With their backs against the walls, the Missouri Tigers responded with a dominating home win against Iowa State. How should expectations be adjusted going forward?
To outsiders, Mizzou's 52-17 victory over the now 3-3 Iowa State Cyclones probably doesn't seem too important in the grand scheme of this college football season.
It doesn't really do anything for Iowa State except decrease their chances of earning a spot in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Mizzou probably avoided the Pinstripe Bowl with the win and is now looking toward the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The result of this game didn't stop the presses, and it shouldn't have.
Still, Mizzou needed this win to get back on track. In a do-or-die, see-what-you've-got game, the Tigers severely adjusted expectations for themselves by showing the kind of talent and focus that is needed to beat any team in the nation. Pre-season expectations were higher for this club than the results have shown thus far, but maybe fans got a glimpse of how good this team can be in the Iowa State game.
With the team getting a game like this under their belt, the Tigers are now focused and know what it takes to play a disciplined game. This game shows that the rest of the Big 12 should take notice of Missouri's talent, starting with a showdown with Oklahoma State this weekend.
Oklahoma State is extremely talented and deserves to be big favorites when they come to Columbia on Saturday. Still, the Cowboys have weaknesses and with the talent that the Tigers showcased last Saturday, they can be exploited.
Firstly, the play of Henry Josey and the Mizzou rushing attack in general should give Oklahoma State fans something to worry about. It seems like Gary Pinkel and Co. finally got the memo and decided to pound the run this week to the tune of 58 rushing attempts (only 29 passes). With talent like Josey, a healthy Kendial Lawrence and the dual threat of James Franklin, Mizzou may have found an identity this weekend.
Josey and his 9.7 yards per carry will go up against an Oklahoma State defense that has allowed nearly 160 yards per game on the ground (4.5 yards per carry). Oklahoma State hasn't seen anyone like Josey, either, so they will certainly have their hands full. If the Pinkel can commit to more carries for his backs and more designed options for James Franklin, the Mizzou offense could reach another level, especially against a suspect Cowboys defense.
There is no way that the Oklahoma State offense can be stopped, but with the way Mizzou cornerbacks Kip Edwards, E.J. Gaines and even Robert Steeples forced a number of coverage sacks against Iowa State with great downfield coverage, the Cowboys will have to come with a great gameplan to score the way they have gotten used to.
The improvements of Mizzou's pass defense shows in the numbers, also. After allowing an average of almost 350 yards passing in their first three games against FBS opponents, the Tigers have allowed 298 passing yards in their last two games combined.
Strength of opponent comes into play, but Mizzou has passed both the eye and stat test in the passing game. Brandon Weeden and the OSU passing game will obviously make some great plays on Saturday, but there is enough talent in this secondary to limit the damage. Just look at the game against No. 1 Oklahoma last season. Landry Jones threw for 303 yards, but that was good for only 6 yards per attempt and he also threw two interceptions.
You have to be cautious to not take one good game out of context, but for Missouri fans, Saturday was the game that showed what kind of talent and game most expected from the Tigers this season. If they can replicate that kind of focus and intensity this Saturday, we could have another exciting Big 12 game for Gus Johnson to call.