Missouri’s going to beat Delaware State on Saturday, probably by quite a bit. I expanded on the reasons why here, and in lieu of any sort of organized statistical preview, I thought I would instead simply list the things I’ll be looking at most closely tomorrow.
1. The first 20 minutes
If Missouri starts slowly and plays sloppy ball early, it will almost be understandable. The Tigers could be a bit hungover after last weekend’s heartbreaker, and it might be hard to get up for an opponent they know they will beat. And make no mistake: Even with a slow start, they’ll still win comfortably.
But screw that. I want to see a resilient, angry bunch, and I want Mizzou to put the game away as quickly as possible. Make a statement, then put the backups in for the second half. This game presents a unique motivational challenge for Barry Odom and his staff — here’s to them acing the test.
2. Mizzou’s offensive push
It has become blatantly clear over the past two weeks that Missouri’s offense has upside and is working its way toward reaching that upside. That’s great news. But the Tigers are still 80th in overall success rate, and their rushing numbers are extremely subpar: 97th in rushing success rate, 124th in rushing IsoPPP (which measures the magnitude of the successful plays), 120th in opportunity rate (percentage of carries gaining at least 5 yards).
Mizzou is currently fourth in the country with seven passes of 40+ yards ... and 117th with only eight rushes of 10+. It’s time for some rushing explosions. If they don’t come on Saturday, they won’t come in 2016.
3. DSU’s offensive push
Sophomore Brycen Alleyne is averaging 7.1 yards per carry for DSU this year, and as I mentioned on Thursday, the Hornets’ offensive line is nearly as big as Missouri’s. We’ve seen massive progress from Missouri’s run defense over the last two weeks, and if you can hold Nick Chubb to 3.3 yards per carry, then you can hold Alleyne to a similar or lower average. But because of the struggles against WVU, Mizzou is still just 62nd in rushing success rate allowed. Hopefully that ranking rises after Saturday.
4. Drew Lock on passing downs
In theory, Mizzou won’t fall into second- or third-and-long too frequently, but how does Lock do when the Tigers indeed drop behind schedule? Against WVU, he was just 8-for-20 for 86 yards on passing downs; since then, he’s 14-for-21 for 163. DSU’s secondary wants to play pretty aggressively, but unless Mizzou’s receivers (or pass blockers) have an awful day, Lock should be able to go through his reads and find guys open downfield. Keep up the progress.
5. Defensive ends not named Charles Harris
Charles Harris’ season officially began against Georgia; the projected 2017 first-rounder had three sacks and a fourth tackle for loss and broke up a pass. It’s safe to say he’ll have a few more similar games this year.
But what about everybody else?
Jordan Harold, Spencer Williams, and Marcell Frazier have combined for 12.5 tackles (if they were one person, they would still only rank fifth on the team in tackles*), a pass breakup, a fumble recovery, and a whopping zero tackles for loss. Even with a change in responsibility, that is not enough of a play-making presence. Williams has been pretty active in chasing plays down, but he hasn't been disruptive at all.
This has to change, and if it's going to, we'll see it on Saturday.
* Of course, if they were one person, they'd weigh 775 pounds. Hard to expect much of a pass-rushing surge from a 775-pounder.
S&P+ projection: Missouri 40, DSU 1 (win probability: 99%)
Mizzou should be able to post whatever point total Barry Odom wants in this one. Here’s to hoping they get that total in the first half, and the second half is boring as hell (but gives Marvin Zanders lots of reps).