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The Missouri-LSU tale of the tape: Win the first quarter, keep Drew Lock upright, score an upset

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Easy, right?

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Deep-dive numbers time? Deep-dive numbers time!

Missouri Tigers (2-2) vs. LSU Tigers (2-2)

October 01, 2016 ( 7:30 PM ET, SECN )
Spread: LSU -13
S&P+ Projection: LSU (35.2-26.2)

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.
Statistical profiles index.
Full Football Outsiders F/+ rankings can be found here.

The Basics
Category Missouri LSU
S&P+ (Rk) 42 19
Category Missouri offense LSU defense LSU offense Missouri defense
Yards per play (Rk) 6.62 (17) 4.59 (26) 5.51 (69) 4.56 (25)
Yards per game (Rk) 568.0 (4) 340.5 (36) 337.5 (111) 380.8 (56)
Points per possession (Rk) 2.97 (31) 1.37 (24) 1.79 (105) 1.21 (16)
Category Missouri offense LSU defense LSU offense Missouri defense
S&P+ (Rk) 33.7 (38) 15.6 (7) 29.7 (66) 26.1 (43)
Rushing S&P+ (Rk) 82.2 (120) 134.1 (11) 123.5 (19) 98.2 (74)
Passing S&P+ (Rk) 121.7 (26) 114.7 (37) 92.3 (99) 115.9 (34)
Standard Downs S&P+ (Rk) 108.8 (53) 114.1 (30) 105.0 (63) 96.4 (84)
Passing Downs S&P+ (Rk) 104.6 (71) 153.3 (9) 108.5 (59) 140.2 (15)
Q1 S&P+ (Rk) 116.9 (48) 150.2 (12) 122.7 (40) 104.4 (57)
Q2 S&P+ (Rk) 125.4 (25) 111.1 (45) 128.9 (21) 112.4 (41)
Q3 S&P+ (Rk) 110.9 (53) 131.8 (18) 111.4 (50) 111.9 (45)
Q4 S&P+ (Rk) 105.9 (65) 107.5 (49) 83.6 (113) 117.3 (28)

It's a little bit early for truly effective opponent adjustments, but if nothing else, the above '+' rankings are a reminder that schedule strength has impacted Missouri's offensive numbers a bit. (So has tempo.) The Tigers have been absurdly prolific, averaging 56 points per game over the last three weeks. But they're still just averaging 19 points against two power-conference opponents.

Still, there are some advantages here -- passing offense, passing defense, passing downs defense, etc.

Five biggest advantages (according to the advanced stats)

Missouri

  1. Field Position (No. 26 defense vs. No. 109 offense)
  2. Run Stuffs (No. 19 offense vs. No. 95 defense)
  3. Passing Explosiveness (IsoPPP) (No. 31 defense vs. No. 103 offense)
  4. Second Down S&P+ (No. 30 defense vs. No. 100 offense)
  5. Passing S&P+ (No. 34 defense vs. No. 99 offense)

An underrated potential advantage for Missouri: field position. If Mizzou can avoid negative plays, Corey Fatony can do some advantage even if the offense isn't incredibly prolific. And if LSU isn't generating too many big plays in response, this could become a decent field-tilting opportunity.

LSU

  1. Rushing S&P+ (No. 11 defense vs. No. 120 offense)
  2. Rushing Explosiveness (IsoPPP) (No. 26 defense vs. No. 122 offense)
  3. Rushing Efficiency (Success Rate) (No. 9 defense vs. No. 97 offense)
  4. Standard Downs Sack Rate (No. 31 offense vs. No. 109 defense)
  5. Standard Downs Efficiency (Success Rate) (No. 11 defense vs. No. 82 offense)

"Avoid negative plays" is about as much as Missouri can ask for from its run game -- there isn't going to be much running room.

