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Let us take a moment to marvel at just how much Missouri’s offense improved in 2016

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Mitchell_Ark
Kyle Mitchell
Derrick Forsythe (Rock M Nation)

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Missouri offense in 2016. Obviously. The Tigers scored a combined 35 points in losses to WVU, LSU, and Florida, and they didn’t show much life against Kentucky until the game was out of reach.

That’s basically one third of the schedule right there, and the Mizzou offense played a major role in all four of those losses. We spent almost as much time worrying about the offense as the defense in October.

But ... of course Missouri’s offense struggled at times in 2016. It had a true sophomore quarterback, a true freshman running back, an offensive line that had been rebuilt from top to bottom, and a WR unit led by a junior (J’Mon Moore), a true freshman (Dimetrios Mason), a redshirt freshman (Johnathon Johnson), and a true sophomore (Emanuel Hall). All the upside in the world isn’t going to prevent you from laying some eggs when you’re that inexperienced.

But the upside was undeniable.

Josh Heupel replaced Henson and installed an up-tempo system that was heavily reliant on run-pass option plays. His offense drew comparisons to the system Art Briles ran at Baylor.

Say what you will about the up-tempo offense extending the game and overexposing MU’s leaky defense or the bad spot it sometimes put the defense in when it went three-and-out in turbo speed – those were valid concerns, at times -- but Heupel’s system also put Missouri’s athletes in space to make big plays, and the offense had some punch again.

This year, Missouri’s offense produced 212 plays of 10-plus yards and 70 plays of 20-plus yards, according to data compiled by cfbstats.com. It averaged one play of 10-plus yards per every 4.5 snaps and one play of 20-plus yards per every 13.5 snaps.

Those are Missouri’s second-best big-play-per-snap averages during their five seasons in the Southeastern Conference. The only year better was 2013, when the Tigers averaged one play of 10-plus yards per every 4.1 snaps and a 20-plus yard play per every 12.7 snaps.

It went beyond big plays, too. Mizzou was better at almost literally everything in 2016. Here’s a comparison of the Tigers advanced statistical rankings, as found here and here.

  • Off. S&P+: 120th in 2015, 45th in 2016
  • Success rate: 126th in 2015, 57th in 2016
  • IsoPPP (the magnitude of successful plays): 91st in 2015, 62nd in 2016
  • Field position created: 92nd in 2015, 16th in 2016
  • Points per scoring opportunity: 128th in 2015, 55th in 2016
  • Rushing S&P+: 124th in 2015, 73rd in 2016
  • Passing S&P+: 119th in 2015, 34th in 2016
  • Standard Downs S&P+: 124th in 2015, 31st in 2016
  • Passing Downs S&P+: 112th in 2015, 92nd in 2016
  • Rushing success rate: 128th in 2015, 52nd in 2016
  • Adj. Line Yards: 102nd in 2015, 106th in 2016
  • Adj. Sack Rate: 85th in 2015, 14th in 2016
  • Opportunity rate (% of carries gaining 5 yards): 119th in 2015, 55th in 2016
  • Power success rate: 126th in 2015, 25th in 2016
  • Stuff rate: 117th in 2015, 60th in 2016
  • Passing success rate: 121st in 2015, 64th in 2016
  • Passing downs sack rate: 64th in 2015, 9th in 2016

That’s 17 offensive categories; Mizzou improved in 16 of them and improved by at least 50 spots in the rankings in 14.

That’s staggering improvement.

The only category in which the Tigers didn’t improve: Adj. Line Yards. While the run game clearly improved overall over the last two-thirds of the year, the actual push that the line was getting wasn’t much greater than last year’s. The running backs themselves were better, and the breakdowns were far fewer (as the stuff rate can attest), but there’s still room for growth in the trenches. But of course there is — Mizzou’s OL two-deep featured three freshmen, four sophomores, and one senior.

Mizzou’s tempo went from 126th to ninth, and as we saw at times, that created a lot of quick three-and-outs and some late-game clock management issues. I wrote early in the season that the last step to moving fast is learning how to move slow when you need to, and I think that a) we saw improvement in this regard later in the year and b) we’ll see a lot more improvement in that next season.

Regardless, it was hard for me to take those complaints too seriously because while, yes, they were issues, Mizzou had gone from having about 38 different offensive problems to having about eight. We’ll demand more moving forward, but what a first year this was for Heupel and company.