(Editor’s note: My man Slim runs Bloguin network partner Mizzourahblog.com and graciously agreed to give Homerism a little insight on what the Tigers bring to the table, as well as how to stop them. I returned the favor.)
By now the Sooners have gotten used to beating Missouri. After all, it’s Oklahoma that destroyed Mizzou in back-to-back Big 12 championship games, effectively ruining Missouri’s dreams of a national championship birth and a BCS bowl.
However, this year’s Mizzou squad has something the past ones didn’t: a legitimate defense.
Going with my head and not my heart, Oklahoma should win this game. OU is more experienced, more talented and has faced better competition to this point.
However, the Sooners are facing a Missouri team that is improving each week and will be playing at home in front of a crowd who is considering this the biggest home game for Missouri in decades.
Gary Pinkel has never beaten Oklahoma and it’s going to take a flawless performance from Mizzou if it’s going to happen on Saturday.
Here’s how you’ll beat the Tigers: Offensively, you’ll run the ball down Mizzou’s throats. The Tiger defense is extremely fast and playing with increasingly more confidence. This year, Mizzou boasts the nation’s No. 2 overall scoring defense and has forced 14 turnovers.
However, the weak spot in the defense is right up the middle. The defensive tackles have been playing better lately, but are still the biggest question mark on this team.
Opponents have had very little success passing on Missouri. This may come as a surprise to OU fans, because the last time your team faced Mizzou, you guys hung 62 points on Mizzou’s porous D.
This year, Missouri has one of the best pass rushes in the nation. The Tigers have four talented d-ends that have caused nightmares for opposing QBs. Landry Jones will easily be the best quarterback this team has faced, but don’t expect another 30-34 passing performance. This D has really turned up its aggressiveness this year, and the secondary is taking advantage of pressured throws. Run the ball early, run it often and OU will have some success.
Defensively, Oklahoma should start with taking away Missouri’s short passing game. Mizzou relies heavily on screen passes and quick hitches. Those plays are considered part of their “running game,” because they are almost automatic for a few yards.
When defenses have taken away the short passes, Mizzou is forced to go deep. Without a big name receiver like Jeremy Maclin or Danario Alexander, Missouri has struggled in that area this year. Pressuring Blaine Gabbert reduces his effectiveness incredibly. Gabbert has a tendency to get “happy feet,” and he gets nervous when under pressure. He’s not nearly as cool and calm in the pocket as Chase Daniel was.
Missouri has very little commitment to the running game. Against a fast and talented defense like OU’s, I don’t expect much from the Missouri ground game. Missouri uses quick passes to set up it’s entire offense. Those short routes spread the field and open it up for deep shots later in the game. They also spread the field horizontally, opening space for the running backs.
In other words, screens and quick hitting routes are the lifeblood of the Missouri offense. Take those away and force Mizzou to try to run consistently or take shots down field, and you’ll shut Mizzou down. San Diego State applied this defensive strategy and nearly came away with a win.
This isn’t your older brother’s Mizzou team. Those squads (’07 and ’08) boasted strong offenses and little to no defense. This year, the defense has been the strength of the team. Can it compete with an offense as talented as Oklahoma’s? I guess we’ll find out.
Oklahoma is the better team. The Sooners should win this one. But don’t expect a blowout like the last few. I expect this game to be highly contested much like the 2007 MU-OU game in Norman was.