BY BROCK MURPHY
BIG 12 INSIDER
1) Last weekend, Missouri had its hands full in the first half of its game with Kansas State in the Little Apple, taking the locker room with just a 21-18 lead. In fact, with just two minutes left in the game, Mizzou’s offense had outgained that of KSU by a single yard (407 to 406). The difference was efficiency. The Tigers were twice as efficient at turning real estate gained into paydirt by producing six offensive TD’s to KSU’s three. Chase Daniel was the efficiency trigger for Mizzou – completing 28 of 41 passes for 284 yards and 4 TD’s (0 INT’s). Tiger receiver Jeremy Maclin snagged nine of Daniel’s tosses for 143 yards and two scores. MU’s Tony Temple kept things honest offensively with his 16 carries for 75 yards and 2 TD’s. An obvious area of concern for the Tigers is pass defense. Ranked 96th, nationally, they entered the KSU game giving up 259 yards per game. KSU made that stat honest by gaining 256 yards and picking up two scores through the air. The Wildcats’ Josh Freeman was ranked 62nd in the nation in pass efficiency (14 TD’s/10 INT’s). Next up? Kansas’s Todd Reesing, who, though nursing a gimpy ankle, has thrown 30 TD’s and only 4 INT’s this season.
2) Kansas made it certain that both teams in next weekend’s battle in Arrowhead Stadium will be in the top 5 with an impressive 45-7 over Iowa State. Clearly bothered by a sore ankle, QB Todd Reesing led the Jayhawk charge with 4 TD’s and 253 yards after completing 21 of 26 passes. Five incompletions and no interceptions… not bad. Keeping things honest, tailbacks Jake Sharp and Brandon McAnderson had 24 combined carries for 153 yards. The Jayhawk defense dominated both sides of the ball – holding ISU to two yards per carry (26-52) while limiting the Cyclone passing attack to less-than 8 yards per catch (24-182). They also intercepted a pass while keeping ISU from tossing a scoring pass. KU’s Aqib Talib could be the nation’s top cornerback but you can bet Missouri’s athletic receivers, Jeremy Maclin and William Franklin noticed Talib’s vulnerability to a combination route, which ISU’s Marquis Hamilton threw on him early in the game for a 46-yard gain.
3) Kansas State lost to Mizzou but put in a good offensive effort in the process. Josh Freeman threw for 256 yards and two TD’s, though the yardage was a hair under 10 yards per completion and he also threw an interception. On the ground, senior James Johnson had his best outing of the year with 172 yards, including a rumbling 66-yard scamper near the end of the 1st-quarter. The Wildcats should be proud of the 406 yards they posted against the Tiger defense but have to be concerned about their three turnovers, including two fumbles. KSU ends the season visiting Fresno State, a team whose defense has produced only 10 turnovers while allowing nearly 200 rushing yards per game.
4) Iowa State ended its season with the 45-7 loss in Lawrence. Head Coach Gene Chizik’s first season was not quite what Cyclone fans had in mind. Having finished 4-8 in 2006, ISU ended 2007 with a worse record (3-9). With the former defensive coordinator and defensive-back coach from Texas at the helm, one expected the Cyclone defense to show great strides against the pass. Numbers did improve for this year’s unit, but not by much. The 2006 Cyclones were the most considerate in the nation to other team’s passers, having allowed a 72.46% completion rate. The 2007 model barely reduced that number (to 69.7%). This year’s defense also bested the 2006 team’s TD/INT ratio – 24/10 (’07) to 26/6 (’06). One area which saw clear improvement under Chizik was rush defense, where this year’s team finished 38th (129 ypg) while last year’s unit was ranked 89th (154 ypg).
5) Nebraska will play for bowl-eligibility against Colorado the day after Thanksgiving but they will also likely be playing their last game for Head Coach Bill Callahan. Seven Husker opponents have run for 195 yards or more this year, including four opponents who have topped the 300-yard mark. As a result, only four teams in the nation (Louisiana-Lafayette, Army, North Texas and UAB) have given up more yards on the ground (228 ypg) than the Black Shirts. The Black Shirts have only produced 11 turnovers this year (3 fumbles, 8 INT’s) while Nebraska’s offense has given up 25 turnovers (11 fumbles, 14 INT’s), which is why Big Red is tied for 114th in the nation in turnover margin. Even with Joe Ganz at the helm, the Huskers’ passing attack has been productive and, in fact, deep-threat Maurice Purify has two straight 100-yard games. Remember, heading into this week’s game against CU, Nebraska has come off of the opposite ends of 70-point games (39-76 at KU; 73-31 vs. KSU), but Joe Ganz now has two games’ worth of experience behind him and nearly two weeks to prepare for this season’s finale. Nebraska has won the last two games against Colorado, besting the Buffaloes 37-14 in Lincoln last year and 30-10 in 2005 in Boulder.
6) Colorado lost to Iowa State two weeks ago to put them in a position where both they and Nebraska will be playing for Bowl Eligibility this Friday. The Buffs don’t do anything particularly well but neither are they among the nation’s worst in any category. Quarterback Cody Hawkins has a shaky TD/INT ratio of 17/15 this year but his 2,452 passing yards this season is positively prolific compared to the 1,422 yards the team posted in 2006. CU’s rushing defense has historically been strong and that remains the case this year (128 ypg [34th, nationally]) and its pass defense is more efficient than last year’s model (58% completion rate; 12 INT’s and 20 TD’s vs. 67% 12/22 in ‘06).
Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations