For the second straight week, Missouri outperformed all of our expectations here at the Rock M Laboratories en route to an impressive win. As they did against both of Toledo's signal-callers, the Tigers harassed UCF quarterback Justin Holman early and often, eventually forcing him into situations where he would make a mistake or take a sack. In our hypothesis last week, we touched on exactly this scenario. How accurate were we?
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.
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Alright, let's take a look at those sack totals! We needed at least two, how many did the Tigers end up recording? Six? SIX? That's, uh, solid. What about hurries? Officially, Mizzou only recorded three, but that's probably because they were so successful in wreaking havoc that they got the sack/tackle for loss more often than Holman got the pass off.
Missouri wasn't able to record as many QB hurries as we asked for, but the mess that Markus Golden, Shane Ray, and company made in the UCF backfield ended up being disruptive enough for their offense to post a 28-point victory.
Moving on, the Tiger defense will face their B1Ggest challenge yet when Indiana's prolific offense comes to town. Yes, the Hoosiers are fresh off a disappointing shootout loss to Bowling Green, but that doesn't mean Mizzou can take the scoring machine from Bloomington lightly. What do the Tigers need to do to slow Indiana's roll? Let's get scientific, yo.
Coming off a season where they scored 38.4 points per game and allowed 38.8, the Hoosiers are scoring at a 35 points per game clip this year and only letting their opponents score 27.5. Progress! Even with the improved numbers, it's probably safe to assume that Maty Mauk and the Missouri offense have much less to worry about than their buddies on the other side of the ball. Nate Sudfeld can toss the ol' pigskin for as many yards as anyone, but it's Tevin Coleman and Indiana's running game that should worry you. It's this discovery that led us to this week's question:
What will the Tiger defense need to do to contain Indiana's rushing attack?
Bill Connelly: The big 2014 Indiana football preview
Of the 199 FBS players with at least 100 carries in 2013, only seven averaged 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity or greater. Boston College's Andre Williams and Missouri's Henry Josey averaged 8.0, Maryland's C.J. Brown and Ohio State's Braxton Miller averaged 8.4, West Virginia's Dreamius Smith and UL-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire averaged 8.6 ... and Tevin Coleman averaged 12.0. His average was 40 percent better than the second best. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards (only 12 players had more), and he had eight of at least 40 (most in the country). He is unlit dynamite every play he's on the field.
That's not just good, that's astounding. The Missouri defense prides itself on not giving up big plays, but they'll have their work cut out for them this week.
Noey Kupchan @ Yahoo Sports: Indiana-Missouri Preview
Coleman is averaging 218.5 rushing yards this season, by far the most in the country. He gashed Bowling Green for 190 yards and three touchdowns in last Saturday's heartbreaking 45-42 loss, Indiana's seventh straight road defeat dating to 2012.
Those are some impressive numbers right there. Here are some more: through two games, Coleman has rushed for 437 yards. That's good for fifth in the nation, behind four players who have all played three games. In fact, Coleman is the only rusher in the top 10 nationally to have only played two games. Here's just a few of the running backs that he's out-rushed: Todd Gurley, Alex Collins, Mike Davis, and T.J. Yeldon. Tevin Coleman has actually rushed for more yards than Mizzou has allowed in its first three games. If you haven't caught my drift yet, I'm insinuating that he's a pretty good guy at running the dang ball. He's also running behind an offensive line that boasts some serious experience.
Bill Connelly: The big 2014 Indiana football preview
If Coleman isn't either quarterback's best friend in 2014, it might be the line. Because for all intents and purposes, the line returns six starters. Both tackle Peyton Eckert (back) and Dan Feeney (foot), 2012 starters, missed all of 2013 with injuries. That gave the Hoosiers a younger-than-expected front five, and while its pass protection numbers were solid (mostly because of Roberson), its run-blocking numbers left something to be desired.
To the extent that experience can fix the run issues, Indiana's line could improve dramatically. The Hoosiers now return 10 players with starting experience and six players with at least 12 career starts. They begin the season with more career starts up front (130) than most teams have at the end of a season.
Coleman is far and away the Hoosier offense's biggest strength, but the line isn't too far behind. This fact isn't as worrisome to Mizzou as it would be to other schools, though. Against Toledo, the Tigers' defensive line proved that they can handle opposing wide-bodies with wealths of experience. They should be able to make Indiana's offense significantly one-dimensional, allowing the rest of the defense to focus in on Coleman. Michael Scherer is off to an incredibly hot start this year, and he'll need to rack up as many – if not more – tackles as he has in the last three games if his defense wants to have a shot at containing Coleman. In short, Scherer and the rest of the back seven have to keep the lid on the Hoosier running game. The last prolific running back that Missouri faced, South Dakota State's Zach Zenner, broke away for a long touchdown run early, but was kept quiet for the rest of the game. The Tigers will need a similar performance on Saturday.
It boils down to the big plays. Less big Tevin Coleman runs = good, more = bad. He'll get his yards eventually, but if Missouri wants to keep the positive momentum that they've accrued going into conference play, they'll need to stress that eventually part. Coleman can't be allowed to gain big chunks of yardage on any sort of consistent basis. If he does, the game has a large chance to turn into a shootout. If he doesn't, Missouri's offense should be able to put up enough points on the beleaguered Hoosier defense to put the game out of reach. These facts bring out THIS WEEK'S HYPOTHESIS:
If Mizzou's defense limits Tevin Coleman to less than three runs of 20 yards or more, the Tigers will put the game out of reach before the beginning of the fourth quarter.
We have our hypothesis. We have our variables. Now, we wait.