So, you're all Pay-Per-View'd up and ready for Mizzou vs. San Diego State? Just to be safe, RPT of Rock M Nation has a primer of what you need to know prior to kickoff.
Narrative TV Announcers Will Make You Sick of Hearing: HENRY JOSEY WOOO FAST SPEED EXPLOSIONS!
Maybe this category should be "Narrative TV announcers will make neutral observers sick of hearing," because I get the impression Missouri fans are ready to talk about freshman tailback Henry Josey as long as time slots will allow. By Saturday, a full week will have passed since Josey's breakout seven-carry, 112-yard, three-touchdown performance against McNeese State, but his arrival may signal a renaissance for a sometimes dormant running game for Missouri. The question in the Missouri backfield has shifted from "Do we have anybody on the depth chart who can carry the ball?" to "How do we get all of these guys touches?" Even for all of his accomplishments last week, Josey remains third on the depth chart behind co-starters DeVion Moore and Kendial Lawrence. He'll get his touches, for sure, but his performance last week doesn't get him a free pass into more carries if he doesn't sustain his play from week-to-week.
Narrative You Really Should Be Hearing More About: Candy = sugar = energy, but is that energy sustainable?
Missouri is getting a ton of attention locally for the improvement in the defense's aggressiveness and effectiveness through two weeks. The pass defense boasts six interceptions through two games, and the defensive ends are generating a full-unit pass rush Mizzou hasn't seen in quite awhile. Missouri's "Candy" package (four defensive ends, no defensive tackles) has become all the rage in Columbia, but what happens when Missouri's opponents adjust? Luckily, Rock M Nation's Bill C. is way ahead of me:
At the moment, we're all in love with the "Candy" formation, the look Mizzou gives on passing downs, when they bring four defensive ends (some combination of Aldon Smith, Jacquies Smith, Brad Madison, Michael Sam and Marcus Malbrough) into the game. It has worked for Mizzou so far -- their sack rate is higher than it was last year at this time, and it has forced quite a few poor throws, leading to more interceptions. (Honestly, I think the QB pressure has been the cause of more picks than the tighter coverage the CBs have apparently been allowed to unleash so far.) Regarding the effectiveness of this formation, there are two major questions: 1) How will opponents adapt to this, and 2) How will Mizzou adapt in response?
Two possible attacks come to mind: 1) Teams respond with screens and draws to capitalize on over-aggressive pursuit and/or 2) teams pound the ball up the middle against the quicker but smaller ends left inside. How will Mizzou respond? Stay tuned.
In a "Show Me" State This Week: Linebacker Will Ebner
Ebner was in the middle of one of the offseason's more intriguing position battles. Last season, Ebner took over for an injured Luke Lambert and flat out refused to let the job go. The junior Ebner and the senior Lambert were expected to share time in 2010, giving Missouri a very solid 1-2 punch in the middle. Then, Gary Pinkel suspended Ebner following a DWI arrest and Lambert pulled a hamstring in Missouri's opener against Illinois, leaving Missouri to start redshirt freshman Andrew Wilson last weekend. Lambert most likely will not play on Saturday, but Ebner returns to the lineup against San Diego State, and Missouri fans will be ready and bracing for impact from the big hitter.
For Your Mizzou-Themed iPod Playlist: Bush, "Comedown"
'Cause I don't want to come back down from this cloud,
It's taken me all this time to find out what I need.
It might have been a game against an FCS mercenary, but for one weekend in September, the Missouri offense looked like the remorseless killing machine that Missouri fans remember so fondly from 2007 and early 2008. After starting slowly against Illinois, seeing that efficiency might have been worth its own celebration. But throw in the fact that Missouri's defense (especially the pass rush and pass coverage) both seem to be on track much earlier in the season than usual (if at all, in the last two seasons) and Missouri fans aren't quite ready to come down from the cloud they've been on for two weeks.
Again, no one is mistaking Missouri's opponents for Murderers Row. The Tigers should (and did) pound McNeese State. The Tigers should (but didn't) pound Illinois. Finance majors, say it with me: "Past performance may not be indicative of future results." But if nothing else, Missouri's two-week trend line is turning upward.
For Your San Diego State-Themed Playlist: Counting Crows, "Insignificant"
I don't want to feel so different,
But I don't want to be insignificant.
Quick -- name the last time San Diego State had a winning season. 1998, you say? Good for you. Have a Stanley Nickel.
Now that you're feeling good about yourself, let's talk about reasons why San Diego State should feel good about itself. If San Diego State makes its way through the road back to relevance, or "significance" as Counting Crows might describe it, Brady Hoke might have a shot at joining a long line of distinguished coaches to come out of San Diego State. Though Missouri's next opponent, Miami (Ohio), is known as the "cradle of coaches," San Diego State boasts its own impressive list of ex-head and ex-assistant coaches: John Madden, Joe Gibbs, Sean Payton, Brian Billick, et al.
After an uninspiring 4-8 season a year ago, things look promising for the Aztecs through two games so far in 2010, albeit against overmatched competition from Nicholls State and New Mexico State. Quarterback Ryan Lindley is beginning to morph into the type of quarterback offensive coordinator Al Borges needs him to be -- a quick releasing, mistake-averse distributor. And with the majority of his passes going to senior receivers DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, it almost sets up like the Freddie Barnes/Bowling Green test Missouri had a Faurot Field a year ago. The Tigers responded surprisingly well against Barnes but played surprisingly poor against the Bowling Green defense early on. Missouri fans would probably prefer Missouri not need a second-half comeback to put away SDSU.
Oh, and I can't in good conscience write something about San Diego State without making reference to two San Diego State legends we lost this year: the late, great Don Coryell, and the late "Stephen Strasburg's rookie season."
For more Missouri coverage, make sure to bookmark Rock M Nation.