Each game has certain matchups within it that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference between a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at what I consider to be the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even between position groups.
This week, we look at the matchups Missouri has to win so that they can get their first bowl victory since the 2015 Citrus Bowl.
Missouri’s Defensive Line vs Wake Forest’s Offensive Line
If this matchup was held during the regular season, I would’ve said Missouri has a distinctive edge. With it being held in the post season after significant losses to the NFL, I’m not so sure.
Trajan Jeffcoat appears to play in this game which is a huge plus, but guys like Arden Walker and Johnny Walker III are going to have to increase their snap counts in this game. Both players hover around 5-15 snaps per game on defense and with the departures of Isaiah McGuire and DJ Coleman, both players will probably need to play 25-35 snaps per game, which is a pretty substantial jump. It’ll be interesting to see how this pair of younger edge rushers handle their newfound opportunities. On the interior, they look to be their same unit for the most part, but some of those personnel groupings where you would see McGuire or Jeffcoat slide inside will probably be nixed as the available personnel isn’t the same.
I think this defensive line grouping is deep and have good players throughout the depth chart but we just haven’t seen them have real roles yet.
Brady Cook vs Wake Forests’ Defense
Brady Cook is coming off the best stretch of play in his career thus far, but the last time he took a snap, he did it with Bush Hamdan being the primary play caller and game planner. I think Hamdan had an effect on the offense and on Cook as a player, but I think Cook also has taken steps in the right direction in his own development. He’s really gotten better as a football player from game one through game twelve.
He’s avoided turnovers, (his biggest issue) created a few more explosives with his legs and made really good decisions in the read option game. That’s his recipe for success and it’s resulted in more wins down the stretch.
He’s got to find a way to replicate it in some way because Missouri wins football games when Cook plays as efficient and as smart as he did down the stretch.
Missouri’s Wide Receivers vs Wake Forest’s Secondary
In the long term, Missouri can absorb the loss of Dominic Lovett. It’s not easy, but Missouri has some really exciting guys coming in like Theo Wease Jr and Josh Manning. Both figure to be really exciting players.
In the short term though, that may prove to be a difficult task. I like Mekhi Miller to step into that role in the slot to try and reproduce some of that production along with Barrett Banister who will be back for one final game. Still, that leaves Luther Burden as the de-facto number one receiver and there isn’t a real proven option that provides a deep threat for this offense.
Missouri’s wide receivers are going to have to find a way to win against man coverage as well as try and create a few explosive plays in the passing game because don’t know if this offense is capable of sustaining long enough drives. If they can’t find a way to do those things, it could be a long evening for the Missouri offense.