Five Factors
Category Missouri offense LSU defense LSU offense Missouri defense
EXPLOSIVENESS 1.41 (23) 1.38 (101) 1.38 (31) 1.12 (25)
EFFICIENCY 43.9% (56) 32.0% (15) 37.2% (110) 37.6% (38)
FIELD POSITION 32.2 (37) 29.4 (70) 27.4 (109) 26.2 (26)
FINISHING DRIVES 5.4 (37) 3.0 (9) 4.4 (90) 4.2 (39)
TURNOVER MARGIN EXPECTED:
Missouri 1.05 (50)
LSU 0.15 (70)
ACTUAL
Missouri 2 (34)
LSU -1 (71)
Offensive Footprint
Category (Rk) Missouri offense LSU offense
Adj. Pace 10.2 (10) -13.3 (126)
Plays per game 85.8 (9) 61.3 (125)
Possessions per game 15.0 (9) 11.8 (113)
Std. Downs Run Rate 50.7% (108) 62.7% (51)
Pass. Downs Run Rate 28.1% (90) 35.4% (54)
% of solo tackles 87.3% (8) 58.2% (126)

From a styles perspective, it's almost impossible for Mizzou and LSU to be any different offensively. Mizzou plays with extreme tempo; LSU plods. Mizzou forces solo tackles; LSU forces gang tackles. Mizzou is very much pass-first; while we don't know how LSU will attack the MU defense -- and it's possible the new offensive leadership comes out of the gates a little pass-heavy -- it has been reasonably run-heavy to date.

Defensive Footprint
Category (Rk) Missouri defense LSU defense
Std. Downs Run Rate 58.8% (70) 63.7% (32)
Pass. Downs Run Rate 31.5% (85) 31.6% (82)
Overall Havoc Rate 18.9% (39) 15.7% (74)
Front 7 Havoc Rate 10.1% (58) 9.3% (75)
DB Havoc Rate 8.8% (18) 5.7% (80)
PD to INC 46.2% (1) 32.7% (68)

Even with LSU's pass rush, neither Mizzou nor LSU have been particularly disruptive with their defensive fronts. They haven't yet, anyway.

When Missouri has the ball…

Standard Downs
Missouri Offense LSU Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Edge
Standard Downs S&P+ 108.8 53 114.1 30 LSU
Standard Downs Success Rate 49.3% 47 37.5% 16 LSU
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.32 21 0.97 109 Missouri big
SD Line Yards per Carry 2.89 78 2.85 72
SD Sack Rate 0% 1 8.2% 23 Missouri

The silver lining to Mizzou's complete lack of a run game is that it hasn't been that costly yet. Mizzou has protected Drew Lock well and has been able to stress defenses both horizontally and vertically even without a strong ground game. We hope the Mizzou run game is improving, but the way Missouri uses its passing game can approximate a ground game regardless.

That said, it's still going to be difficult to remain efficient on standard downs against this defense.

Passing Downs
Missouri Offense LSU Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Edge
Passing Downs S&P+ 104.6 71 153.3 9 LSU big
Passing Downs Success Rate 31.3% 70 20.3% 15 LSU big
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.75 67 1.71 79 Missouri
PD Line Yards per Carry 2.63 111 3.84 105
PD Sack Rate 0% 1 13% 20 Missouri

No matter the down, LSU holds the efficiency advantage and Mizzou holds the explosiveness advantage. How well is LSU preventing big gainers, and how well is Mizzou avoiding three-and-outs? Those answers could determine whether MU is able to find any sort of field position advantage.

When LSU has the ball…

Standard Downs
LSU Offense Missouri Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Edge
Standard Downs S&P+ 105.0 63 96.4 84 LSU
Standard Downs Success Rate 40.1% 112 44.4% 52 Missouri big
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.26 27 1.28 23
SD Line Yards per Carry 2.94 72 3.04 90 LSU
SD Sack Rate 1.9% 31 1.6% 109 LSU big

