Let’s get this out of the way early: any team can beat this Missouri team. You know this. I know this. Missouri plays so slow and conservatively that mistakes are amplified and even the dregs of FBS and mid-FCS teams can hang around for an uncomfortable amount of time.
So, no, do not chalk up New Mexico State as a 100% guaranteed win. It should be! But this Mizzou squad doesn’t put teams away. So...let’’s call it a 93% guaranteed win.
Here’s the preview I wrote back in June. The “Last Chance U”-style JUCO acquisition project has gone mostly well as the Aggies are on a three-game winning streak. However, HERE COME THE CAVEATS:
- The wins come over teams ranked 128th, 131st, and 124th (in the FCS!) in SP+.
- They scored 21 and 23 points against the 87th best defense and 120th best defense, respectively.
- They allowed 9 points to the 131st-best offense and 13 points to the 130th-best offense.
- Due to a combo scheduling quirk of an extra Bye week for playing Hawai’i, plus a cancelled game against San Jose State rescheduled for December 10th, NMSU had two weeks to prepare for all three of their most recent wins.
Let’s look at the matchups for the penultimate home game of the 2022 season.
When Missouri Has the Ball
Outside of former Michigan blue-chip transfer Andre Seldon, NMSU’s defense is a collection of overlooked, small school prospects who usually hit a JUCO before winding up in Las Cruces. This is the better unit that Mizzou will face on Saturday...and we all know how this offense does against decent defenses. Here are the keys to overcoming a decent test from the Aggies.
Ground and Pound
Missouri’s offense was able to have to a stable day against Tennessee’s passing defense but could only move the ball on the ground if Brady Cook was running for his life. The inverse is true here: New Mexico State’s passing defense ranks 16th (!!!!) in the country and doesn’t give up big plays or little plays through the air. They do, however, stink it up in rushing defense, ranking 94th against the run, 109th in stuffing runs at the line of scrimmage, and 59th in explosive plays allowed on the ground. That should be music to Eli Drinkwitz’s ears. Missouri should shoot for a 45% success rate on the ground.
Keep up with the chains
Countless Missouri drives have bogged down once they reach 3rd-down. They currently sit at 86th in 3rd-down success rate thanks to the 83rd-best average 3rd-down distance in the country (currently averaging 3rd-and-7.6). The goal should be for the offense to have at least a 41% overall success rate to avoid perilous 3rd-down scenarios.
Finish your dang drives
New Mexico State’s defense is 120th in points per scoring opportunity allowed. Please, Missouri, show us you can finish with touchdowns and put this thing away early. 6 scoring opportunities with at least 4.2 points per opportunity.
BONUS: watch out for this guy
This is #80. His name is Trevor Brohard and he
bros so hard is the starting middle linebacker. He also might be Bryan Cranston in a wig. Regardless, he’s really good but, yes, this is mostly a bit for you to check out the lovely locks on a dude with the last name Brohard.
When New Mexico State Has the Ball
If you were curious: yes, former Missouri Tiger Dominic Gicinto is still on the team. Unfortunately he’s only been on the field for five plays, earning three targets with two catches for 16 yards. Maybe if they played him more this offense wouldn’t currently be ranked 129th in all of FBS, hm?
Limit the Explosive Plays
You all saw what happened when an offense that can frequently rip off big plays goes against a Missouri defense that allows big plays. It’s a lesser version of the same problem here: NMSU doesn’t do anything well but, if they’re moving the ball, it’s via an explosive play on the ground. That has to be minimized or eliminated, ideally with less than 5 explosive plays allowed at the end of the day.
NMSU suffers from some of the worst turnover luck in all of college football, currently at -2.5 points per game with a -6 turnover margin. Mizzou should take advantage of this and finish at least +2 in turnover margin.
There are very few comfortable wins this year but it would be in everyone’s best interest if this were one of them. Get up by four scores (lol) and put in the backups for the second half. Simple!