The emphasis going into any game is to, of course, win. How you go about it , though, can depend…
Nebraska vs. Missouri Game Preview
October 6th, 2007
8:15 PM CT
#23/25 NEBRASKA (4 - 1) (1 - 0)
#17 MISSOURI (4 - 0) (0 - 0)
Weather Report for Nebraska vs. Missouri
Latest Line - Missouri by 6.
The Missouri Tigers' spread offensive attack has been explosive this season, running and throwing the ball with great effectiveness. After four games, the Tigers rank 5th nationally in total offense (544.25 ypg), 6th in passing (344.25 ypg), 25th in passing efficiency (143.93 rating), 26th rushing (200 ypg), 12th scoring offense (42 ppg), and 18th in turnover margin (+1.00).
QB: Jr. Chase Daniel (116 of 176, 1311 yds, 13 TDs, 4 INTs) has had a great start to the 2007 season. Daniel does a nice job of picking apart an opposing defense with his arm, but also has the fleet of foot to scramble out of the pocket and make a play. Chase isn't the biggest quarterback, at 6 feet even, so his ability to use his feet is important. Daniel has rushed for 116 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. He has thrived in Coach Pinkel's no-huddle attack, and is poised for a big year. On the downside, he has thrown two picks in each of the last two contests against Illinois State and Western Michigan. Behind Daniel is Jr. Chase Patton (5 of 10, 52 yds, 1 INT), a tall (6'5"), talented back-up that isn't much of a drop-off from Daniel.
RB: Missouri's group of running backs is smaller than typical units, with all at or under 5'9" and 205 lbs. The Tiger running backs haven't rushed the ball a tremendous amount this season, but starter Sr. Tony Temple (68 carries, 353 yds, 3 TDs) has made the most of his carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Jr. Jimmy Jackson (9 carries, 54 yds) and Sr. Marcus Woods (5 carries, 36 yds), and Jr. Earl Goldsmith (5 carries, 44 yds) are the top reserves. All rely on shiftiness, rather than power to get yards. The backs do not get many passes their way, with Tony Temple catching 3 passes for 14 yards and a touchdown and Jimmy Jackson catching 2 balls for 10 yards through four games.
WR/TE: Missouri is loaded at wide receiver, with playmakers at the X, Z, and H spots. At X is Sr. William Franklin (17 catches, 278 yds, 4 TDs) and back-up So. Jared Perry (8 catches, 60 yds). Starting at Z is Jr. Tommy Saunders (10 catches, 108 yds, 1 TD), who is backed up by Sr. Jason Ray (1 catch, 9 yds), and Sr. Greg Bracey (3 catches, 53 yds, 1 TD). At H is dynamic RFr. Jeremy Maclin (21 catches, 244 yds, 3 TDs) and So. Danario Alexander (9 catches, 82 yds). Maclin has also been dangerous rushing the football, taking 10 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown. While the wide receivers are great, the true strength is at tight end with Sr. Martin Rucker (29 catches, 330 yds, 1 TD) and Jr. Chase Coffman (18 catches, 164 yds, 2 TDs). Rucker and Coffman are arguably the two best tight ends in the Big XII conference, and near the top nationally as well.
OL: The Missouri offensive line has done a great job this season. After four games, the line has made way for 5.7 yards per rush for the offense, while giving up only 5 sacks. The tackles are huge, with Sr. Tyler Luellen (6'7", 310 lbs) on the left and Jr. Colin Brown (6'8", 325 lbs) on the right. Top tackle reserves include Sr. Chris Tipton (6'4", 310 lbs) and So. Dain Wise (6'5", 305 lbs). Starting at guard is Sr. Monte Wyrick (6'5", 325 lbs) on the left side, and So. Kurtis Gregory (6'5", 305 lbs) on the right. Jr. Ryan Madison (6'5", 305 lbs.) and So. James Stigall (6'3", 300 lbs.) are the top reserves at guard. Starting at center is Sr. Adam Spieker (6'3", 305 lbs), with RFr. Tim Barnes (6'4", 305 lbs) serving as his top back-up. With all of the upperclassmen on this line, it is not a surprise that this has turned out to be an above average group.
