W2W4 – Missouri
Hellooooo Mizzou, home of the “Show Me” state! Welcome to the SEC where every week we show you what “Old Man Football” really means. You may remember that Missouri’s big #34, Sheldon Richardson, was asked if he had watched Georgia play prior to their September 9th clash. Richardson replied, “I watched that game. I turned it off, too. … It’s like watching Big Ten football. It’s old-man football.” Insert your Tony Giles (Bryant-Denny PA Announcer) voice here: “Missouri, THIS is old man football!”
- A 41-20 loss to Georgia
- A 31-10 loss to South Carolina
- A 19-15 loss to Vanderbilt (VANDY!)
Hey Sheldon, maybe you guys should go find some little old ladies to beat up on because these “Old Men” are kicking your ass right now! How does 0 for the SEC grab ya? OMG, Vandy beat you guys! Hell, I think Vegas would say that Honey Boo Boo and her fellow beauty pageant contestants would open as a three-point favorite over Missouri (or should we rename the state “Misery?”) on a neutral field! In 1803, Missouri earned the nickname of “Gateway to the West” but I think the new SEC slogan for the state is “Gateway to Victory”. I guess the good news for Tiger fans is that the nation’s leading beer distributor is just down the street – SHOW ME THE CLYDESDALES!
As for what to expect during the game, what I am about to tell you is very likely different from what you were expecting at the beginning of the season. Mizzou came into the season with a reputation for having a high-octane offense but, after QB James Franklin went down with yet another injury in the Vandy game (VANDY!), -no meds, please, he’d rather sit out the game than take any meds – the Tigers now have to turn to redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser. What should be Berk-stressing Missouri fans is the fact that he stares down receivers and completed just 21 of 41 passes against Arizona State and just 9 of 30 against Vandy (VANDY!). So much for the high-octane offense.
Now, in watching tape of Mizzou against Central Florida and Vandy, I came away very impressed with the Tiger defense. The Missouri defense has acquitted itself rather well in the pass happy Big 12 over the last couple of years and, after watching them in a couple of games, I like what I see. Missouri likes to move their fronts just before the snap, altering blocking schemes just before the QB takes the ball from the center. At the same time their front is sliding up or down the line of scrimmage, they’ll walk down blitzers and overload every running lane from tackle to tackle. At the snap they all run “downhill”, making it nearly impossible to run the football. This aggressive approach has the Tigers ranked third nationally in tackles for loss and 19th in rushing defense. Naturally, this opens up the passing game and, although they have two veteran corners, they rank 51st in pass defense. So, it appears that it will be time to air it out once again on Saturday.
Alabama on Offense
With the Tiger defenders crowding the box, intent on stuffing the running game, the Bama offense will have to air it out. Currently, the forecast indicates storms may be in the Columbia area around the kickoff so this could be a sincere issue for the passing game. When Alabama does take to the air, the offensive line and the backs will have to be aware of the aforementioned Sheldon Richardson. While he has a big mouth, he has a big time game to back it up. On tape, he’s one of the best interior lineman I’ve ever seen (I typically don’t care to use hyperbole but this happens to be the truth) and he’s going to make it a very long day for the interior of the Bama line. Speaking of which, the interior of the line (with the usual exception of the terrific Chance Warmack) really, really struggled against Ole Miss so it will be interesting to see if the last two weeks of practice has corrected their issues. The Tigers rank sixth in the conference, averaging 2.5 sacks a game, so pass protection will be key. But, as a fan, just identify #34 for Missouri in passing situations and see if he’s handled. If he is, Bama should win easily. If he isn’t, it will be a struggle.
King of the Double Wides: With the Tigers intent on devouring the fresh meat (two of Bama’s top three backs will be true freshman) of the Tide running game, look for Saban & Coach Nuss to employ a lot of three, four and five wide receiver looks, a la the BCS championship game against LSU. Coming out in these multiple wide formations will force Mizzou to declare their coverages and make it much easier to identify their blitzes they love to employ.
Slots O’ Fun: The two Missouri corners are veterans so I believe AJ will once again look for his slot receivers this week. Slot receivers Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and Cyrus Jones (who has to emerge with the loss of DeAndrew White for the season) should have more favorable matchups and will have to play big roles in the passing game this week. Here’s hoping AJ can put four quarters in, pull the handle and get some lucky sevens (or quick sixes).
