Each game has its certain matchups within the game that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference in a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even between position groups.
Larry Rountree vs Vanderbilt’s Defense
Larry Rountree III has been asked to lead this Missouri offense often this year. He’s been the person that they lean on when situations have been tough and they need that play or that spark to get them through. He’s done well in the role of a bell cow, but this week the Missouri offense should be calling on him again. With the passing game in general being a bit sluggish recently, expect the Tiger offense to establish the run early and try and force the defense to bring a safety or two up in the box to open a few passing lanes down the field. Rountree has shown he’s a back who tends to wear teams down, and with Vanderbilt struggling with some of their depth like Missouri has, it would make sense to test that Vandy defense through all four quarters.
On the flip side, Vanderbilt has been abysmal against the run. They’re giving up about six yards per carry, and every team they’ve played this season, with the exception of the Mike Leach led Mississippi State Bulldogs, has ran for at least 150 rushing yards.
Translation: Not Good.
Ken Seals vs Missouri Defense
Seals, a three-star recruit out of Texas, is a talented player who’s kind of in a no-win situation. He has shown some promising things. He is making progress. His team, however, is not. Seals is still a true freshman, and from what I see on tape, he makes mistakes that most true freshman make. He isn’t reading a lot of coverage and is reckless with the ball at times. He has an almost 1:1 Touchdown to Interception ratio, which isn’t good by any stretch of the matter. That being said, he’s still a talented player the Tigers shouldn’t underestimate.
After facing a freshman QB Luke Doty in the second half last week’s game against South Carolina, they ended up forcing him to make a mistake at the end of the game. To win this game though, forcing Ken Seals to make mistakes is going to have to be a priority for the defense. This defense - for once this year - is at a clear talent advantage, and to win this game the way I believe they should, they’ll need to harass Seals and take advantage of that talent gap. Seals probably hasn’t seen a linebacker like Nick Bolton either, so it’ll be telling how he deals with that as well. That is also key matchup to watch for within this one.
Missouri Offensive Line vs Vanderbilt Defense
The Missouri offensive line wasn’t exploding with depth before, but with the transfer of Dylan Spencer (who was starting at one point), it gets even thinner. This is the biggest question mark week in and week out, but with injuries to Larry Borom and Xavier Delgado, the other guys behind them are going to have to step up. It sounds cliche, but this team goes as its offensive line does. When they can protect, and create lanes, good things happen for this team. When they can’t, it’s usually a long day for them.
It’s on the big boys up front to set the tone, open holes for the running backs and keep Connor Bazelak upright and standing. This is a great game for some of these younger guys to get in a groove and get some confidence. Mauling guys over in the run game will certainly do that for you. Vanderbilt doesn’t do very much special up front, so it’s simply a matter of physically imposing their will against their opponent. I’ve seen them do it before, but establishing some consistency and putting a full game together would be a nice reminder of how capable they can be.
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