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Anthrascience: Upending UCF

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The Knights gave Penn St. all they could handle across the pond, what do the Tigers have to do to fare better than their feline friends in Happy Valley?

Jack Peglow

Missouri fans went into last week feeling a bit apprehensive. Their Tigers hadn't exactly impressed against South Dakota State, and playing at Toledo had all the signs of a disappointing loss. Even our Rock M Scientists didn't think a big win was in the cards. Luckily for you, dear readers, Mizzou went out and blew everyone – especially the Toledo football team – away. Last week, we hypothesized about how such a blowout could occur. How right were we?

Previous Hypothesis

If Missouri can keep Toledo's sack total under three and their tackle-for-loss total under five, the Tigers will pull away in the third quarter.

Experiment

Analysis

Time to hit the box score!

Box score, how many sacks did the Rockets record? Two? Good, that's less than three. How about tackles-for-loss, box score. How many of those did they have? So they had five, huh? Wow, we hit that one right on the nose! We must have been 100% correct!

(Mizzou went up by 21 with six minutes to go in the second quarter)

Okay, so maybe Mizzou pulled away from Toledo *just* a bit earlier than we predicted. The defensive line ended up being significantly more potent than any of us thought they would be. That's something we'll definitely have to take into account when making this week's hypothesis.

Conclusion

The Missouri offensive line put forth an impressive display of blocking prowess en route to a comfortable 25-point victory. The Tigers pulled away about half of a quarter earlier than the Rock M Scientists thought they would, but no one's complaining. PROGNOSIS:

Sciencevictory_copy_medium

Shifting our gaze to the future, we see the Knights of Central Florida – fresh off a bye-week – standing in Missouri's path. The Tigers have some well-deserved confidence built up after last week's performance, and UCF has to be feeling just about as positive as a team can after a loss. What does Mizzou need to do to stay undefeated? Let's examine the variables.

Question

Even without the signal-caller that steered them to a Fiesta Bowl victory, UCF boasts a passing game that can keep them in a game with anyone. Yes, Blake Bortles was a major reason for the Knights' success last year, but when your team returns four of its top five receivers AND a transfer that led his team in receiving in 2012, you shouldn't expect too much of a drop off. The running game, on the other hand, looks like it will be MIA for the foreseeable future. These factors lead us to the following question:

What does Missouri's secondary need to do to keep UCF's aerial attack grounded?

Research

HP Nolan @ Underdog Dynasty: Justin Holman is the man, for now?

He only played a half and finished with 200 yards passing with 3 total tds. Without the best running back and wide receiver on the team, the offense came back to life. Holman took control of the game and revoke the previously lifeless UCF offense. If Justin Holman continues to play this way, the sky is the limit for him and. UCF.

It would seem that UCF has found their starter at quarterback. With the talent that they have catching the ball, this has the potential to spell trouble for Mizzou, whose secondary is arguably the weak-spot of the defense. The Tigers have had trouble matching up with athletic receivers, something UCF is overflowing with. To whit:

Bill Connelly: The big 2014 UCF football preview

All the wideouts you need

J.J. Worton, purveyor of the best catch you saw last season (against Temple), was actually UCF's No. 2 receiver. That alone says quite a bit. Worton, No. 1 Rannell Hall, and No. 3 Breshad Perriman all averaged at least 10.6 yards per target in 2013, and former four-star recruit Josh Reese pitched in a decent 7.0.

Stanback proved threatening out of the backfield, tight end Justin Tukes caught three-quarters of the passes thrown his way, and any of four three-star youngsters could be ready to break into the rotation in 2014. Oh yeah, and transfer Jackie Williams, who led UAB in receiving in 2012, should easily replace the production and potential of departed Jeff Godfrey.

This receiving corps is loaded; it helped Bortles evidently turn into a top-10 prospect, and it should ease the transition for Holman or whoever lands the job as Bortles' replacement.

The Knights can – and will – test Mizzou's defensive backs. If the Toledo and SDSU games can tell us anything, it's that UCF will probably have some success doing so. We're all in agreement that Maty Mauk has put together a solid start to his season. He's thrown for 503 yards already, which is pretty impressive, right? I'd say so. The problem isn't Mauk though, it's the fact that Missouri's defense has allowed opposing passing-games to stay almost dead even with them. Toledo and SDSU threw for a combined total of 502 yards against Mizzou. They came as close as they could to the Tigers' yardage total without going over, which would be neat if this was The Price is Right and not college football. Because of this, we can safely assume that UCF is going to get theirs when it comes to throwing the ball. Luckily for Missouri fans, the defense does have a way of combating this issue: a stellar defensive line.

Hypothesis

This will probably become a running theme throughout the season, but if Mizzou wants to keep their opponent's point-total smaller than their own, they'll need Markus Golden, Shane Ray, and the rest of the gang to wreak some havoc. Doing so will likely cause Holman to make some mistakes, which will ease the burden on the secondary. Just how much havoc will #DLineZou need to wreak? Let's take an educated guess:

If the Missouri defense can tally at least two sacks and four QB hurries, they'll have disrupted UCF's offense enough to justify a double-digit margin of victory.

We now have our variables in place. Let's see how the experiment plays out.