Missouri has owned this rivalry since the days of Brad Smith (AP photo).
When Missouri runs the ball: Draw
This is the biggest unknown of this match-up. Rewind to a week ago, and I'd give the edge to Missouri. With Kendial Lawrence, no one knows exactly what they're getting. He looked good in fall camp, but who knows what he'll do against Illinois? Maybe he'll emerge as a star the way Brad Smith, Jeremy Maclin, and Derrick Washington did against the Illini. Maybe Mizzou will abandon the run without Washington in the game. No one knows for sure.
It doesn't hurt that the Illini defense isn't very good. In 2009 Illinois' defense was awful (91st in yards per game average. Mizzou was 64th for comparison). They return three linebackers including Martez Wilson who is on the Butkus Award watch list. However, he's coming off an injury that cost him the final 11 games of last season. As a homer, I lean toward giving the edge to Mizzou, but there are too many unknowns to do so with any confidence.
When Missouri throws the ball: Missouri
Gabbert could put last year's numbers against Illinois to shame on Saturday.
This one on the other hand, is a no-brainer. I don't care who the receivers are for Missouri, the passing game will be Mizzou's best weapon in this game. Give me Blaine Gabbert against the depleted Illinois secondary any day. The Illini already lost their best defensive player in pre-season All Big Ten cornerback Terry Hawthorne to injury. Also out with an injury is starting safety Supo Sanni. In fact, they're so depleted by injuries that Ron Zook has moved three former offensive players to defense to help the secondary. With Missouri's experienced and talented offensive line, Gabbert will have all day to pick apart an Illini secondary that was decent before the injuries, and much worse with them. Blaine's going to have a big day.
When Illinois runs the ball: Illinois
Running the ball is the strength of this Illinois team. Last season, running backs Mike Leshoure and Jason Ford combined for more than 1,300 yards and both averaged more than six yards per carry. They both return this season and Leshoure is on the Doak Walker Award watch list. Their offensive line is not a strong point (only two returning starters will play against Missouri), but new offensive coordinator Paul Petrino says he's determined to run the ball. Last year Petrino coordinated Arkansas' 37 ppg attack. Throw in quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's mobility and Mizzou's questions at defensive tackle and this is one area Illinois has an advantage.
When Illinois throws the ball: Missouri
Scheelhaase was at one point an MU recruiting target. When Scheelhaase turned down Mizzou, the Tigers went out and got Ashton Glaser.
When was the last time you saw anyone give the Missouri pass defense an edge over anybody? Well, if this were almost any other BCS conference opponent, I wouldn't. However, I have even less faith in the Illini passing game than I do in the Mizzou pass defense. If the off-season is any indication, the Mizzou secondary is improved. They're playing more physically, Carl Gettis had the best off-season of his life according to coaches, and Kevin Rutland and Kip Edwards are ready to break out as upper-echelon Big 12 corners.
However, this is less about Missouri and more about Illinois. They're trotting out a first time starting quarterback, who is definitely talented, but still inexperienced. I'm not going to act like I know a lot about Nathan Scheelhaase. I don't. But in the videos I've seen of him this off-season, he seems to hang on to the ball too long before throwing it. Meanwhile, Illinois' starting receivers have even less experience than Missouri's. They've combined for 26 career catches. Perhaps most important, is the fact Illinois returns only two starters on the offensive line (a third is out with injury).
An inexperienced line + a QB who holds the ball too long + Aldon Smith and co. = plenty of help for the MU secondary.
Special Teams: Draw
This is a relatively unknown area for Illinois. They return a kicker in Derek Dimke who was 5-5 on field goal attempts last season filling in for a guy who was benched after starting the season 4-11. Illinois had the
most overrated I mean, "greatest" kick returner in Arrelious Benn last season and still managed to almost zero big plays in the return game. Their longest return went for 40 yards.
Meanwhile, Missouri is set at kicker, but Grant Ressell has been far from perfect this off-season. Then again, he wasn't so good pre-season last year and he turned out alright. Missouri's return game was less than exciting last season and with the same return men, I don't see big changes occurring there. Mizzou also has to replace Jake Harry who was arguably the nation's best punter last season.
I'll let history speak for itself. Gary Pinkel is 8-0 in his last eight home openers, 5-0 against Illinois, and 3-0 against Ron Zook. Last year, Illinois supposedly had a more talented team and Zook still managed to coach them to a four touchdown loss. Say what you want about Gary Pinkel, but he gets his team ready to play week one.