The Missouri defense has been poor this season, giving up chunks of yards against less than dominant competition. The Tigers' defense ranks 93rd nationally in total defense (434.50 ypg), 104th pass defense (275.75 ypg), 64th pass efficiency defense (123.29 rating), 71st rush defense (158.80 ypg), and 58th in scoring defense (25 ppg).
DL: The Missouri defensive line is an experienced crew, and is giving up 3.6 yards per carry to opponents, also earning 8 sacks as a unit. Starting at left defensive end is Jr. Tommy Chavis (13 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QBH, 1 PBU), with Jr. Jaysen Corbett (4 tackles) backing him up. On the right side, Jr. Stryker Sulak (16 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 FF, 2 QBH, 2 PBU) starts, with TFr. Tyler Crane (2 tackles) serving as the top reserve. At nose tackle is Sr. Lorenzo Williams (14 tackles, 2 sacks), with So. Jaron Baston (4 tackles, 1 QBH) performing back-up duties. At defensive tackle is Jr. Ziggy Hood (18 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 FF, 1 FR, 4 QBH), with Sr. Charles Gaines (2 tackles) serving as his back-up. Sulak and Williams are the best of the bunch, with Sulak being the best pass rusher and Williams as the better run stuffer. This group has been pretty good this season, but had a poor showing against Ole Miss, allowing 229 yards rushing.
LB: Missouri's linebacking corps has done a mediocre job of replacing Marcus Bacon and Dedrick Harrington, the team's top two tacklers from 2006. There's a lot of potential in the starters, but potential that hasn't been completely realized yet. Starting at MLB is Jr. Brock Christopher (37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 2 PBU), with TFr. Luke Lambert (12 tackles) listed as the top reserve. At WLB is So. Sean Weatherspoon (44 tackles, 1 FF, 3 PBU), while So. Connell Davis (4 tackles, 1 FR) is his back-up. Weatherspoon is the unit's big hitter and leads the team in tackles this season. At SLB is Jr. Van Alexander (17 tackles, 1 QBH), with Jr. Steve Redmond (5 tackles) backing him up.
DB: Missouri's defensive backfield is an interesting group that has a shake-up in the line-up this week. Starting at cornerback this week are Sr. Darnell Terrell (16 tackles, 1 FR, 1 QBH, 7 PBU) at LCB and TFr. Carl Gettis (15 tackles, 1 PBU) at RCB. Top reserves are Sr. Paul Simpson (5 tackles) at LCB and So. Hardy Ricks (18 tackles, 1 PBU) at RCB. Gettis is getting his first start this week, taking over for Ricks. Terrell is the best of the unit with 7 break-ups, and he was honorable mention All-Big XII in 2006. At safety, Jr. William Moore (35 tackles, 2 INT, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) starts over at FS and So. Del Howard (6 tackles) is his top reserve. Sr. Pig Brown (33 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FR, 1 BK) starts at SS, with Jr. Justin Garrett (10 tackles, 2 INT) serving as his back-up. Opponents are completing 61% of their passes, which is fairly high.
Missouri Special Teams
Missouri's special teams units have been mediocre through four games this year. The Tigers rank 118th in net punting (26.44 yd avg), 10th in punt returns (16.67 yd avg), and 44th in kickoff returns (22.65 yd avg).
K: Jr. Jeff Wolfert starts at place kicker for Missouri. He is not having a great season, making just 5 of 9 field goal attempts, with a 47 yard long. On kickoffs, he is averaging 58.3 yards on 29 kickoffs with only 1 going for a touchback.
P: Sr. Adam Crossett starts at punter for the Tigers and is having a mediocre season. He has punted 14 times for an average of 36.2 yards this season, while also having one punt blocked. 5 of his 14 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20.
KR/PR: Missouri's return game has been pretty good through four games this season. RFr. Jeremy Maclin (16 kick returns, 22.2 yd avg) and Sr. Tony Temple make up the first-team return unit, while Jr. Tremane Vaughns (1 kick return, 30 yds) has also fielded a kickoff. At punt returner, RFr. Jeremy Maclin (12 punt returns, 16.7 yd avg, 2 TDs) and Sr. Marcus Woods are the top options, although Woods hasn't had a return this season. Maclin has been a special teams dynamo, with 2 returns for touchdown.
