Oklahoma vs. Missouri: 5 Reasons No.1 Sooners Can't Overlook Tigers
Missouri lost their prolific quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, to the first round of the NFL Draft. They have three running backs on crutches. Their new quarterback James Franklin is only a runner. Their top defensive end Jacquies Smith gruesomely dislocated his elbow in Week 1. OU just beat the No. 5 team in the country and is overflowing with talent on both sides of the ball.
Sounds like a walk in the park for the top-ranked Sooners, right?
In the infamous words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend!
I don't think I need to remind Sooner fans of last year's debacle in Columbia. That dud is reason enough not to overlook this Tigers team. Head coach Gary Pinkel will have his squad focused and ready to make it two in a row for the Tigers.
Let's take a look at a few obstacles for the Sooners if they wish to improve to 3-0.
QB James Franklin
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Despite his unfortunate reputation, QB James Franklin in fact can throw the ball and is a danger to take it to the house at any time from anywhere on the field.
Most of the judgement Franklin has received is based on his poor performance in an underwhelming 17-6 win over Miami (OH), where he threw for only 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Given the fact that it was his first career start, I give him a pass on that one. They did win the game, after all.
His second bad mark comes from the loss to Arizona State in Week 2. This defeat was hardly James' fault, however. The secondary was torched all game long as the Sun Devils marched up and down the field as they pleased.
James did everything he could to keep his team in the game. He amassed over 400 total yards and three touchdowns (no picks) and engineered a 14-point, fourth quarter comeback to send the game into overtime.
He scored Missouri's final touchdown against Oklahoma last year that put the game out of reach. Don't think he's not capable of doing the same thing this Saturday. Keep an eye on this under rated talent.
RB Henry Josey
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It is true that Mizzou has had to scratch three running backs off the roster already this year, including their 2010 leading rusher, senior De'Vion Moore, as well as the guy tagged as the starter at the beginning of this season, junior Kendial Lawrence.
It is not true, however, that they are out of options in the backfield. Sophomore Henry Josey has blasted onto the scene, rushing for a whopping 263 yards and three touchdowns in the first half last week against FCS Western Illinois. Division II opponent or not, that is flat out impressive.
It's not just one game, though. Henry is averaging 13.8YPC on 29 carries this year. I have a feeling his name will be called early and often by the announcers.
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DE Jacquies Smith suffered a horrendous elbow dislocation in the Tigers' Week 1 game, but has somehow managed to get himself healthy and is back on top of the depth chart.
The senior was named to just about every All Big 12 preseason list and is on the Lombardi Award watch list...and for good reason.
Opposite Smith at the DE position is junior Brad Madison. Brad led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2010 and joins Jacquies on most of the All Big 12 lists, as well as the Lombardi watch list.
Oklahoma took care of a talented defensive front last week against Florida State, but if similar attention isn't paid to these sack machines, they will be in Landry Jones' back pocket all game long.
Other Offensive Weapons
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QB James Franklin has a couple extremely reliable targets in WR T.J. Moe and TE Michael Egnew. Both players tallied more than 90 catches a piece last year, which, in a world without Ryan Broyles, is very impressive.
Egnew and Moe made names for themselves in a big way last year. T.J. was fourth in the Big 12 in receiving yards and Michael was a consensus First Team All American. Both are experienced, sure-handed receivers that will make James Franklin's job that much easier.
They also return their third leading receiver from a season ago, Jarrell Jackson. The speedster hasn't made an impact this year yet (one catch for three yards), but he personally buried the Sooners last year with nine catches, 139 yards and a back-breaking fourth quarter touchdown.
Jackson is living up to his...let's call it "confident"...reputation this week in the press. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Jarrell talked about the Sooners' 78-2 home record under Bob Stoops by saying “I don’t know what makes ’em tough. Nothing tough about ’em to me.”
Travis Lewis and Kenny Stills fired back via their Twitter accounts, both labeling the receiver as "bait."
The Oklahoma Sooners
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Every time the Crimson and Cream step on the field, there are two teams that can beat them: the opposition and themselves. Last year was an unfortunate combination of both.
The Sooners completely fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Tigers, giving up 16 unanswered points as QB Landry Jones went 0-for-7 passing. Oklahoma waltzed into that game undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the country, just like this year.
Sure, the Sooners are going to be favored in their remaining games on the schedule, but that doesn't mean they can't be beat if they throw in a clunker like they did last year.
Luckily, the team is virtually injury free. LB Travis Lewis returned early from his broken foot to help the team win in Tallahassee last week and, assuming there weren't any setbacks, will be in the lineup again this Saturday.
OT Jarvis Jones is the only notable Sooner on the injury report. While his talent and size would help tremendously, the offensive line has played very well in his absence.
WR Trey Franks has been suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Even with the depth at WR, this could affect the team as he had impressed so far returning kickoffs.
They keys for Oklahoma to play well are Landry Jones not repeating his two interception performance from a year ago and the special teams not giving up any big plays. Allowing Mizzou to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown last year derailed the whole team and eerily foreshadowed the remaining events of the night.
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I have done all I can do to talk up the Missouri Tigers. They have some top-flight athletes that, given the chance, could keep the game close.
In all honesty, however, the Sooners are just too powerful to realistically consider an upset. Technically, this is a "trap" game coming off a big win against Florida State, but Bob Stoops' teams have never shown a propensity to let down after a notable win. Considering last year's meeting, the Sooners will be out for blood.
The Missouri defense was sliced up by an Arizona State offense that can't even begin to be compared to the perpetual offensive juggernaut that soars out of Norman every year.
The Sooner defense surprised many last week, playing toe-to-toe with one of the most highly touted D's in the nation. No doubt Travis Lewis' return helped.
To make things worse for Missouri, they are missing two senior starters due to injury, LT Elvis Fisher and LB Will Ebner.
OU looks like the most complete team in the country right now and, barring a Chernobyl-sized meltdown (knock on wood), should add to their league-leading 37-game home win streak.
Prediction: James Franklin plays well, but Landry Jones makes up for last year with a monster performance. 38-17 Oklahoma over Missouri.