We're doing the old trade questions thang with SB Nation Missouri bloggers Rock M Nation to get their feel for where the Mizzoura Tigers are and how we can potentially beat them.
We're not the only ones to do so, as DXP has asked Big Head from Mizzourah for his "Top Five Reasons I Hate Nebraska" post. Keep a sense of humor, folks. Or not - just make sure you know who you're aiming at.
Do you feel that Missouri-Nebraska could be a new true rivalry in the making?
RMN: Just given the animosity from so many Missouri fans, I think you can go ahead and classify it as a rivalry, especially now that Nebraska fans are starting to reciprocate that hostility. The issue for Missouri fans is that, yes, Nebraska can be considered a rival (although Pinkel will deny it), but we refuse to allow anyone (cough*Tim Griffin*cough) say that NU is our "arch" rival. That distinction and that level of hate transcends football whenever Mizzou and Kansas get together.
But the development of the debatable MU/NU rivalry all depends on the legitimacy of the two teams involved. When was the last time the two teams played when they were both national threats? Never? If Nebraska climbs back into North contention and Missouri doesn't fall back into the abyss, I can see the rivalry growing stronger. Just don't ever consider yourselves as Missouri's primary rival.
Who's more responsible for the success of the Tigers - Gary Pinkel or Chase Daniel? (Notice I didn't even put the "s" on Daniel like I do sometimes to purposefully annoy you. If that isn't respect, what is?)
RMN: I think their contributions are indelibly linked together in the annals of Missouri football history. What is Gary Pinkel without Chase Daniel? He's a great guy who is a good but nowhere near great coach. What is Chase Daniel without Gary Pinkel? Perhaps a too-small quarterback relegated to playing in the I-formation because of the difficulties of Brad Smith's transition to the spread. I really hate to take sides here because so much of their individual successes are tied, but I'll give a slight edge to Daniel.
Chase is a transcendent, program-changing type of player and a ferocious competitor. But, one of Pinkel's best assets is pulling overlooked recruits out of nowhere and turning them into very solid players. Almost no one else thought Sean Weatherspoon, Danario Alexander or Ziggy Hood were Big 12-caliber recruits. Pinkel pulled them out of Texas, committed himself to them in exchange for loyalty to MU, and charged them with continuing the ascent of Mizzou football. That's the exact story of Chase Daniel, and that's exactly why I can't separate them. It's like trying to separate Sam Keller and Bill Callahan: history will judge them together.
Give your definition of a successful season for this Missouri team.
RMN: This team should, under no circumstances, fail to win the Big 12 North. Given the talent level on this team and the current state of the rest of the division, missing out on a Big 12 title game appearance would be a "fail" of the "epic" variety. From there, all expectations, hopes, dreams, and possibilities are thrown out the window.
The North title is the bare minimum, and about where the "expectations" end. No one should "expect" Missouri to win the Big 12, because let's face it, Oklahoma is a damn good football team, and Texas is looking strong as well. Would either of those be a hell of a game? Absolutely, but you can't burden this team with "requiring" them to win it to be successful. A Big 12 title and, if Missouri never has an off-game, a national title are both within the realm of possibility. But possibilities and expectations are two different animals.
How do you stop Missouri's offense?
RMN: Here's the three options for the blueprint to slowing down Mizzou:
1) First and foremost, you MUST be able to generate pressure with your defensive line. If you sell out on the blitz, you're leaving way too many weapons open for Chase. If you decide to rush only three, you'll return to the Cosgrove residence a few months later without a job after being torched for 606 total yards and 41 points on national TV (too soon?).
2) Turnover, turnovers, turnovers. Missouri's generally pretty good about protecting the ball, but when it bounces your way, your better pick it up AND you better turn it into points.
3) Have ridiculous athletes. Watching the Tigers in Norman last year and then watching them on TV in the Big 12 Championship, it was clear to me that the Sooner defense was one of the fastest I'd ever seen in person. The LBs and DBs were stride for stride with Mizzou's receivers, buying the D-Line time to get after Chase. The Sooners forced Missouri to play a lateral game rather than a vertical one, and it came back to Mizzou in the ass.
Last year, only Oklahoma was able to accomplish all of these things at once. There's a reason the Sooners beat Mizzou twice when no one else could.
Where would you put Missouri's defense nationally and why?
RMN: I don't know what Missouri ranks and for the sake of the question, I won't look it up. Missouri's defense seems very average, nationally speaking. The run defense is as solid as I've seen from Mizzou in a long time, and Sean Weatherspoon has been an absolute manbeast through four games. There are still issues with the pass defense as DC Matt Eberflus continues to find the right amount of blitzing, the right role for William Moore, and the right way to disguise Justin Garrett and Del Howard's deficiencies in pass coverage at the other safety spot.
That said, who knows what they have up their sleeve in conference play. Last year, Mizzou was AWFUL stopping the run in non-conference (Just say the name "Geno Blow" to a Mizzou fan and you'll see), but they were proficient at stopping the pass. Then came a bye week. Eberflus used the week to evaluate his players and his system and then transformed the unit into one of the Big 12's top three or four units. Does he have a similar trick up his sleeve in 2008? I certainly hope so.
What about Nebraska's team concerns you the most?
RMN: Honestly, the team itself doesn't scare many Mizzou fans. No one expects Nebraska to have much success running on Mizzou, as the run defense has been stout so far and neither Castille nor Helu nor Lucky are instilling the fear of God into anyone. Joe Ganz could be scary for Mizzou, given Missouri's pass defense thus far in 2008. But, with Carl Gettis at corner, Mizzou will take away your best receiver, so if any damage is going to be done through the air, the production is going to have to come from someone further down the "WR" column on the depth chart.
I doubt the defense is scaring anyone, even despite the addition of Pelini's coaching. From what you saw of Nebraska's defense in Columbia last year, would you be scared of that unit? Plus, the Virginia Tech game has Mizzou fans salivating for a chance to match this offense against the NU defense. Don't take it personally - there just many defense in the nation that you're going to find Mizzou fans scared of. It's part-arrogance/hubris, part-"this offense is just that damn good."
More than anything, Mizzou fans are scared of Lincoln. Missouri IS the better team, but means nothing college football these days. We held a poll asking what Mizzou fans are most scared of, and the run away answer with 76 percent was "It's in freaking Lincoln. Can you think of one good thing that's happened in Lincoln in my lifetime?" Granted, the same applied to Boulder and Manhattan before last year, but stranger things have happened.
RMN: Before the season, I predicted 31-20. After watching the first four games of the season, I no longer think it'll be that close or that low scoring. It will take a legendary effort from Pelini's troops to hold Mizzou to 31. I think Mizzou FINALLY wins in Lincoln by the score of 44-27.
Thanks to the guys from Rock M Nation.