Coverage: The Missouri kick coverage team has been good this season, allowing an average of just 21.6 yards on 28 kickoff return attempts. Punt coverage has been better, with opponents averaging 6 yards on 4 returns. The Tigers have had one punt blocked, which was returned for a touchdown.
The Nebraska offense has been very good this season. Consistency is a question though, as is the run game. Five games into the season, Nebraska ranks 18th nationally in total offense (467.80), 15th in passing (307.20 ypg), 22nd in pass efficiency (144.96 rating), 50th in rushing (160.60 ypg), 25th in scoring offense (35.80 ppg), and 77th in turnover margin (-.40).
QB: Sr. Sam Keller (121 for 185, 1497 yds, 9 TDs, 7 INTs) has had a pretty good season through five games. After a slow start in the first two games, he has thrown for 1,040 yards and 7 touchdowns in the past three games. Sam is looking the part of a big time quarterback, spreading the ball to multiple receivers all over the field. He has shown the ability to lead Nebraska in a shoot-out, and typically has done a good job in the two-minute offense. Jr. Joe Ganz (1 for 1, 19 yds) is Nebraska's top back-up and hasn't seen action since the season opener against Nevada.
RB: Jr. Marlon Lucky (108 carries, 565 yds, 6 TDs) is Nebraska's best back and has a combination of talents the other Husker backs do not possess. Jr. Cody Glenn (24 carries, 76 yds, 2 TDs) is a power back that is very capable of netting big yards when he's healthy. TFr. Quentin Castille (30 carries, 122 yds, 3 TDs) is a bruising power back, while TFr. Roy Helu (10 carries, 39 yds) is more of a speed back. So. Major Culbert (5 carries, 35 yds, 1 TD) has moved back to defense, playing LB. This is a good group of backs, but needs more help from the offensive line, as production has dropped since the season opener. The running backs are a crucial piece of the passing game, with Marlon Lucky (28 catches, 205 yds, 1 TD) leading the team in receptions. Cody Glenn (4 catches, 46 yds), Quentin Castille, (1 catch, 15 yds) and Roy Helu (1 catch, 5 yds) have also been incorporated this season. Sr. Andy Sand is the starter at FB, and will rarely touch the ball, but is as a quality blocker. Sand has one reception for 15 yards through two games. Reserve FB Jr. Thomas Lawson got the ball for the first time last week, catching 2 passes for 10 yards and 2 touchdowns.
WR/TE: Nebraska's receiving corps is turning in a good effort so far, but starting dropping passes again last week. Starting Z receiver is Sr. Terrence Nunn (17 catches, 219 yds), who is getting close some Nebraska receiving records, but hasn't been consistent this year. Behind Nunn is Sr. Frantz Hardy (7 catches, 122 yds), who is the fastest of the group, but has dropped many passes this season. Starting at X is Jr. Nate Swift (16 catches, 206 yds, 1 TD), who makes excellent plays in traffic, but is being pushed by Sr. Maurice Purify (19 catches, 268 yds, 1 TD) who is looking to get his starting spot back. Purify is doing a great job getting yards after catch, making him critical to the offense's success. Jr. Todd Peterson (9 catches, 125 yds, 2 TDs) has great hands, and rarely drops a pass. Sr. Dan Erickson (3 catches, 40 yds), So. Menelik Holt, and TFr. Niles Paul (1 catch, 6 yds) are also capable receivers in the group. Starting TE, Sr. J.B. Phillips (1 catch, 6 yds) has been used primarily as a blocker this season, only getting one reception. Sr. Sean Hill (7 catches, 184 yds, 3 TD) has become the playmaking tight end this year, coming out of relative obscurity. RFr Dreu Young (1 catch, 14 yds), Jr. Hunter Teafatiller (3 catches, 21 yds), and Mike McNeill (1 catch, 25 yds), have all caught passes in their reserve roles.
