♫ I’m So Sophisticated ♫
Road Game Fit.#MIZ pic.twitter.com/OzDa2G9x0a— Mizzou Football (@MizzouFootball) September 22, 2022
It would appear that the
M I Z Z O U
is here to say, though I will say it’s growing on me the more that I see it.
I’m a noted fan of all-whites, so the black helmet is an overall downgrade for me. However, I think it could’ve worked with a gold M. Still, I can’t complain overall. It’s a pretty clean look.
What’s On Tap?
Did you know that Alabama has its own brand of whiskey? I didn’t!
A “high-quality aged moonshine whiskey,” Conecuh Ridge was designated as the state’s official spirit in 2004 after several years of it being illegally produced in the 20th century. The official brand is called “Clyde May’s,” a name that derives from the original family who legalized the spirit.
In any case, something tells me you’re going to need a powerful drink while watching Saturday’s game, so we’re going to go with the official Clyde May’s take on an Alabama Slammer, a gingery whiskey cocktail that should be pretty easy to power through while you watch Auburn and Missouri battle to determine Bryan Harsin’s fate. The Alabama Slammer is generally very fruity and sugary, but this sounds a little more palatable.
Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon (or any bourbon/moonshine if you don’t have any Clyde May’s on hand)
1. Fill Collins glass to the rim with ice, pour in Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon.
2. Squeeze in some fresh lime juice.
3. Top it off with your favorite ginger ale.
4. Stir gently. Sip effortlessly. Cry while watching Missouri/Auburn beef It.
Know Thy Enemy
If you’ve been paying attention to our content over the past week, Nate’s opening statements in this week’s preview won’t surprise you.
Let’s get this out of the way up top: Auburn is Missouri with a better defense.
The head coaches are - essentially - the same. Drinkwitz was Harsin’s OC at both Arkansas State and Boise State and was heavily influenced by the Boise alum’s schemes. Harsin uses more personnel matchups and subterfuge than his former protégé but both he and Drinkwitz use a run-oriented offense with a lot of pre-snap motion and shifts to open up the horizontal passing game to eventually hit deep shots. They are the Spiderman-pointing-meme to its core.
There are differences, to be sure. Auburn has a functional run game, for one, and has a slightly better defense than Missouri — though who’s to say how much Mizzou is still being penalized for last year in SP+.
One weakness of Auburn’s that Mizzou may be able to exploit is Auburn’s woeful pass defense. Surprise, surprise: Mizzou has some pretty good playmakers in the passing game!
Missouri’s offensive line can’t open holes for running backs to get through and Auburn is a dominating run defense. So please, for the love of god, focus on the passing game and get your two best weapons constantly involved! It does need to be successful, however, otherwise you’re just going three-and-out quickly without taking time off the clock.
Nate also points to one of Drinkwitz’s old nemeses — points per scoring opportunity — as a key to finishing off his old boss’s tenure on the plains.
Three games into the season the [Missouri] Tigers are averaging 4.05 points per scoring opportunity, 87th in the country. That can’t stay stagnant if this team expects to actually win SEC games. The good news? Auburn’s defense is 110th in point per scoring opportunity given up. Movable object, meet stoppable force!
On defense, Missouri was provided a blueprint for victory during Auburn’s recent 41-12 thumping at Jordan-Hare. Penn State was able to throw Harsin out of his rhythm and forced the Tigers to go through the air which, uh, didn’t work.
Penn State’s defensive front knocked back Auburn’s line on the first two drives, went up a few scores, and removed the ground game as a reasonable option for the rest of the game. To wit, Tank Bigsby - Auburn’s
onlybest playmaker on offense - finished the game with 9 rushes and 2 catches total.
We also know that Blake Baker’s defense thrives off of creating havoc in the backfield, and they’ll need some of it on Saturday morning as Auburn starts backup Robby Ashford in place of injured TJ Finley and redshirting Zach Calzada.
Passes defensed, forced fumbles, quarterback pressures, interceptions, and PLEASE some tackles for loss (and sacks). Outside of the Louisiana Tech game this Missouri defense has been limited in their havoc production and to have any shot against stopping Auburn, they’ll need to shoot for at least a 25% havoc rate.
Seems like a good time for Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat to have breakout games, no?
Mizzou put its second win on the board over Abilene Christian, but the consensus seems to be that they disappointed. What was your biggest concern about last weekend’s performance... and how does it get fixed?
Nate Edwards, Football Editor: The fact that they the starters stayed in until the last few drives of the 4th quarter. Why? Is it because Drink was confident that the backups couldn’t maintain a 20ish point lead? Is it because he thought the starters needed more reps? Is it because he hates most of the guys that he’s recruited and never wants to see them play football at the collegiate level? Regardless of why, the move smacked of a careless investment in the long-term health of this program, and knowing that we’re not going to see any of the talented youth that he’s acquired over the past two years on the field is one of the largest points of contention I have with this staff.
Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: The offensive line. It had been a concern in the first two games, but it was never more glaring than against the lone FCS opponent on the schedule. From not being able to manufacture a consistent ground game to Brady Cook facing near-immediate pressure when he dropped back, it was rough. I can only wonder what SEC defensive lines will do against this front five.
Yes, Xavier Delgado was out, and if he can get back into the lineup that bolsters the unit. Still, I can see this O-line hurting this team all season long.
As for fixing it, I think the easiest adjustment, although it presents new risks, is to allow Brady Cook to use his legs more. Draw up some more designed runs, QB draws, etc. That keeps a D-line on their toes and forces them to contain rather than attack. It would also assist the ground game, as the defense would be keying in on the running backs (and Burden sometimes) far less.
Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: I think Parker nailed it. The offensive line, which has been a concern all year officially became a problem against Abilene Christian. It’s one thing to get manhandled against Kansas State and entirely another against a slightly above-average FCS program. And it’s not as if the linemen were getting physically dominated either. They just looked awful.
As for fixing it? I’m not sure. You can always find creative ways to get Brady Cook out of the pocket, but part of the strength of this team is getting the ball to its playmaking receivers. If you’re intentionally moving away from that strength, what benefit are you bringing to the whole team? I don’t know... and I’m hoping Drinkwitz (and Marcus Johnson) have better ideas than I do.
Levi Hutmacher, Digital Media Producer: I echo the above concerns with the offensive line. And I honestly don't think it can be fixed anytime soon, unless they somehow find another gear as their SEC slate is basically here. Getting pushed around by an FCS school with millions of dollars less to play with in their program is not good at all.
As I said above, I do not believe it can be fixed. However, I believe the “fixing” needs to come from Eli himself. We haven’t seen much diversity in his offensive play calling. And I honestly don’t think he is open to changing the way he calls the offense. To me, the one step forward in helping Brady and these running backs out a little bit more is by Drink transforming his offensive strategy.
Jackson Meyer, Football Contributor: I’m going to be in agreement with just about everyone and say the offensive line was the teams biggest concern. The harsh reality is that the offensive line struggled against Abilene Christian, which isn't exactly a good sign.
So, how do you fix it? Truth be told, I'm not sold that it can be fixed just yet. I’d say that you need to potentially max protect on passing downs just to give Cook more time. I think most of his struggles have came from the anticipation of getting clobbered. I also think that maybe even putting an offensive lineman at the TE position wouldn't be an awful idea. I know that’s outlandish, but at this point, new things ought to be attempted.
Going off topic a bit... this is the first time Mizzou has played at Auburn in 10 SEC years, and the trip is being used as a conversation starter over how the conference will structure schedules moving forward. What’s your ideal setup for the new-look SEC that’s coming in 3-4 years?
Nate Edwards: The Pod system is the best for me. Break up the 16 teams into four, 4-team pods; each team plays its pod, plus 5-6 teams from other pods and the two teams with the best conference record play in the SEC Championship. Other conferences are moving to that model because it allows for schools to play everyone in the conference in a tighter window, as opposed to the “first trip to Auburn EVER” system that we currently have.
There’s no wrong way to do this - and no pod that will actually give Missouri an advantage - so let’s get a healthy does of Big XII and rivalry in Missouri’s pod and take it from there:
- Pod 1 - Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas
- Pod 2 - Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, LSU
- Pod 3 - Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
- Pod 4 - Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky
Parker Gillam: As weird as it may be, I’m actually a pretty big fan of the “pod” system that’s been flying around. You can put Oklahoma, Texas, A&M, and Mizzou in the same pod (Arkansas could also make sense). That would be logical geographically, fans would be more excited for those opponents on the schedule, and the Tigers could be fairly competitive within it.
You’d then have Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina in one pod. Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Auburn would round out another, with LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and then Arkansas finishing it off. You’d play two teams from every other pod each season and all of your podmates (? needs a better name) once.
For postseason play, maybe the SEC starts their own 4-team playoff between each pod winner? Maybe just the top two teams meet? All in all, I’m just intrigued by this idea and could see it being very entertaining while also bringing back some geographical pride.
Josh Matejka: I don’t understand not having divisions at all, which Sankey seemed to suggest somewhat recently. I’d rather see them keep two divisions. But like Parker, I’m a fan of the pods. It feels in spirit with the divisions of other American sports and opens up avenues for future pre-postseason style tournaments. It also allows you to play on and develop specific rivalries while offering a fix for some of the Big 12 grafting that has taken place over the years.
Levi Hutmacher: Oh gosh I am not the best person to be answering this but I will give it a shot. So I actually do really like Parker’s pod idea.
Mizzou, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M
Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina
Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi St, Ole Miss
Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn
I originally had Tennessee in pod 2 and Georgia in pod 4, but I didn’t think it would be cool to have Alabama and Georgia in the same pod. So, this is a little more regionally focused and I think it works out pretty well? You play everyone in your pod once, then one team from each of the other pods each season.
