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PREGAMIN’ VANDY

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OFF TO SEA ONCE AGAIN, ME HEARTIES, FOR ANOTHER BATTLE WITH THEM INFERNAL COMMODORES!

Keep Calm and Wear a Mask

All Aboard the Hype Train!

There’s no traditional hype video this week, though you could interpret the uniform reveal as a spin on it. I think it works, but I digress.

Out of all the reasons to get hyped about this team, maybe the most obvious is Nick Bolton, a probable first-round NFL draft pick all-around swell guy. Mizzou Athletics did a full video feature on the star linebacker, and it’s very good. That should be able to get you hyped, right?

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

I’ll defer to Sam’s review of this particular video (with which I agree).

Mizzou’s insistence on sticking with the Block M pays off every week. I’ve never been a fan of Missouri’s all black uniforms with the oval Tiger, but the Block M brings a more traditional sensibility to the whole thing and elevates the outfit.

What the “Experts” are Saying

It took three damn weeks to get Missouri back on the field, but it finally happened and the wait was worth it — at least in the win column. What encouraged you about Missouri’s return to play, and what gave you some heart burn moving forward?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: I recognize that South Carolina’s offense is bad with a capital BAD, but it was encouraging to see the defense come out prepared. I was so sure the execution would be terrible, and while it wasn’t great, it wasn’t half-bad either. Nick Bolton was Nick Bolton and the defensive line continues to play above expectations. Sure, they lapsed a bit as the game went on, but they came out firing, which is far more than I would’ve expected after a three-week layoff.

Now the offense... that’s a different story. Despite having a secondary made of wet single-ply toilet paper, South Carolina was able to contain Missouri’s receivers reasonably well — it took a highlight-reel catch from Tauskie Dove to put a passing touchdown on the scoreboard. In non-LSU/Alabama games, Connor Bazelak is averaging 207.5 yards passing, good for 6.7 yards per attempt. He only has one touchdown to go with two interceptions during that time. That’s... troubling. Maybe it says something about the quality of receivers he has or that the offensive line isn’t giving him much time to operate.

And then maybe he’s not much more than a glorified game manager right now. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it puts a lot of pressure on Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie to carry the offense for 4 more games.

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: I was encouraged that the Tigers could play at all. They had enough dudes that could see the field and play the game. That’s about all that was encouraging because, outside of two drives, the offense was mostly bad. The defense did look good, mind you, but South Carolina’s offense was not good and that was before their best receiver, Shi Smith, missed the entire game after one catch.

But like I said the entire week, I’m not taking any long-term takeaways from this game because it was not a normal game. Were the lines bad? Absolutely, but the guys they want to play are out from COVID. Was the running game bleak? Yes, but, again, the line is playing third-string freshmen. Was the secondary a little too handsy in coverage? Absolutely! But there was no one else to play and the offense was stuck in mud so it was imperative that they do everything possible to not give up points. The win counts and that’s all that matters, otherwise just view this game the same way you view the Black & Gold game: an exhibition to see what you have.

The SEC pulled the ole switcharoo on the Tigers, and are shipping them Vanderbilt instead. Is this turn of fate good for Missouri, or would you have rather the Tigers faced their former head coach?

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Josh Matejka: It really cannot be overstated how badly I would like to beat Barry Odom, so I’ll take all the extra time you can give me to make sure Missouri is healthy as can be for the Arkansas game.

If we’re actually talking about the ebbs and flows of the schedule, though, I think the switch up could be quite good for morale. Assuming Missouri takes care of business against Vanderbilt, they’ll head to Starkville with a chance at improving to 5-3. Maybe I buy too much into the effect that a good record can have on a program, but there does seem to be some correlation between the way a team views itself and their numbers in the win-loss column. Before the season, Missouri was pegged to be a 3-win team. Now they’re staring down the barrel of at least five wins in eight games. Don’t try to tell me that won’t have a positive effect on their collective confidence.

Nate Edwards: Missouri is still not 100 percent healthy, so I would much rather play the worst P5 team in the country than Arkansas. Vanderbilt can still win, mind you, but I like Missouri’s chances better against a depleted Commodore squad. Now, if the Tigers lose this game that’s another issue entirely. But if we’re viewing this strictly from getting as many Ws as possible with a depleted roster, Vanderbilt offers you a much better chance.

Vanderbilt is... well, you see, the thing is... uhm... OK, whatever they’re bad. But they have played some teams close, as is the Derek Mason way. What does Missouri need to do to wrap this thing up quickly and efficiently?

LSU v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Josh Matejka: It seemed novel at the time of the Kentucky game, but Missouri has turned out to be quite good at possession football. And with Vanderbilt finding its footing under Ken Seals, it would behoove the Tigers to keep the ball out of their hands as much as possible.

How do you go about doing this? A steady diet of Larry Rountree. Rountree has been contained since that bruising Kentucky performance, and a match up with the Dores would be perfectly suitable to getting him back on track. Cut his carries with a steady diet of Tyler Badie routes out of the backfield, and Missouri should be able to dominate TOP.

Nate Edwards: Ideally? Get up 21-0 in the 1st quarter. Vanderbilt is OK at throwing the ball — it’s really the only thing they are good at, period — but their style is very efficiency-based, throwing quick 5-yard outs and screens and hoping a missed tackle leads to a big play. If the Tigers can build a decent lead early and then just play possession-based, clock-running schemes for the rest of the game to keep the defense rested and ready, I’ll feel pretty good about Missouri’s chances of winning.

PICK ‘EM! The lines took some time adjusting, but Missouri finally opened as a 2+ touchdown favorite. What’s your expectation for Mizzou vs. Vandy? Is this a close one or a comfortable win?

NCAA Football: Missouri at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: If Missouri wins a game by two touchdowns this year, I’ll... well, hold up. This is too strange of a season to be making any promises. Regardless, I don’t see the Tigers as good enough to boat-race anybody in the SEC at this point. I think it’s likely they’ll beat Vanderbilt, but we’ll probably be looking at a 7 to 10 point game heading into the fourth quarter. I think the Tigers end up winning by 10, maybe by a score of 30-20.

Nate Edwards: I’m seeing Missouri as 15.5-point favorites which is just way too high. I know Vanderbilt is bad, but this Tiger offense isn’t that great, either. I do think the Tigers win but only by 10 or so. I’ll say it’s 24-14 and Vanderbilt keeps it just scary enough until the bitter end.