Google Ron Zook and this is the first thing that comes up.
This is the final year of the Arch Rivalry and it'll end like it started - with a Tiger victory. Missouri is more talented, historically better coached, and battling fewer key injuries than Illinois. The wild card is the Derrick Washington situation. Is it a huge distraction to this team or has it pulled them closer together? Either way, if Mizzou can play at a level near, or at its best, they're walking away winners.
Mizzou: 38 Illinois: 20no comments
In less than an hour (6pm), MU fans can scoop up tickets to Mizzou's Homecoming showdown with Oklahoma. The game takes place October 23rd. Reserved tickets are $75 and tickets for the new "Touchdown Terrace," are available for $150.
Wouldn't be completely shocked if that game features two undefeated teams. Not that any games are "gimmes," but I think Mizzou has more talent than any of its first six opponents, and yes, that includes A&M.
OU meanwhile has big games against Florida State and Texas before coming to MU.no comments
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Vahe Gregorian
"Prized basket recruit Tony Mitchell ineligible at Missouri "at this time" coach Mike Anderson says. Hopes can join later this season"
According to Rivals.com national basketball analyst Jerry Meyer's twitter, Tony Mitchell will not be eligible to play for Missouri. Meyer's source is Mitchell's AAU Coach.
From Tony Mitchell's facebook, "Mizzou Idk you guys it hasn't been a verdict yet I'm still waiting guys"
From Jeff Goodman via Twitter. "I've been told Missouri hopeful that Mitchell will go to Junior College in hopes of re-joining team for 2nd semester."
Photo from Columbia Tribune
More to come as it is availableno comments
Happy game week everybody. Time to put the d-dubs and suspensions behind us and actually focus on football.
Earlier today, Gary Pinkel announced five freshman that will play this season. They are Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy, Marcus Lucas, Eric Waters, and EJ Gaines. UPDATE: Pinkel also added that Franklin will play and burn the redshirt this fall, just not necessarily Week 1 against Illinois
Marcus Lucas will burn his redshirt this season.
After the recent running back developments, Josey and Murphy are no-brainers. But after that, I'm a bit surprised. Right away I thought there were some glaring omissions from that list. UPDATE: How about Mizzou's second string quarterback James Franklin, Pinkel said at media day today that the freshman QB will play at some point this season. What about Bud Sasser or Darvin Ruise?
Well, Pinkel said there are five or six other players he's still considering. My guess on those five (in order) goes like this: Sasser, Ruise, Nick Demien, Mitch Morse, and a healthy Jimmie Hunt.
I spoke with Sasser last week, and while he said all the right things regarding his redshirt ("it's up to the coaches, we'll see" blah, blah, blah) I came away with the feeling that he expects to play. He's been practicing with the second team and in the practices and scrimmages I've been to, I thought he looked as good, if not better than Marcus Lucas. Then again, I'm not a talent evaluator/coach/anything related with football, so I'll put my trust in the Missouri coaching staff.
Also, physically, Darvin Ruise is an absolute beast. He looks like someone who has been in the program for years. He looks about as thick as Luke Lambert and Lambert is four years older than Ruise. Does this mean he deserves to play? No, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.
Saturday's game opened with Illinois as 12.5 point dogs to our Missouri Tigers. The over/under was set at 53.5.
- Finally, D-Wash was officially charged this morning.no comments
The season is still six days away, yet Missouri has already had more than it's fair share of troubles. Since July, Mizzou has had three players kicked off the team for disciplinary issues, a captain get suspended indefinitely, two players and a coach get arrested for DWI, and three other player arrests. And that's in the span of two months!
Here's a timeline of Mizzou's recent rap sheet:
July 2nd: Safety Jarrell Harrison arrested for shoplifting at Columbia mall.
July 19th: Linebacker Tyler Crane dismissed from team for disciplinary issues.
August 2nd: Assistant offensive line coach Bruce Walker arrested for DWI (granted, he was in a parked car in the parking lot apparently waiting for a taxi).
August 3rd: Defensive tackle Dom Hamilton and Harrison are arrested for trespassing after being at an apartment complex pool after hours.
Mid-August: Offensive linemen Taylor Davis and Daniel Jenkins are dismissed from team for disciplinary issues.
August 22nd: Linebacker Will Ebner arrested for DWI.
August 26th: Running back Derrick Washington suspended indefinitely following accusations of sexual assault.