OL: Nebraska's offensive line has been inconsistent this season, in some respects. Pass protection has been good, but rush blocking has been very weak since the season opener. On the season, they are allowing the backs 4.73 yards per carry, improved slightly this week, after being in free-fall since the opener. Starting at tackle is Sr. Carl Nicks (6'5", 330 lbs) on the left, and Jr. Lydon Murtha (6'7", 310 lbs) on the right. Both have done a nice job keeping Sam Keller upright this season. RFr. Mike Smith (6'6", 290 lbs) and RFr. D.J. Jones (6'5", 310 lbs) are the top tackle reserves. Jr. Matt Slauson (6'5", 335 lbs) starts at RG, and is one of the line's top talents, but has been as consistent as needed. So. Jacob Hickman (6'4", 285 lbs) is now starting at LG, and has performed well. Sr. Jordan Picou (6'3", 300 lbs.) and Jr. Mike Huff (6'4", 300 lbs) are Nebraska's top reserves at guard. Sr. Brett Byford (6'3", 300 lbs) starts at center, and has also been struggling. Jacob Hickman also acts as Byford's back-up.
Nebraska's defense has been under fire over the past month. Wake Forest and USC showed that teams can run on Nebraska with a lot of success, Ball State proved that the Blackshirts have trouble defending the pass, and Iowa State, one of the worst offenses in the country, were able to run 102 plays against the Huskers. Nebraska is ranked 77th nationally in total defense (408.60 ypg), 58th pass defense (219 ypg), 25th pass efficiency defense (106.59 rating), 92nd rush defense (189.60 ypg), and 67th in scoring defense (26.6 ppg).
DL: For the first time this season, Nebraska's defensive line got a push up-front last week. Improvement and consistency will still need to be shown, now at the mid-season point. Jr. Barry Turner (15 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 PBU) starts at open end. Turner seemed to be struggling with the added weight he put on over the off-season, but had a good showing last weekend. Starting at base end is Jr. Zach Potter (22 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 3 QBH), who has put in three good games in a row. Top reserves are Jr. Clayton Sievers (3 tackles, 1 QBH) behind Turner, and RFr. Pierre Allen (1 tackle) behind Potter. Jr. Ndamukong Suh (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR) starts at nose tackle, with Jr. Shukree Barfield (5 tackles) and Sr. Brandon Johnson sharing back-up duties. Suh has the tools to be a great one, but hasn't quite put it all together yet. So. Ty Steinkuhler (4 tackles, 1 FF), starter at defensive tackle, has re-aggravated his knee injury from earlier in the season. Jr. Kevin Dixon (7 tackles, 1 INT) is his primary back-up and has done a nice job when he's had to step in. Nebraska is allowing opponents 4.7 yards per carry, which dropped from 5.4 yards per carry after a solid showing against Iowa State.
LB: Nebraska's linebacking corps also stepped up last week against Iowa State, looking improved over the previous month of action. Jr. Corey McKeon (24 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR, 2 QBH, 2 PBU), who is mid-way through his third season as the starter at MLB started to look like his old self last week after really struggling out of the gate this year. So. Phillip Dillard (21 tackles, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) has been seeing a lot of action because of McKeon's inconsistent play this season, and could just as easily become the starter if needed. Sr. Bo Ruud (31 tackles, 2 INT, 2 FF, 1 PBU) starts at SLB, while Jr. Steve Octavien (37 tackles, 0.5 sack, 5 QBH, 2 PBU) starts at WLB. Octavien is the best of the bunch and leads the team in tackles. Ruud, has had an interception return for touchdown in two consecutive games, both at critical times. Sr. Lance Brandenburgh (15 tackles), is the top back-up for both Octavien and Ruud, and has been playing with a tweaked ankle. RB Major Culbert (1 tackle) is now at linebacker and has great athletic ability.