The Eye of the Tiger: The eye of the Tigers defense will be on stuffing the Bama running game. While I think Eddie Lacy will be able to handle this type of attacking, aggressive defense and make his cuts accordingly, I do worry about TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake. The knock on Drake is that he’s not been able to pick up blitz assignments, so that’s an issue. But, IF the Tide OL can wedge a hole in the front seven, Yeldon or Drake could bust a long one. With Mizzou committing all those men to the line of scrimmage, it only reasons that, once you crease it, the Bama backs could run a long way.
Cutting Edge: While the interior of the Tiger D appears stout, in the film I saw, Vandy and UCF were both able to get to the edges with their running backs. Sometimes a toss sweep around the blitzers can be effective so look for Alabama to test the outside perimeter defenses of Mizzou. SHOW ME you can stop our old men from toting the football around the corner!
You Wreck Me: Look out for blitzes from the Missouri corners and safeties – they love this. Again, by going 3, 4 and 5 wide, Alabama will force them to declare their blitzers and make it easier for AJ to find the open receivers. With the need for multiple receivers, I don’t think you’ll see as much of Vogler and Johnson in this game, particularly Vogler. Again, think LSU game plan from the BCS game.
Don’t Want No Short Short Man: In both the UCF game and the Vandy game, Missouri’s short yardage defense was very, very impressive. Look for Alabama to fail to convert on third and 2 or shorter a couple of times on Saturday.
Swami Sez: This will be a much, much closer game than you want it to be unless the defense or special teams contributes a score or two. I predict the offense, particularly the running game, will frustrate the heck out of Bama fans quite a bit on Saturday. Alabama will pass for at least twice as much yardage as they run for. No Bama back will gain over 100 yards. Alabama will not get their average of 188 yards on the ground. Christion Jones and Amari Cooper each have a big game, with Amari playing the role of “go to” receiver on third downs. AJ will throw at least two touchdown passes. Alabama will complete a pass to a back (I’m thinking swing pass but it could be a screen) which will catch the Tigers in a blitz – this will go for 20+ yards. Sheldon Richardson will have at least one sack and at least two tackles for loss because he’s a beast and he’ll line up against the two guys (Jones and Steen) who have struggled the most this season. I also predict that AJ’s interception streak comes to an end Saturday. He’ll be required to throw more and, with Mizzou bringing pressure, it leads me to believe AJ will throw a pick Saturday.
Alabama on Defense
So, if Honey Boo Boo and her cast of princess wannabes would open as a three-point favorite, then why is the Lighthouse giving such a dire prediction for the Alabama offense? Well, because the Missouri offense is putrid. Have you seen the New York Jets play offense? Missouri would like to Show Me an offense that good. With Berkstresser taking over at QB, they are no longer two dimensional…or one dimensional. They are now ZERO dimensional. As if Alabama needed more of an edge against Mizzou, the fact that the Ole Miss offense is very similar to the Missouri offense means that Bama has been game planning for the Tigers offense for three weeks! The forecast for the Mizzou offense is a 100% chance of pain with partly scattered Tigers…
Man of Constant Sorrow: Gary Pinkel must be a man of constant sorrow who sees trouble when the offense takes the field. Here is the Show Me tote board for the Tigers’ offensive woes:
- 10th in Scoring Offense
- 12th in Total Offense
- 11th in Rushing Offense
- 8th in Passing Offense
- 8th in Sacks Given Up
This matchup appears to be akin to Mizzou bringing a knife to a gunfight. No, make that a spork….
At a Loss: The Tiger offense likes to use very slow developing handoffs. Why they do this is beyond me. Look for Mizzou backs to get tackled a few times just after they take the handoff as they patiently wait for the Bama d-linemen to swarm the backfield.
Line Dancing: The Missouri offensive line has so many holes in it, it would take a nation of little Dutch boys to plug the holes. Mizzou will be without their starting center and tackle this week and their line has been an ugly patchwork quilt since fall camp. In fact, this will be the fifth different starting lineup for the Tigers OL and they’ll be praying that a true freshman, a former walk-on and a kid making his second start will hold up the interior of their line. Ouch, babe.
Fly for a White Guy: Gary Pinkel loves his fly, sweep that is. Pinkel loves to get his WR’s running laterally and also tries to get his backs out wide as well. James Franklin was the interior rusher for Missouri so, with his absence and the neophytes playing guard and center for the Tigers, look for lots of plays going outside.