August 28th: Tight end and long-snapper Beau Brinkley arrested for DWI.
That's a lot of trouble in just two months. Some of these things I consider minor (Hamilton and Harrison swimming in a pool after hours), and might be bad luck more than anything (cops have really started cracking down in CoMo recently). But some of these things are serious. If Mizzou really plans on battling for the Big 12 title, they can't afford anymore run-ins with the law. If the players didn't get the wake up call after incident number one on July 2nd, we can only hope that after almost two months and seven more incidents, they've gotten it now.
Ok, all that stuff is depressing. Here's a little gem I saw floating around the internet that's bound to cheer you up. Nothing like a laugh at the expense of K-State's Willie the Wildcat.no comments
Mack Brown alone may be enough to vault a depleted Texas team into the Championship.
1. The Nebraska Lovefest has gone too far and may be in need of birth control.
I turned on College Gameday on Saturday morning just as Chris Fowler began asking Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard for predictions on the 2010 season. Each of the three selected Nebraska to play in the Big 12 Championship. Okay, fine. Can’t knock them for that. On paper, the Huskers are the North’s best team. Lee Corso took it a step further, however. He picked the Huskers to win the National Championship! That’s right, Corso picked a team led by the Mayor of Mediocrity, Zac Lee, to win it all. I know the defense is good, but this team lost the nation’s biggest gamechanger in Nadamukong Suh to the NFL and I think the assertions that Jared Crick is better than his “mentor” are very, very optimistic. Prediction: Nebraska’s title hopes end in their Week 3 visit to Washington. Ever heard of Jake Locker, Lincoln? Record prediction: 9-3 (Losses @Washington, v. Texas, @Texas A&M).
2. Texas needs to be getting more love. In the morning, on weekend getaways, after dinner, whenever.
There is an old saying by Mark Twain that says, “Whenever you find yourself in the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” I heeded these words when I began looking at the 2010 Texas Longhorns. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, has been saying watch out for Texas this season. Instead, people are overvaluing Nebraska like Fannie Mae stock and jumping on the Sooner wagon to take a ride with Bob “Bowl Bust” Stoops. (By the way, Corso also picked Landry Jones to win the Heisman. WTF?!! And Herbstreit picked DeMarco Murray. WTF?!!) That’s fine, because I’m going to be the one looking like the genius when Texas tears up the Big 12. Are we forgetting who coaches Texas Football? Are we forgetting that Mack Brown is the face of college football coaches? Are we forgetting what National Championship experience can do for the mojo of a sophomore QB? Sure, Texas lost McCoy, Shipley, and lots of defensive studs. But, they still have Mack and they still have all the recruits. Mack Brown is moving away from the spread this year and transitioning into a power running, play action heavy offense… and I like it. Tre’ Newton will be a horse at RB, Garrett Gilbert will handle the expectations, and an always star-studded defense will anchor Texas into the National Championship.
Jerrod Johnson is the best (and most exciting) player in the Big 12.
3. Jerrod Johnson will be the LeBron James of the Big 12.
In every game that LeBron James plays, he delivers a series of “WOW!” moments that leave you breathless, giddy, and amazed. Jerrod Johnson will be that guy for the Big 12 (and maybe the entire country) this season. I remember watching Johnson last year against Texas and thinking, “This guy plays for an opposing team in my team’s conference, and still, he just might be my favorite player.” I don’t know if Johnson will throw 30 TDs again this year, but I do know he will produce 30-squared dazzling plays. Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, this guy is just a fun, fun player to watch. Now, if only he would act more Lebron-like off the field. Transfer to Mizzou. Build a dual-threat QB dream duo with Gabbert. Boy oh boy, I like the sound of that.
4. Texas Tech will have a 1,000 yard rusher.
If I had told you that a Tech back would reach the century mark during the Mike Leach era you would have tarred-and-feathered me. But, by bringing in Tommy Tubberville (an excellent selection, if I may add) Texas Tech will be much more balanced on offense and this claim gains merit. Tubberville said he plans on rushing the ball at least 40% of the time this season, up from 32% last season. Texas Tech does have a good group of running backs--they have just gone underutilized to the point that no one outside of Lubbock even knows who the Raiders have in the backfield. Expect senior RB Baron Batch to be the first Tech back in yeeeeeears to rush for 1,000.
5. Mizzou will beat Kansas.
I mean, seriously, how could I not?no comments