Now, this is two games less than the current SEC slate so you either add another common opponent from the other pods (like Arkansas for Mizzou) or add another P5 non-con opponent. Then go into an SEC post season tournament, like Parker suggested, with the best team from each pod meeting for a four-team playoff.
Mizzou is a bit of a mess, and they’ll be in similar company on Saturday. Auburn is in a constant state of crisis, especially under Bryan Harsin... can he figure it out with this team, or is their yearly coup already in full swing?
Nate Edwards: The boosters fired the athletic director on August 26th so Harsin is clearly next. Whether its after losing to Missouri this week or losing to Georgia a few weeks later, there’s no way he sticks around to a Year 3 on The Plains.
Parker Gillam: Credit to Harsin for being able to weather that storm over the offseason and keep his job, because I thought he was going to be out of the door this past summer.
Still, I think his time is coming to a close on the plains. This Auburn team, just purely based off their schedule, will likely not make a bowl game. That generally spells doom for most SEC head coaches, especially one at a top-flight program that has already been on the hot seat. He doesn’t have an elite team, but there’s enough talent for them to be performing better than they’ve shown.
I thought he was an odd hire from Boise, and I think his tenure at Auburn ends abruptly within the next month.
Levi Hutmacher: Oh, he is gone. Once the fan base and trigger happy group of donors and decision makers have their mind made up, Bryan is toast. If Mizzou strolls into Auburn on Saturday and just totally embarrasses them, he is gone before he meets the press for post game questions.
Jackson Meyer: Unless Auburn makes a bowl, their is a solid chance that Harsin is on his way to exiting the program. That fanbase and the boosters have quite the influence, and let’s just say Harsin doesn’t seem well received.
PICK ‘EM! Despite their floundering, Auburn is still opened as a -10.5 favorite over Missouri in what now feels like a must-win game for Mizzou’s bowl eligibility hopes. Can the Tigers take advantage of Auburn’s struggles, and who will be the key in them doing so?
Nate Edwards: It’s an Eli Drinkwitz team on the road. He’s not allowed to win. But does he cover? I think Auburn win by 10 so... no.
Parker Gillam: For all the struggles Mizzou has had, Auburn has had their very own. Run defense and quarterback play have been their concerns mainly. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Robby Ashford is going to get a lot of playing time this week at QB, so bank on the Tigers being a run-first team this Saturday. That’ll put the Mizzou defense to the test, as they allowed a mobile quarterback in Adrian Martinez to have success on the ground. On the other side of the ball, it’s all up to that offensive line. Auburn may be having a down year, but they still have some freaks in their front seven. They could dominate this game if the Missouri O-line allows it.
10.5 is a big number, and I think this is a very low-scoring, close game throughout. Both coaching staffs are going to try to avoid putting their QBs in a position to make a game-changing mistake, so expect some conservative play-calling.
I think explosive plays will win this game, and it’s either going to come from Luther Burden or Dominic Lovett for the Mizzou side, or it’s going to be Tank Bigsby on the other side. I just don’t have enough faith in this Missouri offensive line to hold up against this Auburn team, and it is hard to see those other Tigers losing on their home field two weeks in a row. It’s close, but Auburn wins 20-17.
Josh Matejka: The line has moved down to -7 or -7.5, which I feel is a much better indication of how this game goes. As BK referenced on the pod this week, I think Drinkwitz is going to pull out all the stops in this one for... reasons. Auburn is a mess and as much as it may be nice to say Harsin can rally the troops for one last win, we’ve seen how these games tend to go. There’s no way Auburn comes inspired into this game.
However, did I mention that Mizzou’s offensive line is a problem? Until they go out and show they can at least show up with a pulse, I’m declaring them D.O.A., especially against teams with as much talent as Auburn. Auburn will win a horrible, terrible, no good game that ends somewhere around 24-20.
Levi Hutmacher: As odd as it is to say this, I feel like Auburn is a bigger dumpster fire at the moment than Mizzou is. We have seen this Mizzou team resurrect itself from the dead in previous seasons as the year has gone on. Perhaps this is the Barry-Odom-lighting-a-fire-during-half-time turning point in the season that gets everyone excited and hopeful for the future.
Also, as others have noted, Drink is going to want to show off in front of Auburn. I expect to see some new plays, a few tricks, a few treats, and hopefully a win. Why do I still have hope after decades of disappointment? I have no clue. But hope is all we need, friends.
Mizzou wins this one 24-10... maybe.
Jackson Meyer: Football is a game of matchups and I don’t think Missouri matches up well here. If Auburn has one good thing going for them, it’s there defensive line. Take a nod at the Missouri offensive line... it’s hard to say Missouri doesn't struggle. I’m unfortunately going to take Auburn to win and cover, 31-17.