By RALPH MANCINI - CFI SENIOR WRITER
THE 11TH RANKED Missouri Tigers (5-1, 1-1) look to reestablish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams after a devastating 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State. What better way to bounce back than to lock horns with top ranked and unbeaten Texas (6-0, 2-0) only a week after Mack Brown’s boys staged a resounding comeback in last week’s showdown with Oklahoma. This 21st meeting between the two Big 12 powerhouses takes place at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin. Texas has won five of the six games between both squads since the birth of the Big 12 conference in 1996. One has to go way back to 1896 for the last time Mizzou actually won in Austin.
When the Tigers Have the Ball
SUPER SENIOR Chase Daniel is the signal caller of the Tigers’ quick-strike attack, which ranks third in the nation in total offense (549.7 YPG) despite the fact that it’s only 117th in time of possession (26:01). Generously listed at 6’0”, Daniel has both a strong and accurate arm, which combined with his mobility make him tough to defend. Overall, Daniel has completed 76 percent of his throws for 2,055 yards and 16 touchdowns. His primary targets in the passing game are speedster Jeremy Maclin at wide out and the ridiculously athletic tight end Chase Coffman. Maclin may be the most dangerous receiver in football with the ball in his hands. His ability to make would-be tacklers miss in the open field has led to several catch-and-run scores on offense, as well as a number of highlight-reel plays as a return man. The sophomore is especially lethal on crossing patterns. Coffman’s size (6’6”, 255 lbs.) belies his physical gifts, including his ability to hurdle oncoming defenders. While he may not possess breakaway speed, Coffman has outstanding hands and has often been compared to Todd Heap in the way he can out-jump opponents. Tailback Derrick Washington leads a rushing attack averaging 171.7 yards per game. The 5’11, 220 lb. sophomore has more than made up for the departure of Tony Temple by utilizing a tantalizing cocktail of power, speed and elusiveness in breaking tackles inside and also getting around the edge for big-yardage plays. In addition to averaging 6.8 yards per run, Washington has also scored 11 of Missouri’s 16 touchdowns on the ground. Many questioned the Tiger offensive line going into the season, but the strong play of this unheralded group has allowed Daniel to stay out of harm’s way. This unit is led by senior right tackle Colin Brown, a master at reading defenses, recognizing blitzes and transmitting his knowledge to his fellow linemen. Jeff Wolfert is Missouri’s ultra-reliable kicker with an 82.5 percent success rate on field goals over the past three seasons.
THE TIGERS will be looking to exploit a shaky Texas secondary that surrendered 387 yards passing to Oklahoma last week. The bright side was the Longhorn run defense, which shut down the Sooner ground game (48 yards). Nose tackle Roy Miller is a key cog in this impenetrable wall. Along with effectively holding the point of attack, the 6’1”, 300 lb. Miller can also get into the opponent’s backfield and take down running backs behind the line of scrimmage or pressure quarterbacks. Weakside linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy is the beneficiary of the exceptional play up front, which has helped him become the leading tackler on the squad with 56. His tenacity and determination make him an emotional leader that others feed off of. Defensive end Brian Orakpo is the unit’s top pass rusher. With two sacks in last week’s contest, the fifth-year senior further cemented his status as an unstoppable force that won’t be denied. Under the tutelage of coordinator Will Muschamp, “Rak” has developed a “speed-to-power” move in which he appears to be planning on going around a blocker only to smash into his blocker and drive him back. Strong side linebacker Sergio Kindle is a versatile defender that can wreak havoc by pressuring the quarterback off the edge. Ryan Palmer is a do-it-all corner back.
When the ‘Horns Have the Ball
QUARTERBACK COLT McCoy showed he’s a money player that not only steps up in big games, but also has a knack for bringing his team back from a deficit. The junior field general is a physically strong player that makes sound decisions from the pocket. His improved mobility is helping him do a better job of eluding the pass rush this season. The chemistry between McCoy and wide out Jordan Shipley will be key in this game. Shipley is much more than a reliable possession type—he’s an athletic and decisive runner after the catch and a factor as a kick returner. The fifth-year senior was in rhythm last week and commanded the ball throughout. Tag-team partner Quan Cosby can also be a handful to contain. This former baseball prospect has authored a myriad of acrobatic plays thanks to his superb body control. Cosby and Shipley are both averaging over 80 yards a game with 11 receiving touchdowns between them. Running back Chris Ogbonnaya has morphed into a true difference maker of late by showcasing an impressive mix of power and speed. Ogbonnaya has suddenly become a big-play threat that defenses must account for. The all-purpose back has made three plays of 50 yards or more both as a runner and receiver in his past two games. Guard Cedric Dockery is a physical and athletic presence along the offensive line.
ON DEFENSE, Mizzou’s defensive end combo of Stryker Sulak and Tommy Chavis provide the heat off the edges. In six games, the duo has produced seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss. The 6’2”, 265 lb. Chavis has the speed to knife his way into the opponent’s backfield and force turnovers. Sulak’s non-stop motor also allows him to be the ultimate disruptor and forces the offense into committing costly errors. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood is a rock on the inside. His aggressiveness and mean streak help make him an impact player that’s always capable of making important stops in crucial moments. The 300-pounder can also bring it as an interior pass rusher with 12.5 career sacks. This formidable cast of defensive players is led by the unit’s ultimate playmaker, Sean Weatherspoon. Whether it’s ripping the ball out of an offensive player’s hands, making clutch fourth quarter interceptions or laying the smackdown on a helpless running back, this weakside linebacker is an omnipresent force who can take it to the house with the ball in his hands. Middle linebacker Brock Christopher is an under-the-radar performer who has improved his lateral movement, which puts him in better position to make tackles. As arguably the top safety in the country, William Moore is the ultimate ballhawk, who possesses great size at 6’1”, 230 lbs. and isn’t shy about getting his nose dirty when it comes to stopping the run. His physical style and ball skills mask the fact that he’s a very disciplined defender who knows his assignments and diligently fills the gaps. Carl Gettis is Mizzou’s top cover corner. The versatile Gettis doesn’t hesitate to deliver a bone-jarring hit when necessary.
EXPECT ANOTHER barnburner between two offenses that should have no problem scoring 30 plus points. In the end, the Orangeblood aerial attack will be too much for a Missouri secondary giving up 271 yards per game. The Tigers won’t have enough to contain both Cosby and Shipley.
Prediction: Texas 38, Missouri 31
Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations, University of Texas Athletics
Friday, October 17, 2008
By RALPH MANCINI - CFI SENIOR WRITER