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Here’s what Missouri has to do to avoid the upset bug against Idaho

This game could be closer than you think.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bill: So the state of Idaho has produced Harmon Killebrew and Picabo Street. Has it also produced a team that’s going to beat Missouri on Saturday?

Tramel: I’m not quite ready to call the Idaho upset, but the Vandals absolutely have my full attention. There is something unsettling about this team.

Bill: I don’t think I’m unsettled by Idaho—just unsettled by the simple fact that, with this defense (and all-or-nothing offense), Missouri can lose to virtually anybody in FBS this side of East Carolina (or Kansas). Idaho really isn’t very good, especially on offense, but there’s very little faith one can put in this Tiger team.

Alright, so let’s walk through two things: what an Idaho upset looks like, and what an easy Missouri win looks like. The bad one first. If we’re reacting to an Idaho win on Saturday afternoon, how did it happen? What stars came through for the Vandals?

Tramel: If Idaho wants to shock the world by upsetting Missouri, two things have to happen. QB1 struggles the most when he’s throwing on the run especially after he’s been clicking all game. He gets a bit of Brett Favre syndrome and tries to squeeze a pass into an impossible spot.

This is easier said than done. While Idaho’s defense has fared relatively well this season outside of their loss to UNLV, it’s hard to gauge whether their play is due to skill or just a benefit of playing lesser opponents. The Vandals haven’t had to deal with a quarterback that possesses the arm strength of Lock or the speed and playmaking abilities of Emanuel Hall, Johnathon Johnson, and J’Mon Moore.

Second, Idaho’s offensive line has to set the tone versus Missouri’s front seven. If they can limit the Tigers penetration, Vandals QB Matt Linehan will pick Missouri’s secondary apart.

Here’s a little fun fact for you: Linehan, son of Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, was the 10th-ranked quarterback in the 2018 draft class according to ESPN’s Todd McShay. Through six games, Linehan hasn’t looked like the NFL prospect that McShay predicted but going up against Missouri’s secondary could be the “Get Right” game that he needs to get things back on track.

Bill: Yeah, if Idaho wins, it’s probably because...

  1. Mizzou couldn’t take full advantage of Idaho’s woeful pass protection. That’s been the Vandals’ biggest issue — well, that and the drastic drop in production from the tight end position. Mizzou didn’t have any problem getting after the passer against Missouri State, and I’m guessing they take Linehan down two or three times, but if it’s more like one or two times, Linehan might have the time he needs to find open receivers. It doesn’t take that long to find open receivers against this secondary.
  2. Big plays couldn’t bail Missouri out. On one hand, you’ve got a pretty great matchup — great big-play prevention defense vs. great big-play offense. But we don’t know if the defense will translate against faster competition. Maybe it won’t. If it does, though, and Mizzou is forced to move the ball efficiently to score points (and without a 100 percent healthy Damarea Crockett, no less), well, that could be an issue.

Mizzou, on the other hand, simply wins by finally having a chance to be more athletic than its opponent again. I really like Idaho’s experience on defense, but there’s a chance the athleticism difference is too big, especially when the Tigers have the ball.

Aside from “be faster than them,” what do you need to see from Missouri to believe the Tigers have a chance to make some noise and win some games in November?

Tramel: I need to see three things from the Tigers to believe that a turnaround is on the horizon.

  1. The entire team must bring that certain level of physicality and nastiness to this game. Missouri needs to come out and punish Idaho from the first snap. I need to see a certain winning swagger. There should be no question who the SEC team is in this matchup. I have to see Mizzou may it clear to every Idaho fan, faculty member, student, even the innocent people that accidentally drove through Idado, why Idaho Football should no longer compete at the FBS level. Missouri is more talented and athletic at every position, including the head coach. (By the way, shout out to the future GOAT Barry Odom. Keep grinding.) Saturday they need to show that on the field.
  2. We know that Missouri can hit the deep ball with the best of them but against Idaho, I need to see Mizzou score in other ways. Nickel and dime it down the field beat Idaho on the ground through the air I don’t care. Just show me that this offense has the ability to score on drives that don’t include 60-yard pass to Emanuel Hall.
  3. On defense, I need to see them play as one unit. No free balling it and trying to go out and make plays on your own. I want sound assignment defense. When everyone does their job Missouri’s defense isn’t that bad. Unfortunately, we’ve only seen them accomplish this feat versus S. Carolina and as you know the offense didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

Bill: Yeah, I don’t see Idaho scoring enough to win unless Missouri’s defense is malfunctioning again — the whole “a simple shift leaves two defenders out of position, and some dude trots for 45 yards” thing. It worked for Missouri State, and it worked for Georgia a couple of times, too.

If Missouri can at least manage its assignments properly, the Tigers are going to have a chance in each of their last six games. But ... we’re halfway through the season. No more silly breakdowns.

Alright! Prediction time! My hatin’ ass numbers say 31-28 Mizzou, and I say something more like 34-21. What say you?

Tramel: Before I watched this powerful video that Mizzou Football tweeted out showcasing the new Bold M helmets I was going to say 48-30 Tigers. But since I witnessed Drew Lock hit the most powerful Milly Rock ever at the 41-second mark of the previously mentioned video, I’ll go with Mizzou winning 63-21. It’ll be similar to the Eastern Michigan game last year .

Bill: I wouldn’t complain. Don’t see it, though. And while I thought I was going to be all about the block M helmets ... they needed white numbers on the jerseys too. Not quite the mismatched Rams jerseys from a few weeks ago, but not great. I say it’s worth an extra Idaho touchdown. Mizzou 34-28.

Tramel: Bill, you break my heart every week with your pessimism.

Bill: They’re free to prove my pessimism wrong whenever they like...