DB: Nebraska's secondary were shredded by Ball State two weeks ago, but were improved against Iowa State last week. This unit did not give up a passing touchdown while earning 3 interceptions against the Cyclones. The challenge will be tougher this week, however. Sr. Cortney Grixby (9 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 PBU) is a four year starter at WCB, and had the game of his career last week, taking 2 interceptions. Sr. Zack Bowman (14 tackles, 1 INT, 1 QBH), is the team's best cover corner, but nagging injuries have kept him from starting. Jr. Armando Murillo (25 tackles, 3 PBU) starts at LCB, and back-up Sr. Andre Jones (6 tackles, 2 PBU) typically sees a good share of plays. Sr. Tierre Green (10 tackles, 3 PBU) starts at FS and So. Larry Asante (33 tackles, 1 FF, 1 QBH, 1 PBU) is the starter at SS. Top reserves include So. Rickey Thenarse (11 tackles, 1 FF) and Sr. Ben Eisenhart (5 tackles) at FS, with Sr. Bryan Wilson (6 tackles, 1 QBH) at SS. Thenarse has great speed and is a vicious hitter.
Nebraska Special Teams
Nebraska's special teams have been good this season, with quality kickers and a return game that showed signs of life last week. The Huskers are ranked 23rd in net punting (37.67 yd avg), 95th in punt returns (6.10 yd avg), and 42nd in kickoff returns (22.93 yd avg).
K: TFr. Adi Kunalic (1 for 1, 46 yd lng) handles kickoffs and long field goals. Kunalic's powerful leg pushed through 15 of 30 kickoffs for touchback, with a 67.2 yard average. RFr. Alex Henery handles short field goals (3 for 3, 37 yd lng) and extra points.
P: Jr. Dan Titchener is a Ray Guy Award candidate, as one of the nation's top punters. He is averaging 41.7 yards on 20 punts with a long of 51. 6 of his 20 punts have been downed inside the opponents' 20. He has above average leg power, with solid consistency.
KR/PR: Nebraska's kick return game has been good, however, the punt return game needs work. Seniors Andre Jones (7 kick returns, 21.3 yd avg) and Cortney Grixby (17 kick returns, 25.8 yd avg) are the top kickoff return team. Cortney Grixby (7 punt returns, 5.1 yd avg) and Andre Jones (2 returns, 12.5 yd avg) are also the team's top punt returners.
Coverage: Nebraska's coverage teams have been average this season. The kick coverage unit is allowing an average of 20.4 yards on 16 kickoff returns, while the punt return coverage team allows a 6 yard average on 9 punt returns.
Nebraska's Offense vs. Missouri's Defense
Nebraska's offense has looked great in the passing game over the past few weeks as QB Sam Keller is progressing nicely in the west coast offense. The Nebraska receivers had been getting better, but last week against Iowa State, the dropped balls seen in the first two games reappeared. One thing to look for is whether or not Nebraska receiver Maurice Purify makes the trip to Columbia. His girlfriend tragically killed in a car accident in California last Saturday, and although he is expected to play, it is not necessarily 100%. If he is not playing, Nebraska's receiving corps becomes very average and doesn't have another proven big-time threat to take his place. Missouri's defensive backfield hasn't set the world on fire, and has struggled against some inferior competition in Ole Miss and Illinois, both teams earning over 300 yards passing. Keep in mind that against Illinois, it was a back-up quarterback doing most of the work. Missouri is allowing opponents to complete 61% of their passes, while Nebraska QB Sam Keller is completing 65% of his throws. Keller has the ability to throw all over the Missouri defense.
The Nebraska run game has not been a particularly strong commodity for the Huskers lately. Marlon Lucky is still getting pretty good yards, with 107 yards last week on just 16 carries. Still, as a whole, the blocking up front needs to show improvement for these backs to get an initial burst. Missouri is giving up 4.2 yards per carry this season, while Nebraska's running backs are averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Ole Miss was able to get 6 yards per carry against the Tigers, but that is really the only poor performance the rush defense has had this season. Missouri's defense is allowing opponents to convert 37% of their third down conversions, while holding opponents to a great 63% success in red-zone scoring. Meanwhile, Nebraska is converting 46% of their third downs and maintains a solid 87% red-zone scoring offense.
Up front, Nebraska's offensive line is much bigger than Missouri's defensive line. Nebraska's average offensive lineman is 6'5", 312 lbs, while Iowa State's average defensive lineman stands at just 6'3", 280 lbs. The Husker tackles will have to show that they can deal with the quickness of the Missouri ends if they want to keep Sam Keller off the turf. Nebraska's offensive line has not been blocking well in the run game, but has done a quality job protecting QB Sam Keller. The Huskers have given up 5 sacks this season, while Missouri has 24 tackles for loss and 8 sacks this season. Missouri's ability to put on a good pass rush will be critical to their defensive success, especially if Nebraska is not able to generate a great running game.