Here's where the massive unknowns come into play. Under normal circumstances, it appears Mizzou would have a pretty big efficiency advantage and that the keys would be how many big plays LSU can manage. Now the questions are more of the "Will Leonard Fournette play?" and "Will LSU be changing its play-calling tendencies a lot?" variety. That could balance out Mizzou's efficiency advantage ... or make it quite a bit bigger. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Passing Downs
LSU Offense Missouri Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Edge
Passing Downs S&P+ 108.5 59 140.2 15 Missouri
Passing Downs Success Rate 30.8% 74 23.3% 24 Missouri big
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.72 72 1.79 66
PD Line Yards per Carry 3.89 28 1.53 6 Missouri
PD Sack Rate 9.5% 84 10% 42 Missouri

Honestly, the biggest scare for me on passing downs is that Missouri loses track of the running back, be it Fournette or Derrius Guice. Keeping either from finding wide swaths of open space is Goal No. 1 for this defense whether Fournette plays or not. But if the flares are under control, Mizzou should be able to close out drives.

Individual Passing Stats
Team Player Ht, Wt Year Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Missouri Drew Lock 6'4, 220 SO 96 162 1508 14 3 59.3% 1 0.6% 9.2
Missouri Marvin Zanders 6'1, 200 SO 6 7 46 1 0 85.7% 0 0.0% 6.6
LSU Danny Etling 6'1, 215 JR 40 71 433 3 1 56.3% 4 5.3% 5.5
LSU Brandon Harris 6'3, 218 JR 13 25 139 1 2 52.0% 2 7.4% 4.8
LSU Justin McMillan 6'2, 196 FR 1 1 19 0 0 100.0% 0 0.0% 19.0
Individual Rushing Stats
Team Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Missouri Ish Witter RB 5'10, 200 JR 57 209 2 3.7 2.7 21.1%
Missouri Damarea Crockett RB 5'11, 220 FR 34 210 3 6.2 3.8 55.9%
Missouri Alex Ross RB 6'1, 220 SR 20 72 0 3.6 1.6 25.0%
Missouri Marvin Zanders QB 6'1, 200 SO 16 124 2 7.8 6.2 62.5%
LSU Leonard Fournette RB 6'1, 235 JR 67 386 2 5.8 5.1 41.8%
LSU Derrius Guice RB 5'11, 212 SO 29 239 1 8.2 12.6 37.9%
LSU Danny Etling QB 6'1, 215 JR 13 75 1 5.8 4.4 46.2%
LSU Nick Brossette RB 6'0, 209 SO 5 40 0 8.0 3.9 80.0%
NOTE: Quarterback run totals above do not include sacks (which are counted toward pass averages below) or kneeldowns.

Any big play Mizzou generates from the run game will be a bonus. I'm just hoping for steady three- to four-yard gains.

Actually, that statement persists no matter who has the ball. Holding Fournette/Guice to three- or four-yard gains would be lovely.

Individual Receiving Stats
Team Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/
Catch
Yds/
Target
Catch Rate
Missouri J'Mon Moore WR 6'3, 205 JR 51 26 434 6 16.7 8.5 51.0%
Missouri Dimetrios Mason WR 6'0, 185 FR 23 16 207 0 12.9 9.0 69.6%
Missouri Emanuel Hall WR 6'3, 205 SO 18 13 241 2 18.5 13.4 72.2%
Missouri Johnathon Johnson WR 5'10, 185 FR 14 8 159 1 19.9 11.4 57.1%
Missouri Chris Black WR 6'0, 190 SR 13 11 175 1 15.9 13.5 84.6%
Missouri Jason Reese TE 6'5, 250 JR 10 5 55 2 11.0 5.5 50.0%
Missouri Kendall Blanton TE 6'6, 260 SO 9 6 57 1 9.5 6.3 66.7%
LSU Malachi Dupre WR 6'4, 195 JR 25 11 99 0 9.0 4.0 44.0%
LSU Travin Dural WR 6'2, 207 SR 23 14 142 1 10.1 6.2 60.9%
LSU Leonard Fournette RB 6'1, 235 JR 13 9 69 0 7.7 5.3 69.2%
LSU D.J. Chark WR 6'3, 187 JR 12 7 75 1 10.7 6.3 58.3%
LSU Colin Jeter TE 6'7, 254 SR 5 1 32 0 32.0 6.4 20.0%
LSU Darrel Williams RB 6'1, 233 JR 4 3 27 0 9.0 6.8 75.0%
LSU DeSean Smith TE 6'5, 249 SR 3 2 65 1 32.5 21.7 66.7%

