6 Reasons Mizzou is Right Where They Want to Be
6 Reasons Mizzou is Right Where They Want to Be
Missouri Tigers fans may be feeling a little bit deflated early in the freshman SEC campaign. There was so much made of the fast-paced no-huddle spread offense, and so far it's been simply dismantled. All you have to have is a quick defensive line, and Mizzou's once "ooed and ahhed" at attack suddenly gets exposed as a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
Many fans have an idea of how this happened, or at least can begin to point the finger. Many have blamed junior quarterback James Franklin for being unable to run the ball or have a quicker release in the pass game. Many have cited the decimated offensive line. There's also the lack-luster running attack, missing the Big 12's leading rusher from a year ago in Henry Josey and being unable to depend on the ability of Kendial Lawrence, which many could say is more the line's fault.
Whatever your angle of analyses, there's not a shortage of blame to go around for why the Tigers aren't performing they way they wanted.
But there's some very important things to remember. Although losing in the fashion they did, no one expected the Tigers to win on the road against the South Carolina Gamecocks. No one expected them to take down the defending SEC East champs the Georgia Bulldogs in their first SEC game.
No, it's not so much the fact they lost, but it's how they've looked doing it.
But never fear, Tiger fans...this season isn't a lost cause. We examine six reasons why Missouri is still - believe it or not - right where they want to be.
Strength of Schedule
We all knew coming in to this season that the Tigers' average opponent was going to be better, but this stat is really telling. After the South Carolina game, Missouri's strength of schedule was ranked No. 1 in the nation. This changed on Thursday night as Mizzou was bumped down to No. 2, but it's hard to expect Missouri to come out undefeated against the toughest schedule so far in the entire FBS. The next two games will be a bit of a breather compared to what Mizzou has been used to, but on October 13 they welcome the defending national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide into Columbia.
Adapting to Tendencies
Being used to playing teams who aren't quite as fast and skilled in general on defense, Missouri is having to adapt and change their approach in many situations. They're figuring out the hard way what is working, and what is not. Bubble screens and quick outs in particular, are something that top SEC defenses are going to be able to sniff out and swarm almost right away. In order for the Tiger offense to become effective, they will have to make some changes in where the ball is going, and how fast the quarterback is getting it to his intended target.
It's like Missouri is in a water gun fight and has refused to use its Super Soaker so far. The raw speed and ability of Mizzou's No. 1 overall recruit Dorial Green-Beckham simply has not been utilized. If the Tigers expect to be able to play among the best teams, they will have to get their best players involved.
In DGB's defense, many teams have blanketed him so far. Nearly every SEC team at least attempted to recruit him, so he's not just going to sneak up on anyone. But the lack of attempts to throw his way, not utilizing him in the kicking game, and only getting him the ball in the backfield on end-around plays, has resulted in DGB being a complete non-factor. Getting him more touches on the offensive side of the ball could ignite the team and take pressure off of other players.
Won't Face An End Like Jones or Clowney
It's a fact; Jarvis Jones and Jadeveon Clowney dismantled Missouri. Jones currently sits atop of Mel Kiper, Jr.'s 2013 draft board, and Clowney is certainly in line to be an All-American as well.
The good news for Missouri is that although they will face some very stout defenses, especially in when Alabama comes to town, they will not see defensive ends with the skill of these two players the rest of the season. The offensive line, which struggled to keep both players from harassing Franklin and disrupting the Missouri offense in general, now has now seen the best and can know the standard to expect and practice for in preparation for these quick linemen.
Offensive Line is Learning
Speaking of the offensive line, they are improving. With every passing game comes more experience, more meshing together and more learning what not to do. The crowd at South Carolina was clearly a factor in their overall cohesion, but after traveling on the road for a "back on track" game against the Central Florida Knights, Mizzou will once again be back at home in the confines of Memorial Stadium to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Expect a tough and angry Tiger team who feels like they have something to prove. And oh yeah, Elvis Fisher should be back during the upcoming homestand.
Kendial Lawrence Can Only Improve
It's been tough losing Josey for the season, and his counterpart Kendial Lawrence has yet to produce. Lawrence dropped two easy pitches in the South Carolina game, and just hasn't looked great at all. Again though, it takes blockers to make the running position look good, which Missouri has not had a lot of help in. Lawrence did sit higher than Josey on the depth chart last season, so there is something about him that the coaches know about and that can make him a great back. If Lawrence begins to play the way he is capable of, Missouri may have a very effective weapon to help spread out their options.
No one expected Missouri to be undefeated at this point. And as far as the rest of the Tiger's season goes, for now, Mizzou still has a bowl game to play for, and are right where they want to be.