Missouri's Offense vs. Nebraska's Defense
Missouri's offense is tough to stop behind QB Chase Daniel, who is on pace to flirt with 4000 passing yards this season. His mobility in the pocket is a major plus, and playing in shotgun formations in the spread attack also gives him a great view of the field, despite his relatively short 6' even frame. Nebraska's defensive front hasn't put a great pass rush together this season, but did earn 3 sacks last week against an Iowa State team that had given up just 3 sacks all season long. Daniel has some outstanding playmakers to get the ball to in receivers Jeremy Maclin and Will Franklin, as well as the phenomenal TE duo of Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman. Nebraska's defensive backfield was obliterated by Ball State two weeks ago, but has played quite well outside of that game, especially now that CB Zack Bowman is 100%.
The Missouri running game has been effective this season with Tony Temple leading the charge. Temple has rushed for over 96 yards in each of the last 3 games while averaging over 6 yards per carry. Nebraska's defense was improved against the run last week after not looking very good the three games prior. Still, Nebraska does miss more tackles than they should, which will be a big problem Saturday if that is not sewn up. This is not a great running team, but because of their spread attack, it does allow for some big gains when teams aren't looking for it. Nebraska's linebackers were much improved last week, but still not where they need to be. Missouri's third down conversion percentage is a 57%, and has an above average 88% red-zone scoring average. The Nebraska defense has been poor on 3rd downs, especially of late, allowing opponents to convert on 41% of their attempts. In the red-zone, the Husker defense has not been impressive, allowing opponents an 85% red-zone scoring average.
Missouri's average offensive lineman is 6'6", 314 lbs, while Nebraska's average defensive lineman comes in at 6'4", 284 lbs. Missouri should continue to give good pass protection to QB Chase Daniel, as the Husker defensive front hasn't scared anyone yet this season. Nebraska has picked up 34 tackles for loss and just 6 sacks through five games, however, earned 9 tackles for loss and 3 sacks last week against Iowa State. Nebraska's defense is allowing a huge 4.7 yards per carry, which is due to poor angles and poor tackling that plagued the Huskers in games two through four of the season. Missouri, averaging 5.7 yards per carry this season have to believe they can run it on the Huskers.
Keys to the Game
For Nebraska to Win:
1.) Consistency in the passing game. A solid game from Keller, and minimal drops from the receivers.
2.) Win turnover battle. Giveaways kept Iowa State in the game last week. Takeaways put them away.
3.) Eliminate penalties. Can't afford to kill drives with false starts and holds, or give new life to opponent with roughing flags.
4.) Must have a competent rushing game.
5.) Tackle well, don't give up big plays. Missouri is explosive.
For Missouri to Win:
1.) Keep Daniel on his feet, allow him to pick on a suspect Nebraska pass defense.
2.) Tony Temple needs to have a solid game.
3.) Can't throw interceptions. Daniel has thrown two picks in each of the last two games.
4.) Get the ball to Jeremy Maclin, he has been outstanding this season.
5.) Get after Nebraska QB Sam Keller, when under pressure, he has made mental errors this season.
Special Teams: Nebraska
WR - Maurice Purify - personal - questionable
DE - Clayton Sievers - questionable
DT - Ty Steinkuhler - knee - questionable
RB - Cody Glenn - knee - questionable
OG - Andy Christensen - knee - out for season
RB - Kenny Wilson - leg - out for season
OT - Dain Wise - knee - questionable
WR - Danario Alexander - wrist - questionable
DE - John Stull - suspension - out indefinitely
Game Breakdown & Outlook
This is the 101st meeting between Missouri and Nebraska. The Huskers hold a comfortable 63-34-3 record all-time against the Tigers. However, recent history has shown things to be more competitive between these two teams. The Huskers and Tigers are deadlocked at 2-2 over the past 4 years, with neither team able to win on the road. Last season, Nebraska defeated Missouri 34-20 in Lincoln, as the Huskers used a balance attack offensively (236 passing, 183 rushing) and a solid defensive effort to get the victory. Missouri defeated Nebraska in 2005, 41-24 in Columbia, as QB Brad Smith led the Tigers to 17 unanswered points in the second half to get the big win. Missouri hasn't beaten Nebraska 3 consecutive times at home since 1957-1961, before the Huskers' program really took off.
