor. This one is also quite cut-and-dried: if Missouri can move the ball on the ground and give Blaine Gabbert as little to do as possible, Missouri will score enough points to win the game, barring major mishaps in Key #1 above. If Gabbert is throwing an accurate ball, Mizzou could kill Colorado. If he's not, Mizzou could still win if these three keys are clicking.
Mizzou's RBs: 37 carries, 161 yards, 1 TD. Good enough...or should I say...CROSE ENOUGH. Obviously the run game had plenty of issues, but it allowed Mizzou to seize the game early, and that's a net win.
Last week, we were trying to talk ourselves into Missouri still having a chance at the 2009 North title, and thanks to the way Missouri looked on Saturday, it's pretty clear that we're not just wishing and hoping. Colorado's far from good, but they were good enough to beat Kansas, and Mizzou beat them worse in Boulder than K-State beat them in Manhattan, so if you believe in the transitive property, that's a good sign for Mizzou's two remaining games away from Faurot Field. (Meanwhile, Mizzou's remaining games at Faurot are against Baylor and Iowa State, which...well, lose one of those games, and you don't deserve to win the North anyway.) The goals for 2009 were 1) make another bowl with a sickeningly young team, 2) win the North...and that's basically it. Mizzou can achieve half of its season goal with a win on Saturday, and it's shaping up to be a potentially lovely November for Gary Pinkel's Tigers.