We are officially down to one month until college football kicks off. With just 30 days till the Hoosiers face-off against Indiana State we move on to our final preview of the 2013 non-conference schedule. Today we will be setting our sights on Week Four when the Indiana Hoosiers will play host to the South Eastern Conference, Missouri Tigers.
Week 4: Missouri Tigers
Time & Date: 8 pm, Saturday, Sept. 21st
Venue: Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN)
Tigers at a Glance:
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (90-61, 12 years)
Last Season: 5-7 (2-6, SEC-East)
Offensive Formation: Spread
Defensive Formation: 4-3
Returning Team Leaders:
Passing: James Franklin (59.4%, 1562 Yds, 10 TD, 7 INT)
Rushing: Marcus Murphy (251 Yds, 5.5 Avg, 1 TD)
Receiving: Marcus Lucas (46 Rec., 509 Yds, 11.1 Avg, 3 TD)
Preseason Magazine Predictions for Missouri:
Athlon: 5-7 (1-7), 6th Place SEC East
Lindy’s: 6th Place SEC East
Phil Steele: T-5th SEC East
Why the Tigers could win:
As we all know the perception around the college football world is that the SEC is king, and with good reason. The conference has absolutely dominated when playing other leagues. This is no more obvious than when you look at bowl game records where the SEC has more overall wins (73) and more BCS Bowl wins (17) than any other conference since the inception of the BCS back in 1998. That doesn’t even mention the fact that the conference has won 9 of the 15 crystal balls awarded over those years, including the last seven in a row.
The Tigers have talent coming back on the offensive side, and will likely make strides in the upcoming season. While James Franklin is an experienced returning starter, Maty Mauk will be pushing him for the starting job all fall. While Mauk is talented I fully expect for Franklin to get the nod to start the season. Franklin’s numbers in 2012 were far from impressive, but that was mostly due to injury.
For Franklin to play up to the expectation levels of a third-year starting quarterback, he will need help from his supporting cast. Thankfully for the Tigers, there is no shortage of talent there. The return of running back Henry Josey, who rushed for 1,168 yards in 2011 before suffering a severe knee injury in week 10, should be a major boost to the Tiger backfield that doesn’t return a rusher who gained more than 251 yards last season.
The Tigers receiving corps is loaded with experience, however that experience comes along with mostly unfulfilled potential. Two seniors in Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington are both nearing the 1,000-yard receiving marks for their careers. In addition there is the heralded number-one overall high school recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, who seems to be on the cusp of a breakout season. With this type of talent catching the ball, no matter who is throwing it to them in 2013 there should be significant success.
The biggest upgrade for Missouri is their offensive line. After being ravaged by injury for most of the 2012 season, the Tigers return four starters to lead the way. If this unit can solidify, it will help the Missouri offense take the next step they need to become a force to be reckoned with.
For the Tigers to come into Memorial Stadium in week four that is exactly what they will need to do. Hang with the Hoosiers offensively, and hope they pull off one or two more stops on the defensive end. In particular E.J. Gaines, one of the best corners in the SEC, will need to make some big plays in the passing game. If Gary Pinkel’s boys can do that, they should be leaving Bloomington with another victory for the SEC over a Big Ten foe.
Why They Won’t Pull it Off:
The Hoosiers have slowly but surely been building a program, and an identity under head coach Kevin Wilson. The Tigers on the other hand have essentially forgotten who they are. The offense still needs to find a personality, while the program, as a whole needs to stop the downward trend that it is currently experiencing, which has only been exasperated by the move to the SEC.
While the Tigers’ offense has the potential to be an explosive unit, the Hoosiers’ already is. Indiana passed for nearly 100-yards a game more than Mizzou while rushing for just 8 yards less. The Hoosiers also put up 5 more points per game in 2012, with the entirety of their offense coming back with an extra year of experience under their belt. It is unlikely that the Missouri offense can go toe-to-toe with the Hoosiers.
The Missouri defense will need to be the difference. If you look at points per game in 2012, it wasn’t all that bad, as the Tigers ranked 68th in the nation allowing 28.4 PPG. However, on six separate occasions Missouri’s defense allowed 390-plus yards in a single game. This wasn’t a one-year trend either, if you look back at 2011 they allowed over 450-plus yards six times! It’s hard to imagine the defense getting much better after losing All-SEC lineman Sheldon Richardson to the NFL.
While experience returns, this is one of those cases where that might not be such a good thing. The defense accumulated just 21 sacks and 7 interceptions last season. The lack of big play ability will allow Indiana to take the chances on the offensive side of the ball that permit their offense to be so explosive.
The two teams are basically a spitting image of each other, with the Hoosiers having a better offense, and the Tigers having a defense that is not quite as abysmal. As an outsider it would be easy to call this game as a win for Missouri. The Tigers are an SEC team who before last year had seven consecutive bowl game appearances.
However, when you really delve deeper into this game, it is not Big Ten vs. SEC, or the last ten years of these two programs doing battle, it is the 2013 versions of both of these teams.
That being said, it will not be an easy contest for either squad. This might be the closest thing to a mirror image that the Hoosiers face all season. It will be a high scoring affair, in which you might want to look away while your team is on defense, or else you might rip your hair out.
If, and yes it is a big if, the Hoosiers enter their week four tilt against Missouri with a 3-0 record the usually lifeless Memorial Stadium should have a spark to it. With an 8 p.m. kick-off time allowing for the fans to become more “lubricated” expect as raucous of an environment as you will see all year in Bloomington.
The Hoosiers have expectations to fulfill this year for the first time in a long time. The Tigers are trying to show that they still have the capability of winning, which they had for the better part of the last decade. I do not expect Indiana to win this game by any measure; I would not be shocked, however, if they were able to pull it off. If the Hoosiers are able score a major non-conference victory over Missouri in week four, it could very well be a program altering night under the lights of Memorial Stadium.
Chance of Winning: 51%