Hello! After a nice and tidy schedule that featured Missouri’s entire non-conference slate as long ramp-up to the “games that matter” portion of the schedule, the Tigers finally...
MISSOURI LOST TO VANDERBILT IN 2019
Oh. My goodness. Sorry. Not sure what happened there. As I was saying, we’re now entering the conference slate and...
MISSOURI WAS RANKED AND VANDERBILT WAS TERRIBLE AND MIZZOU STILL LOST
Wow. Ok. Clearly there’s some lingering issues and...
IT WAS THE WORST MISSOURI LOSS OF ALL TIME WHEN COMPARING SP+ RANKS
...yes it was. Anything else you’d like to get off your chest?
VANDERBILT BRASS WERE GOING TO FIRE DEREK MASON AFTER THAT GAME AND WHEN HE WON THEY HAD TO DELAY IT FOR ANOTHER YEAR BECAUSE HE MADE THEM BELIEVE HE COULD TURN IT AROUND. AT VANDERBILT. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?!
So...yes, there are some parallels here with the 2019 matchup of a freshly-ranked Missouri going on the road to a terrible Vanderbilt squad. I get it. But this isn’t a Barry Odom team with a Barry Odom staff and Barry Odom players (well, a few Odom players, but still). Yes, Javon Foster, Xavier Delgado, Darius Robinson, and Chad Bailey were on the team when they were upset in Nashville but they weren’t even contributing rotational snaps at that point.
The mantra all year is “STP: Something To Prove”. And while this Vanderbilt is quite a bit better than that 2019 squad - and only slightly worse than the ‘22 squad that took Mizzou to the limit - Missouri seems laser-focused on proving the nation wrong about what can happen with the Black and Gold Tigers, and a great way to prove that things are different is to absolutely paste the Commodores over 60 minutes.
But, again, Eli Drinkwitz finds ways to turn every game into a one-possession game. So who knows?
Here’s the preview I did back in May. I was quite high on Vandy’s potential and they certainly haven’t lived up to it this year, currently sitting at 2-3 and fresh off of a strangulation by Kentucky. But let’s break it down anyway because, well...you never know.
When Missouri Has the Ball
I heard you all liked heights and weights so I added that stuff. Vanderbilt’s defense currently ranks 110th in SP+ - a full 11 spots worse than the 2019 version - and has two strengths: limiting touchdowns in red zone scenarios and stuffing runs. The caveats to that, of course, is that opponents don’t need to worry about red zone efficiency because Vanderbilt is one of the worst defenses at giving up touchdowns outside of the red zone, and the run strength tends to not matter because opponents (so far) have just thrown all over them. Does that sound like something Missouri can replicate? I certainly would say so!
Connect on Explosive Plays
It’s still wild to me that an offense that hinged on an efficiency-based ground attack for three years could so easily flip the switch and become an explosion-based air attack but I guess that’s what happens when you have a healthy quarterback and a Luther Burden III. LB3 is getting looks as potentially the nation’s best wide receiver, and he needs to continue that type of performance here. Not all explosive plays go through him but the majority do, and Luther and Friends need to put together at least nine (9) explosive plays by the conclusion of this game.
Don’t Get Skunked on Third Down
One of the reasons Missouri was upset at Vanderbilt in 2019 (I KNOW I’M SORRY I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT LAY OFF ME I’M A 35+ YEAR MISSOURI FAN WHO’S SCARED OF EVERYTHING) was inefficiencies; a mere 41% rushing success rate, an awful 28% passing success rate, and 3-15 on 3rd-downs thanks to three sacks and an interception. Missouri got by Memphis despite going 0-7 on 3rd-downs that mattered because of the explosive plays (as mentioned above). But, hey, we’re now in the SEC schedule: it would be cool and good to convert at least, say, 40% of your 3rd-downs. Just to remind us that this offense can still do those things, please?
Finish Your Dang Drives
Always and forever. Underdogs win by limiting opponent’s points per scoring opportunity and that can’t be the case here. Let’s go with 7 scoring opportunities and at least 5.0 points per opportunity.
When Vanderbilt Has the Ball
Vanderbilt certainly has size on its offense. The quarterback is 6’3”, 228lb, the outside receivers are both 6’3”, the tight end is 6’6”, and the entire offensive line is over 6’4”, with four of the five starters over 300 pounds. They’re not really good at anything, mind you, other than operating decently well in standard downs. With Ray Davis off to Kentucky, Vanderbilt doesn’t really run a ton or get a lot of yards while doing so. Instead, they rely on A.J. Swann to throw a ton of passes and hope for a few breaks for big yards. Which, at least to this point, they usually don’t.
The havoc isn’t nearly as prolific as it was last year but, man, this is the team to get right against. Vanderbilt is allowing a 16.9% havoc rate to its opponents this year...and those opponents are not very havoc-focused. The offensive line is allowing quarterback pressures on 27% of dropbacks, forcing quarterback A.J. Swann to either move or get rid of it quickly, leading to a grim 52% completion rate. I know Mizzou hasn’t been hitting home in its blitzes but Vanderbilt will happily help you out in that department. Let’s shoot for a 30% havoc rate.
Win on 3rd and 4th Down
Give Clark Lea credit: he knows his guys are outgunned and is appropriately aggressive. Vandy’s offense manages 1st and 2nd downs with plays that, in theory, set them up for easier 3rd down distances, and it’s working because they have an average 3rd-down distance of about 6 yards, 19th best in the country. And if/when they don’t convert on 3rd, they go for it on 4th, with the 15-most attempts in the country. Now, they don’t actually convert on 4th, mind you (36.4% conversion rate, 104th in the country), but the threat is going to be there. So the goal is for Missouri to hold Vanderbilt to a 30% success rate in 3rd and 4th downs.
We know Missouri can lose this game. We also believe that this is a new era and they shouldn’t lose this game. Let’s focus on that latter part.