Posted: Oct 4, 2013 8:50 PM by Mark Kim, KOMU 8 Sports Columnist
Updated: Oct 4, 2013 9:50 PM
(COLUMBIA) - The Missouri Tigers football team will open SEC play against Vanderbilt this Saturday, but this game means more than just a simple win or loss.
Head coach Gary Pinkel wants to set the tone for SEC opponents, as he knows how important these next few games will be.
"They are all big tests. It is the next big test," said Pinkel on media day Monday. "The next one is bigger and bigger. I think we will see overall from our non-conference schedule to our conference schedule, there is no question. The competition is tougher and more competitive and that is good."
Mizzou didn't make a good impression last year in their inaugural season as a member of the SEC. They went 2-6 in SEC play, only beating conference bottom dwellers Kentucky and Tennessee. The team also dropped a heartbreaker against Vanderbilt at home by a score of 19-15.
Mizzou is undefeated so far this year. The Tigers have played relatively weak teams en route, but 4-0 is still 4-0. The Associated Press, which ranks teams around the country, is slowly giving them respect.
So why is this game so important?
It will give the Tigers the SEC welcome they were supposed to get last year.
The Tigers were hampered with injuries then. There was no Henry Josey. James Franklin was knocked out of the contest. The offensive line was constantly banged up. With everyone back, the Tigers will face Vandy with full health.
That being said, Vanderbilt isn't going to lie down and let Mizzou walk over them.
The Commodores provide an intriguing matchup for the Mizzou defense. Vanderbilt wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Jonathan Krause will be the most difficult matchup this Mizzou secondary will face to this point of the year. It will be interesting to see how Pinkel plans to lock down these explosive weapons.
The ideal way would be to pressure the quarterback and force him to make mistakes. Commodores quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has thrown five interceptions in the team's five games and this Mizzou defense is known for forcing turnovers. E.J. Gaines' interception last week against Arkansas State extended the Tiger's streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 34, the most in the country.
It's going to be a close game, but the prediction is for the healthy Missouri Tigers to be victorious by the end of the night.