Goal No. 2 for the Mizzou defense: Make sure the Sunday headlines aren't focused on Dural and Dupre finally breaking out. The duo averaged 21.1 yards per catch in 2014 and 17.3 in 2015, but while they're more efficient this time around (Dural, at least), they're also only averaging 9.6 per catch. Hold them to that, and Missouri's in excellent shape. But you know that any changes to the LSU game plan are going to be focused on getting them (and Fournette/Guice) more space.

Individual Defensive Stats
Team Name Pos Ht, Wt Year Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Missouri Michael Scherer LB 6'3, 235 SR 24.5 10.3% 2.0 0.0 1 2 0 0
Missouri Donavin Newsom LB 6'2, 240 SR 24.0 10.1% 1.0 1.0 0 1 0 0
Missouri Thomas Wilson S 5'10, 195 JR 22.5 9.5% 1.0 0.0 0 2 0 0
Missouri Anthony Sherrils DB 6'0, 205 JR 19.0 8.0% 1.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Missouri Joey Burkett LB 6'2, 225 JR 15.0 6.3% 1.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Missouri Terry Beckner, Jr. DL 6'4, 290 SO 12.0 5.1% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Missouri Aarion Penton DB 5'10, 195 SR 11.5 4.9% 0.0 0.0 2 6 0 0
Missouri Charles Harris DL 6'3, 260 JR 10.0 4.2% 4.0 3.0 0 1 0 0
Missouri John Gibson DB 6'0, 195 SR 9.5 4.0% 0.0 0.0 1 4 0 0
Missouri Cam Hilton S 6'0, 190 SO 9.0 3.8% 0.0 0.0 1 2 0 0
Missouri Josh Augusta DL 6'4, 355 SR 8.0 3.4% 3.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Missouri Brandon Lee LB 6'2, 225 SO 8.0 3.4% 1.0 0.0 0 1 1 1
Missouri Spencer Williams DL 6'3, 250 SO 8.0 3.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
LSU Kendell Beckwith LB 6'3, 247 SR 25.5 11.3% 3.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
LSU Jamal Adams S 6'1, 213 JR 23.5 10.4% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
LSU Duke Riley LB 6'1, 230 SR 20.5 9.1% 2.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
LSU Arden Key DE 6'6, 238 SO 14.0 6.2% 7.0 6.5 0 0 2 0
LSU Rickey Jefferson S 6'0, 209 SR 14.0 6.2% 0.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
LSU Davon Godchaux DT 6'4, 299 JR 13.5 6.0% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
LSU Lewis Neal DE 6'2, 272 SR 12.0 5.3% 3.5 2.5 0 1 0 0
LSU Donte Jackson DB 5'11, 173 SO 10.5 4.7% 0.0 0.0 1 5 1 0
LSU Kevin Toliver II CB 6'2, 193 SO 10.5 4.7% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
LSU Michael Divinity Jr. LB 6'2, 234 FR 10.0 4.4% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
LSU Donnie Alexander LB 6'1, 212 JR 9.5 4.2% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
LSU Tre'Davious White CB 6'0, 197 SR 7.5 3.3% 0.5 0.5 1 2 0 1
LSU Greg Gilmore DT 6'4, 308 JR 7.5 3.3% 0.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Note: It appears "Fumble Returns" are getting pulled instead of "Fumble Recoveries." My apologies. Will try to get that corrected.

Goal No. 1 for the Mizzou offense: Keeping heat off of Drew Lock. Good luck to you, Paul Adams and Tyler Howell. Mizzou's starting tackles will be tested severely. Here's to hoping they pass.

