In my first preview of Ohio State a few weeks ago I mentioned that it was unclear how many of Ohio State’s starters would suit up for a non-Playoff postseason game. And while starting quarterback Kyle McCord and backup running back Chip Trayanum are still portalled out...there hasn’t been any more impact losses or starters saying that they are going to sit out the bowl.
So, as of now (ish), Mizzou will be playing an Ohio State with Marvin Harrison, Jr., TreVeyon Henderson, and all the other decorated starters on both sides of the ball (minus the QB, of course).
Quarterback is important...but is it that important when you have so many weapons to play with? That’s what we’ll find out!
From my perspective, I think this is a good thing. This game would always be asterisked with “yeah but the QB was gone”, even if he was clearly a “transfer-to-Syracuse” caliber quarterback. Having additional starters sit out would have been a let down and taken a little air out of the competition and, perhaps, the focus off Mizzou.
But that won’t happen! Mizzou is going to get Ohio State’s best, focused shot and Ohio State should get the same for Mizzou. In a matchup of Top 10 teams, that’s exactly what you want.
When Missouri Has the Ball
As I said previously, this is the best defense Missouri will have faced all year; yes, better than even Georgia’s defense. The entire starting lineup are blue-chippers (minus a lone, highest-three star graduate student transfer) including three former 5-star recruits. Their two-deep is littered with blue-chippers as well, so there’s not a ton of drop off when the starters take a breather. They rank right in the middle of college football as far as havoc generation but, literally, have no weaknesses on defense. None. They don’t give up explosive plays, they don’t give you easy stuff, they thrive in standard downs and passing downs and in scoring opportunities...Mizzou’s offense is going to be tested and pushed to the brink like they’ve never really been before this season. And when that happens, you gotta trust in your ability to play the style that works and is comfortable and hope some of that works. At this point, you know what Mizzou’s happy-place on offense is but let’s review anyway...
Ground and Pound
Missouri wants to run and it’s the Muscle Hamster’s last game so, by all means, let him feast! Mizzou’s season average in rushing success rate is 45.5% while Ohio State’s defense is averaging 33.8% allowed. If Missouri can achieve a rushing success rate of at least 40% then you know that Schrader is effectively doing his thing.
One thing that Ohio State’s opposing offense quickly realize is that there’s no money to be made on the short and intermediate passing routes. No, Buckeye opponents average 7.8 air yards per pass - one of the 30-longest average air yards per pass in the nation - to try and keep the Buckeye secondary back and hope to connect on a deep bomb. It doesn’t work, mind you, as OSU ranks 28th in limiting explosive plays, but the Buckeyes haven’t met Luther Burden, Theo Wease, and Marquis Johnson yet. Ohio State is so good against big plays that I’m asking for a mere eight (8) explosive plays generated for this game.
Finish your dang drives
My staple goal for any game is going to be put to the test as Missouri goes up against the single best defense in points per scoring opportunity allowed, with the Buckeyes allowing a meager 2.89 points per opportunity. For the year, Missouri’s offense ranks 19th, averaging 4.8 points per trip. It won’t be easy, and I anticipate a lot of settled-for-field-goals in this game, but let’s shoot for 7 scoring opportunities created and at least 3.5 points per opportunity.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
With Kyle McCord this was an efficiency-based offense that threw it a ton and was good at it while sprinkling in a few middling runs. With Devin Brown at the helm I’m not sure what changes, if anything. He’s not as accurate as McCord but also hasn’t had as many opportunities. And even the dumbest offensive coordinator in the world is going to simply draw up plays to get Marvin Harrison Jr. the ball. Missouri’s defense will have to take advantage of a Buckeye offensive line that is merely good instead of elite and hope to hassle Brown enough to throw off the entire operation.
Ohio State’s offense ranks 56th in havoc plays given up while Missouri’s defense ranks 28th in havoc plays generated. Simply put, you can’t play straight defense against this team and think that you can stop them. While Blake Baker’s boys haven’t been as havoc-inducing as last year’s bunch, this is the time to pull out the stops and fluster a backup quarterback with a myriad of pressures and looks to take him out of his comfort zone. We’ve seen that backfire against backup quarterback who like to run this year (a la Florida) but with the talent on this offensive roster it’s the primary thing to try to keep them pinned. Let’s shoot for a 20% havoc rate.
It’s the great equalizer and Ohio State’s turnover luck has been neutral this year. Given probabilities of fumbles and passes defensed, Ohio State should be at +1.2 on the year and, instead, are at a true 0. Meanwhile, Mizzou should be at a +13.9 turnover margin and, instead, are +8. So Mizzou has been both unlucky in that they haven’t gotten as much as they should but also lucky in that they have one of the best turnover margins in the country. Take advantage of that! I need to see Mizzou +2 in turnover margin by the end of the game.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, who is an SBNation partner, the Buckeyes are a 1.5 favorite over Mizzou. Thanks to fewer losses than anticipated and a surprisingly interested Ohio State, this line has fluctuated between the two schools as favorites but the line has never moved past 2 points. I’m sure Mizzou has equal investment in this game and every starter who is medically cleared to play is absolutely going to play. It looks like it could shape up to be a defensive slugfest but bowl games always get wacky and off the season script so who knows. Regardless, it has the potential to be a great game; let’s hope it ends with a W for the good guys.
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