A few thoughts heading into Saturday’s game:
Quick Start: After a sluggish start last week, I expect quite the opposite this week. Missouri players admitted that their practices got a little sloppy when they were preparing for Bowling Green. Gary Pinkel admitted that his team didn’t improve from week one to week two. Don’t think for a second that Pinkel will let that happen again. “I didn’t feel like we got better as a team and I’m disappointed in it, but that’s my responsibility,” Pinkel said following the Bowling Green win.
The Bowling Green game was far too close for Missouri. They don’t want the same thing to happen against Furman, and they won’t let it happen. They’ll start fast and put this one away early.
Turnovers: Against Illinois, Mizzou forced two turnovers. They won that game by 28. Against Bowling Green they forced zero turnovers. They won that game by 7. Coincidence? Furman quarterback Jordan Sorrells has thrown an interception in each game of the season. Look for Missouri to snag a couple of interceptions to kill Furman drives.
Offensive Line: No position is in question more than Missouri’s offensive line. They were supposed to be a strength of the team and well, they haven’t been. Furman doesn’t have a defensive lineman over 275 lbs. If Missouri’s offensive line doesn’t completely dominate the line of scrimmage, there will be some serious cause for concern. Blaine Gabbert should have all day to throw on Saturday.
Can we get a punt return? I don’t think any of us expected Carl Gettis to be Jeremy Maclin 2.0 when he was named the Tigers’ punt returner. But I don’t think anyone thought Mizzou’s return game would be this anemic. Gettis’ one return last week resulted in a fumble. Pinkel isn’t blaming Gettis for the poor return game, he just hasn’t had much of an opportunity. It’d be nice to see what he can do if he has some blocks this week. If nothing else, let’s just hope he doesn’t fumble when given the chance.
Grant Ressel for Heisman? Two games is not enough time to judge anybody or any team. But it is enough time to start noticing trends. The trend for Missouri’s kicking game is perfect. Literally. Let’s see if Ressel keeps it up. If he does, look for more praise from Pinkel. When asked about Ressel on Monday Pinkel put it well: “We’re certainly thrilled with him.”
Scorpion Attack: If you haven’t heard, Missouri’s trio of imposing D-ends have been nicknamed the scorpion. I personally prefer rockmnation’s nickname of “The law firm of Smith, Smith, and Coulter.” No matter what you call them, look for them to rack up more sacks this week. I’d also like to see if they can apply some pressure early in the game. Most of their sacks have come in the fourth quarter. Brian Coulter needs to step up his game if he wants to keep partner status in the firm. Aldon Smith has 4 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Jacquies Smith has 1.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Coulter, meanwhile has zero TFL and zero sacks. Look for Coulter, the man with “Boss” boldly painted across his car, to change those numbers this weekend.
Unsung Hero: Kendial Lawrence stepped it up last week. If Missouri puts this one away early, which player we don’t normally see will emerge? Is this the week Jimmy Costello makes his collegiate debut? Does T.J. Moe show us why he’s gotten all the hype? Does Pinkel burn L’Damian Washington’s redshirt?
Prediction: Illinois faced a focused and prepared Missouri team. They lost by four touchdowns. Missouri won’t look past Furman. The Tigers will come out focused and handle their biz in front of an impressive crowd at Faurot. Mizzou wins 45-10