Individual Special Teams Stats
Team Punter Ht, Wt Year Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Missouri Corey Fatony 5'11, 205 SO 18 43.7 1 2 5 38.9%
LSU Josh Growden 6'2, 198 FR 21 39.1 0 12 6 85.7%
Team Kicker Ht, Wt Year Kickoffs Avg TB TB% OOB Fair
Catches
Onside
Att
Onside
Success
Missouri Tucker McCann 6'0, 195 FR 31 64.8 21 67.7% 0 0 0 0
Missouri Turner Adams 6'0, 205 JR 0 0.0 0 0.0% 0 0 1 1
LSU Cameron Gamble 5'11, 189 JR 18 61.7 4 22.2% 0 2 0 0
Team Place-Kicker Ht, Wt Year PAT FG Pct
Missouri Tucker McCann 6'0, 195 FR 18-20 4-6 66.7%
Missouri Turner Adams 6'0, 205 JR 2-3 0-0 #DIV/0!
LSU Colby Delahoussaye 5'10, 180 SR 9-11 3-4 75.0%
Team Kick Returner Ht, Wt Year Returns Avg. TD Fair Catch Fumbles (Lost)
Missouri Johnathon Johnson 5'10, 185 FR 6 18.8 0 0 0 (0)
Missouri Damarea Crockett 5'11, 220 FR 5 17.8 0 0 1 (0)
LSU Derrius Guice 5'11, 212 SO 5 20.8 0 0 0 (0)
LSU Foster Moreau 6'6, 250 SO 2 5.5 0 0 0 (0)
Team Punt Returner Ht, Wt Year Returns Avg. TD Fair Catch Fumbles (Lost)
Missouri Johnathon Johnson 5'10, 185 FR 5 13.8 1 4 2 (1)
Missouri Chris Black 6'0, 190 SR 5 14.0 0 1 1 (0)
LSU Tre'Davious White 6'0, 197 SR 6 11.8 1 5 0 (0)

Stats via SportSource Analytics


You've probably already caught on to what I think are the keys to the game, but for the sake of summary...

1. Keep Drew Lock upright

That means playing relatively efficiently on standard downs and preventing a strong pass rush from wreaking havoc on passing downs.

2. No space for Fournette/Guice

It would certainly be a break for Mizzou if the Tigers don't have to face Fournette, but Guice is strong, too -- more explosive and less efficient so far. We've heard the words "gap integrity" a lot from Mizzou coaches this week, and Mizzou's ability to fill spaces and avoid huge rushes will be tested.

3. Count the big pass plays

Mizzou has been reliant on explosiveness in the passing game, and LSU is desperate to find some of its own. Because of the differences in quality of respective run games, it is imperative that Mizzou generate more big plays (let's say 20-yarders) than LSU through the air.

4. The little things™

Field position could be a source of advantage for Missouri, and finishing drives was extremely costly for Mizzou at West Virginia. These things are always important; they're doubly important in an upset bid.

5. The first 15 minutes

Under normal circumstances, I would say that the first quarter is huge because of the environment. This is Missouri's first trip to Tiger Stadium and only the second road game for this young team. A team that is either cowed or overhyped by a raucous environment could find itself losing the plot right at the start of the game, then settling down after falling behind by a couple of touchdowns.

These things still apply. But now the first quarter is important for a completely different reason, too. From Wednesday's LSU offense preview:

It wouldn’t surprise me to see LSU come out of the gates throwing the ball, hoping to find a rhythm for Etling and catch Mizzou off-guard. If it works, then Mizzou could be a step behind all night — adjust for shorter passing, and you run the risk of getting either burned deep or burned by Fournette.

But if it doesn’t work, Mizzou could create an early lead and prevent Ensminger from leaning on Fournette later on.

We have no idea what LSU is going to be trying to do out of the gates, and we have no idea about Fournette. Either team could create a solid advantage early on.

S&P+ Projection: LSU by 9
Win Probability: LSU 70%

S&P+ likes Missouri's chances better than Vegas does, but this is still obviously an uphill battle. That said, Missouri's odds are far better than they were at the start of the season, and LSU's massive uncertainty has to give the Tigers from the north encouragement. I assume LSU figures out a way to win, but I'm excited about the shifts in the tide. Mizzou's own improvement has created a shot at an upset. Fingers crossed.