Statue of Liberty, er, Death: I don’t know who the QB coach is at Missouri but I do know that I dislike what they do with their QBs from the shotgun. When the snap comes, the QB takes the ball and stands perfectly still while he eyes down his primary receiver. With no drop back, there’s no fluidity of movement for the QB. Think of a golfer trying to tee off with no backswing – that’s what it’s like for their QBs when they stand statue-esque in the pocket. Of course, with no drop back, that means the ball has got to come out in a hurry so any time you see their QB standing still, you know it will be a quick slant or a quick pass of some sort. Conversely, any time you see the QB actually take a drop back, you immediately know he’s looking to complete something much further down the field. This is so dumb to me – you may as well hand Nick and Kirby a note before each play and let them know exactly what’s coming.
It Had to be You: It will be somewhat painful to watch Dorial Green-Beckham play against Alabama, as DGB was at one time thought to be seriously considering playing for the Tide. At 6-5, he’s a force to be reckoned with. After serving a one game suspension against Vandy, I look for Mizzou to take at least 2 or 3 shots downfield to DGB. If he snags one, know that the Lighthouse staff will be Green with envy.
Shawty Get Loose: Aside from DGB, Missouri uses short, quick receivers at the other wide out positions and they like to get into 4 wide and 5 wide sets. With Deion Belue practicing this week, that’s a good thing because the pace, the multiple wide receivers and the formations the Tigers use will require Alabama to tap into their secondary for some subs. Geno Smith may be a name to watch along with John Fulton as they’ll likely be required to spell Belue from time to time and Geno could even play some star as he’s being groomed for that postion. No way Milliner comes out, though – no way. He’ll likely be on DGB much of the day.
Jesse’s Girls: This should be a game that introduces Jesse Williams to the CBS audience. He’s rested, he’s going against young, inexperienced offensive linemen and he’s got a new tattoo. At the end of the game, I’m looking for Jesse to make the linemen and the QB his little girls.
Swami Sez: Wow. It’s hard to even figure out a way that Mizzou scores. Show Me a shutout? Possibly. The only way I see them getting into the end zone is a long pass to DGB so put me down for at least one long bomb being completed to Green-Beckham. With the short, quick throws it will be harder to get to the QB but I foresee at least three sacks because their offensive line is just so bad. Missouri will have less than 75 yards rushing as a team unless one of the fly sweeps goes for half of that number (which I just can’t foresee happening). Berkstresser will throw at least two picks and will complete less than 50% of his throws, even though they will mostly be short, quick passes. If he’s flushed from the pocket, everyone should take cover because no one will know where the ball is going. Picture Kevin Costner telling Nuke Laloosh to hit the bull in Bull Durham – when Berkstresser is on the move, it’s ugly. The one play they’ll find success with is swinging the ball out to Lawrence (#4) out of the backfield – Nick Saban defenses always seem to be vulnerable against the swing passes. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say Lawrence, a RB, leads them in receptions and yards.
Alabama on Special Teams
Mizzou is horribly bad on special teams. They’ve made 7 of 11 field goals, rank 13th in kickoff coverage, and 12th in punting average. They are #1 in punt return average so keep an eye on that phase of the game. Also look for:
- Mandel’s punting average. I’m thinking he’s back to where he was last year after a tremendous start against Michigan and WKU.
- Christion Jones will be back returning punts with the loss of Dee Hart.
- Cyrus Jones could get a look at one of the return positions.
- Mizzou rushes the punter on every snap so be on the lookout for a blocked punt. I’m not calling this but I’m telling you folks to be aware.
- Speaking of snaps, Missouri isn’t very good at them. In the Vandy game alone, they dropped a QB snap, a punt snap and had a bad snap that forced a missed extra point. Look for a few snaps to go awry…
The good news for Missouri fans will end sometime shortly after Sara Evans Barker sings the national anthem. While the Alabama running game will have a rough time, the offensive woes of the Tigers should set AJ and the offense up time after time with excellent field position. With the emergence of Amari Cooper on third downs, Mizzou fans would be wise to keep their keys out of their pockets (they all jingle their keys on third downs) and just go straight back to the car for it’s likely to be a long, frustrating day for them. The only thing that could derail the Tide this weekend would be a significant storm that would level the playing field of talent. Aside from that, I can’t see Missouri scoring enough to make it close.
Final Score: Alabama 30 Missouri 7