First off, just as a disclaimer, I realize I have been inactive in not just the Missouri community, but B/R in general. This has nothing to do with the recent struggles of Mizzou's football team, but more with the enormous school workload that I have had lately. It should get better after this week (hopefully).
Now, obviously Missouri was embarrassed on Saturday in Austin, and I'm not all that surprised. The whole secondary looked like crap, both lines got pushed around, and stupid penalties nixed any hopes of an upset.
The Tigers have lost two games in a row for the first time since November 2006. Their national championship hopes are gone, and their BCS hopes are dwindling. But the Big 12 North is still very much in reach, and with only half a season left in a senior class that includes Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, William Moore, and Ziggy Hood, the team needs to show what it's made of.
Will Missouri step up and finish on a high note, or will the 2008 class go down as one of the most disappointing in school history?
A lot of questions will be answered this week against the Colorado Buffaloes. Colorado is a talented team and was on the cusp of being ranked earlier this season, but recent offensive woes handed them three straight losses before a one-point victory against Kansas State last weekend.
Here are five keys to a Missouri win—a win that could get their season back on track.
5. Home Crowd Advantage
It's homecoming this weekend at the school that invented homecoming—meaning the environment at Faurot Field should be perfect for a blowout victory over a struggling Big 12 rival. If the fans can get behind Missouri early, then the Buffs will be forced to throw the ball, which they've struggled with lately. This could be especially huge if true freshman Tyler Hansen plays significant minutes.
4. Turnovers against Buffs
Chase Daniel was better against Texas about protecting the ball, so the main point of this battle will be the Missouri defense. Cody Hawkins has the tendency to give the ball to the other team, and Hansen already has an interception after just 14 pass attempts. If the Tigers can force a fumble or two and get a pick, this game could be a breeze.
3. Coaching, coaching, coaching
Gary Pinkel's status as a coach as fallen far in the last couple weeks, and Matt Eberflus isn't safe in Columbia as the defensive coordinator. The Tigers weren't just beat physically against Texas—they were out-coached and unprepared.
Colorado's Dan Hawkins has a fine reputation as a head coaching tactician. He's definitely capable of outthinking his opponent and getting a win. If the Tigers come out flat again or get beaten by blitzing schemes or blocking patterns like they did against OK State, it reflects very poorly on their coaching staff.
2. Derrick Washington, where art thou?
Derrick Washington was still MIA last week in Austin, only gaining 35 total yards and one touchdown. D-Wash, or some form of the running game, MUST emerge for the Tigers to be a dangerous offense. It just has to happen. A huge part of that is the offensive line, which got beat consistently against the Longhorns.
1. Kick the Buffs when they're down
Colorado's offense is really struggling right now. Since their 3-0 start, they're averaging only 15.75 points per game. Missouri HAS to take advantage of that!
Everything about this matchup bodes well for the Tiger defense to bounce back. They're playing a team that is struggling to pass the ball and put up points. They can, and MUST, make a huge statement in Columbia on Saturday evening.
Prediction: Missouri 41, Colorado 21
Am I worried about another upset? Of course. I haven't seen the Tigers look this flat in two consecutive games in a very long time. But as I've mentioned, they are poised to bounce back against the Buffs, and on paper and with intangibles, everything says they will.
I think Chase Daniel has a pretty big day, D-Wash gets rolling again, and the linebacking corps gets some confidence back against a Buffs team that has some pretty talented young runners.