Each game has certain matchups within the game that are oh so very important to the outcome. These are 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.
Missouri’s Defensive Line vs Vanderbilt’s Offensive Line
This is a super winnable matchup for Missouri’s defensive line. They aren’t outmatched from a talent perspective, and will actually come into this game as the better group out of these two. Vanderbilt isn’t very good at opening holes or giving their QB time to throw. Point blank, they’re bad, and Missouri should be able to limit them offensively. Given the opponent, and with Missouri being well-rested, I think they’ll rise to the challenge.
I think that there’s also a good chance that we may see a few new faces, particularly at defensive end with senior defensive end Chris Turner being ruled out for the rest of the season. That could be a nice opportunity to get a younger guy a few more reps.
We’ve all been very hard on this defensive line all year, and for good reason. But this group still has some talent, and this week is a good week for them to get back on track and set themselves up for a good finish to the season.
Connor Bazelak vs Vanderbilt’s Defense
There has been much made about the performance of Connor Bazelak, some fair and some not. As one of the biggest defenders of him, and who he can be as Missouri’s quarterback, even I must admit that he looks like he has regressed a little bit in his second real season as a starter. We’ve seen this guy be cool, calm and collected for most of his career, but in the past four games (save for a North Texas victory), he hasn’t been that same guy. In three of the last four games, Bazelak has had multiple interceptions in those contests.
This week, Bazelak will be going against a porous Vandy defense that is 120th out of 130 FBS teams in points allowed. Vanderbilt’s passing defense also is one of the worst in the FBS coming in at 125th in the country. (307.7 YPG) There will be plenty of chances to put the ball in the air, but it’ll be important for Bazelak to get back to playing turnover-free football. If they don’t turn the ball over, they’ll be able to win this game.
Missouri’s Secondary vs Vanderbilt’s Passing Game
Vanderbilt’s passing game isn’t exactly scaring anyone, but this injury report spawned a few concerns from not just me, but other Mizzou faithful:
Mizzou injury report— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 28, 2021
Questionable: CB Abrams-Draine, WR Banister, DT Byers, CB Green, C Maieitti
Doubtful: CB Burdine, WR Luper, S Robinson, DE J. Walker
Out: WR Cooper
Missouri’s secondary could be dangerously thin on Saturday. The secondary could potentially be down this list of guys:
- Ennis Rakestraw
- Allie Green IV
- Kris Abrams-Draine
- Ish Burdine
- Shawn Robinson
- Mason Pack
That would mean being without four of your top five corners, and a safety who plays a whole lot of snaps for that defense. Not ideal.
Even if Vanderbilt’s passing game doesn’t exactly scare you, being without a large chunk of scholarship players at one concentrated position group is reason to worry. Especially when those are the best players on the roster, and they themselves have struggled.
A few of the guys above are still listed as questionable and may still be able to suit up and play, but if they’re not, the depth of that Missouri secondary better be ready and prepared to go.