Missouri and head coach Gary Pinkel are right where they're supposed to be, coming into this game 4-0. Although the level of competition hasn't been great, they did what they needed to do to get victories. The season started with a tough-fought game with Illinois, as the Missouri defense struggled to stop Eddie McGee, Illinois' back-up QB. The Tigers were victorious in large part to special teams and defensive touchdowns. In the Tigers' second game, against Ole Miss, Missouri again struggled in the second half, giving up big yardage in both the run and passing games. QB Chase Daniel was again explosive, throwing for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns. The past two games haven't been as competitive, defeating Western Michigan 52-24 and Illinois State 38-17. Missouri has had two weeks to prepare for this week's game against the Huskers. A victory Saturday against Nebraska would be a big step towards winning the Big XII North division this season.
Nebraska is where they should be as well, at 4-1. Nebraska dominated their season opener against Nevada 52-10, rushing for 413 yards and passing for 212. The next week at Wake Forest they were unable to do much offensively, but still won 23-20. Week three against USC was a debacle, as the Trojans squashed the Husker defense for 457 yards in route to a 49-31 victory in Lincoln. Game four against Ball State was expected to go much smoother, but it did not. Nebraska found themselves in a shoot-out, giving up 610 yards, but coming out on top 41-40. Then last week against Iowa State, turnovers and penalties hurt Nebraska, but they were still able to come away with a 35-17 win. Nebraska hasn't performed as well as many had hoped, and a win over Missouri this week would be a big boost of confidence for the Huskers.
Nebraska's offense should be able to throw the ball with relative ease against the Missouri defense. For that to happen though, there will need to be a more consistent effort from all involved. The Nebraska receivers cannot afford to drop wide open passes, Sam Keller must be pin-point with his throws, and the offensive line will need to keep the aggressive pass rush of Missouri held in check. If WR Maurice Purify decides he will make the trip to Columbia, it will give Nebraska a huge target against a mediocre Missouri defensive backfield. If he doesn't make the trip, it puts a lot of pressure on other receivers that are not at the level of a Purify. The offensive line must do a better job of rush blocking so that RB Marlon Lucky can be a difference maker again this season. Teams have found success against Missouri running the football, teams with less talent than Nebraska. Missouri's defense has to play their best football of the season Saturday, because Nebraska has shown that they can move the ball up and down the field.
Missouri's offense is running like a fine tuned machine, putting up a lot of yardage and points through four games. QB Chase Daniel is completing 65.9% of his passes this season and is has many great receiving targets on the field. To defend against the Missouri spread attack last season, Nebraska ran many 3 man fronts and enjoyed some success in doing so. Because of the lacking push up-front from the defensive line, it won't be a surprise for Nebraska to put an extra linebacker or defensive back on the field again this season. Missouri's numerous receiving threats, including their two great tight ends, Rucker and Coffman, will present problems for Nebraska's defensive backfield, especially with how inconsistent their play has been. As for the run game, Missouri has been putting up an average of 200 yards per game, which isn't too bad considering they are more of a pass oriented team. Nebraska was outstanding against Iowa State last week against the rush, holding the Cyclones to just 2.6 yards per carry on 51 attempts. They will need that type of performance to carry over to this weekend.
Both Nebraska and Missouri should be able to put up a good amount of points in this game, and could easily be won by the team who has the ball last. The difference should be whichever team can have a more effective rushing attack. Nebraska has a better stable of running backs, while Nebraska and Missouri's offensive lines are similar in terms of talent and production. Nebraska has been playing against better offenses and defenses up to this point in the season and that should help them, especially the tough road victory at Wake Forest. Missouri always seems to find a way to lose when they are in a good position in the standings, which is something to consider. Look for Nebraska to get their first win in Columbia since 2001, but by a narrow margin.
Nebraska - 38
Missouri - 35
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