Posted: Nov 20, 2013 5:52 PM by Mark Kim, KOMU 8 Sports Digital Producer
Updated: Nov 23, 2013 12:02 AM
The Missouri Tigers control their own destiny. Whether it's the SEC East or the BCS, Missouri's play in the next few games determines which games they play in to end the season.
While the biggest game of Missouri's season will come in two weeks against Texas A&M at home, they will have to go through Ole Miss this Saturday. The No. 24 Rebels currently hold a 7-3 record with a 3-3 record in the SEC. While they have no shot at winning the SEC West, they still own a big win against LSU and gave currently ranked teams Texas A&M and Auburn a hard time.
A big part of Ole Miss's success comes from quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace has thrown for 2,664 passing yards, 17 touchdown passes and five interceptions on the year. With a Missouri pass defense that is suspect to giving up yardage in the pass game, this will be another game where the Tigers will have to rely on turnovers to swing momentum when Wallace is clicking with his receivers.
The Tigers will have to hope they can lock up the Rebel's rushing attack. With the talent on Missouri's defensive line (Michael Sam, Kony Ealy, Markus Golden, etc. We know these names), they certainly have the talent to shut down Ole Miss's running backs. The advantage the Rebel's backs have are numbers. Four different running backs have scored touchdowns on the ground and this doesn't even count the combined eight rushing touchdowns Ole Miss's two quarterbacks have. While those numbers may seem intimidating, the Tigers rush defense has held every team's lead back to under 100 rushing yards. Due to Missouri's rush defense, the yards per carry for Rebel's running backs will be low and the Rebels will abandon the run game because of it.
A big key to the game is whether Missouri quarterback James Franklin can shake off the rust early in the game. Franklin has been shelved for four games after sustaining a separated shoulder against Georgia and will make his first start in five weeks. While Franklin has been effective this season, Franklin was lackluster in Missouri's game against Georgia with 170 passing yards and one passing touchdown. Oddly enough, this is the most difficult defense Franklin will face in the regular season. While the run game will try to get going early in the game, it looks like Franklin needs to pick up where he left off and play at an elite level right away. That being said, he will be looking for the red hot Dorial Green-Beckham to help get him going right away. With DGB finally playing at the No.1 prospect level Missouri expected when they got him, it's likely Franklin-to-DGB connections will be an early occurrence early in the game.
Speaking of running game, expect James Franklin to the lead the Missouri Tigers in rushing yards on Saturday. Ole Miss has given up over 100 rushing yards to scrambling quarterbacks such as Nick Marshall and Johnny Manziel. With Ole Miss expected to sit back in coverage on pass plays waiting for Franklin to make mistakes, expect Franklin to run through the soft Rebels pass rush. On run downs, also expect Missouri to mix things up in the backfield. While Henry Josey has been on fire lately, Ole Miss has shut down single backs down before. That being said, the Rebels have struggled when teams use multiple running backs. Expect a lot of two-back formations and while Josey may get the most carries, Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy should get carries as well.
At the end of the day, the Tigers will edge out the Rebels in this game. James Franklin will be able to brush off the rust soon enough in the game for the Tigers to take control of the game. In this high scoring affair, the Tiger's offense will be more potent. It will be close, but Missouri will slip away with the win.