Before Miami won game after game to finish as last year's MAC and GoDaddy.com Bowl Champions, there were some rough out-of-conference games. Perhaps none was as rough as the RedHawks' loss to Mizzou, a 51-13 thrashing that saw Miami trailing 7-0 after just eight seconds thanks to a recovered Armand Robinson fumble on the first play from scrimmage. It didn't get any better from there, as Austin Boucher found out in fourth-quarter garbage duty.
Last year, I was at a wedding in Northern Virginia during the game. The wedding was also attended by a few Missouri alumni, who enjoyed pointing out to me how badly we'd been beaten. This year, I will be at a wedding in Minneapolis, hopefully with no Missouri alumni in sight. Optimistic though I always am, I don't see the RedHawks coming out on top here, though I do think they'll make it interesting. More after the jump.
MIAMI NOTES. The tailback situation seems to have resolved itself, with once-upon-a-time linebacker Eric Finklea sitting atop the depth chart. Two surprises from the two-deep, though: Evan Harris, one of last year's standout linebackers, isn't a starter; rumor is that his knee is tweaked, and he may see limited playing time as a result. And, if you check out the official game notes, you'll see that Miami's kick returner is someone named "TBD." Hopefully special teams coach Zak Willis figures that out before Saturday. A couple more injury notes: per Coach Treadwell's press conference on Tuesday, defensive lineman Mwanza Wamulumba is out indefinitely (likely the season) with a torn Achilles tendon, tight end Steve Marck is out for the season after knee surgery, and linebacker Austin Moore is out indefinitely with an unspecified injury. Generally speaking, though, there's not much to say about the RedHawks that wasn't already covered in our preview.
MISSOURI NOTES. The big story for the Tigers is the loss of Blaine Gabbert, who went #10 overall to Jacksonville in the NFL draft. But that big story is pretty much meaningless. Mizzou returns every single player who caught a reception last year, every single player (other than Gabbert) who had a rushing yard last year, and every single player (other than Gabbert) who scored an offensive touchdown last year. True sophomore quarterback James Franklin will be making his first collegiate start, but he'll be working with a verywell-seasoned group of skill playerswho should make the transition nice and smooth. Expect the Tiger offense to fire on all cylinders just like it usually does under Gary Pinkel. Mizzou's defense, one of the best in the Big Who Knows How Many last season, is expected to be strong once again -- but there are bigger holes to fill here than on offense. Gabbert wasn't the first Missouri player taken in the draft last year: that would be DE Aldon Smith, who went #7 to the 49ers. Top linebacker Andrew Gachkar is gone to the NFL, and last year's starting cornerbacks Carl Gettis (who returned that Armand Robinson fumble for a touchdown last year) and Kevin Rutland are off pursuing their pro dreams as well. Despite these sizable losses, the Tigers have good depth on defense, especially on the line, which is expected to be the strength of the unit this season.
THE BOTTOM LINE. There shouldn't be a repeat of last year's debacle. The RedHawks were a much different team last September than this September: going into the Missouri game last season, they had won just 3 of their last 20 games, and though there were reasons for hope, the team was a pretty beaten-down bunch. This year's team rides one of the longer active winning streaks in the country, and -- lucky or not -- developed a lot of confidence on the way to Mobile. This year's team knows how to stay in games, knows how to win games, and plays with a chip on its shoulder. In fact, it's not unthinkable that they'd win: have a positive turnover margin (ideally +2 or more), make Mizzou drive the length of the field for points (meaning A+ special teams and defensive play), lead going into the fourth quarter, and hold on hope that the Tigers' depth doesn't prevail in the last fifteen minutes. But just because there's a way to win doesn't mean a win is likely, and I don't think a win is likely here. Missouri has superior depth, superior talent, and the confidence that comes with beating a team 51-13 the year before. Plus, the RedHawks used up their luck supply last season. I think the Tigers win in the 31-13 range.
BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW, MIZZOU EDITION:
- James Franklin listens to John Mayer to get pumped before games.
- Gary Pinkel -- no stranger to the MAC, as he's the winningest coach in Toledo history -- is closing on the Missouri career wins record as well. Only 24 wins stand between Pinkel and the legendary Don Faurot.
- Missouri's first class graduated in 1843. It consisted of two men, both named Robert Todd.
- Cartoonist Mort Walker graduated from Missouri in 1948. A life-size statute of Beetle Bailey stands (or, more accurately, sits napping) in front of the alumni center.