Missouri Football Preview: Week One vs. Illinois

Peter FleischerSenior Writer IAugust 23, 2008

As far as keeping the Missouri community up-to-date with Mizzou information, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. But with the season upon us, it's now time for more.

Beginning this weekend (I'm starting a week earlier than I normally would to build some hype for the season), I'll preview Missouri's upcoming game and give five points of interest or importance for the Tigers going into the game.


5. Special teams

Regardless of how sexy special teams are, count on them to make a difference in St. Louis. There's a new placekicker in Champaign, a new punter in Columbia and two of the most dynamic return men in the nation.

For the Tigers, look for the legs to be crucial. Traditionally, Jeff Wolfert has started seasons off a little rusty so even though he is one of the most consistent kickers in the land, he might not be his usual self.

Also, Jake Harry will be punting in his first Division I football game, and Ron Zook will know it. If Harry can be even decent, the field position battle should be even. If he shanks a couple or gets a punt blocked, a short field could leave the defense handcuffed.


4. Mizzou's big LB advantage

Illinois fans want to talk about senior Brit Miller, but you can't replace J Leman. Period. Their unit is talented but simply not as good as last year's. Look for Chase Daniel to take advantage with a few QB draws and short passes; and watch for Chase Coffman to have a big day.

On the other side of the ball, even if Van Alexander isn't able to start (which he might be), Luke Lambert is almost as good. After a whole season together, Christopher, 'Spoon, and Alexander are one of the best LB corps in the country. I'd be stunned to see the QB (McGee did a lot of damage too) run all over the Tigers again.


3. The youngsters on the offensive line

Elvis Fisher and Tim Barnes will be getting their first starts at the collegiate level on Saturday night. Although both are loved by coaches, they'll have to block Will Davis and a very talented defensive line that is capable of wreaking havoc.

The loss of Sirod Williams hurts Illinois, but the D-line still poses a huge threat to Chase Daniel. Few Tiger fans remember he actually had to sit out a couple plays after getting his bell rung in St. Louis last season. If Daniel doesn't have time to make plays, that obviously affects the offense big time.


2. No Rashard

Although Rashard Mendenhall didn't really hurt Missouri last season (he had 11 rushes for 33 yards and two TDs), simply removing the threat of him makes Tigers fans relieved. Illinois has a respectable and promising young stable of backs, but none is nearly as talented as Rashard.

Simply put, no Rashard means fewer threats to focus on for the Tigers defense.


1. Juice versus Chase

Both will make their plays, but I think that everybody knows who will make more. Juice often takes what the defense gives him, whether its QB draws or short passes, but expect coordinator Matt Eberflus to really get his boys honed in on making it a long day for Williams.

As for Chase, I expect the kid to have a monster day. He's improved since last season according to everybody in Columbia and he'll come out focused and energized for his senior campaign.

Pending a disaster in Fisher and Barnes' debut, Chase will start his final year off on the right foot.


Final Prediction: Missouri 38, Illinois 24

There is no reason Missouri should lose this game. They are more talented, more experienced and the Dome in St. Louis should be truly neutral. It will definitely be a great contest, but Missouri will take the season opener.


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