Game Day Preview: Everything you need to know about Missouri-BYU
The Missouri family received some devastating news Friday when the school announced that coach Gary Pinkel will resign at the end of the 2015 season due to health issues.
Pinkel was diagnosed with lymphoma in May of 2015, and received treatment in May and June. Doctors indicated that the sickness would not interfere with Pinkel’s coaching duties and he decided to continue coaching this season.
Following Missouri’s game against Vanderbilt on Oct. 24, Pinkel had a PET scan on Oct. 26 for reassessment and decided a day later that this would be his last season coaching. Nevertheless, there is still a football game to be played, as Missouri will take on BYU Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Here’s what else you need to know about Saturday’s game:
Missouri (4-5, 1-5 SEC) vs. BYU (7-2)
- Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
- Weather: 54 degrees, clear (Weather.com)
- Line: BYU -6.5
By the numbers
0 – No FBS player has more tackles (117) or blocked punts (3) than senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers. He wasn’t a finalist for the Butkus Award, but the Guthrie, Okla. product also has played elite football with 7.5 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions.
11 – Gary Pinkel has won 11 games in NFL stadiums since taking over at Mizzou, with the lone loss coming at Arrowhead Stadium in 2008 against Kansas. The Tigers have averaged 36 points per game in those wins.
13 – Mizzou has been held to 13 points or less in six of its last seven games, including a brutal four-game stretch in October when the Tigers didn’t score a touchdown for 14 quarters. Mizzou’s 14.67 points per game is the lowest total in the SEC. Amongst FBS programs, only Kent State averages fewer points per game (14.3) than the Tigers.
27.5 – Sophomore Charles Harris (17 tackles for loss, seven sacks) and redshirt freshman Walter Brady (10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks) have combined for 27.5 tackles for loss, two more than NFL draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden tallied through the first nine games of 2014.
Storylines to watch
How will the off the field distractions impact Mizzou?
Typically having the starting quarterback suspended for the majority of the season is the most drama a program could go through in a season, but Maty Mauk’s suspension is now miniscule considering the events that have unfolded since the last time Mizzou played a game. The Tigers didn’t practice on Sunday or Monday and have been the subject of every major news outlet’s coverage this week. On Wednesday when asked if his team will be able to focus on the game Pinkel said “That’s the million dollar question right now.” It could end up being a multi-million dollar question with Mizzou needing two wins to secure a bowl invitation. There is no precedent for what the program has gone through this week. It could be a galvanizing act and help the Tigers salvage the season, or it could be the final straw in what has been a disappointing season.
Can the defense hold up?
In last Thursday’s 31-13 loss to Mississippi State, we saw the long-term effects of a defense that has carried a team all season. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, both are the most allowed by Mizzou’s defense, but for the fourth game in a row the Tigers defense played 77 snaps. The fatigue took its toll in the third quarter as a pass rush that had given Prescott fits in the first half, even briefly knocking him out of the game, failed to get pressure as the Bulldogs ripped off 17 unanswered points in the third quarter. In three of Mizzou’s four wins the defense was on the field for 64 or fewer snaps. Much of that has to do with the pace of play, but it’s simple math, the fewer plays an offense runs the fewer chances it will have to score. Playing a BYU team that averages 72 player per game, has scored 30 or more points in six games this year and ranks No. 25 in passing yards, keeping the defense off the field is important.
Can Mizzou establish the run?
The offense finally snapped the touchdown drought against Mississippi State and it came in the form of a 14-yard Russell Hansbrough touchdown run. The Tigers rushed for a season-high 215 yards and attempted a season-low 26 passes. It didn’t change anything in the final outcome, but the unit looked the best it had in more than a month and that was in the midst of a downpour. Establishing the run not only gives Lock advantageous matchups on the outside, but also should help keep him in manageable third-down situations and keep the defense off the field (Mizzou is 8-for-57 in third-down conversions in last four games). BYU hasn’t been very good against the run when playing Power 5 teams. The Cougars are 7-0 when holding its opponent below 200 rushing yards. In losses to UCLA and Michigan, BYU gave up 296 and 254 rushing yards respectively.
Mizzou pass rush vs. BYU offensive line
BYU is explosive through the air and freshman Tanner Magnum has a game as cool as his name, passing for 2,198 yards and 15 touchdowns since taking over for Taysom Hill. Magnum has been lights out on BYU’s current five-game winning streak, passing for 1,479 yards and 11 touchdowns. But, he isn’t perfect and like a freshman he has the tendency to hold on to the football for too long at time. In his first three starts he was sacked 12 times and hurried six more. He’s been better as of late, but last week San Jose State sacked him three times and hurried him four more. Charles Harris and Walter Brady are elite pass rushers and have been headaches for opposing offensive coordinators all year. BYU is going to throw the football; that’s what they do and Mizzou is so good against the run the Cougars will have to. If the Tigers can get pressure on Magnum and force him to look like a freshman playing against an elite defense, much like Michigan did, Mizzou will have a chance at a win.
Prediction: Missouri 20, BYU 13
The emotion of this week will either lead to an inspired performance or a flat one and I’m banking on the former. Mizzou’s first half against Mississippi State was some of the best football the Tigers have played all season. This team isn’t that far off. Playing at Arrowhead Stadium should inject the team with added energy, especially Kansas City-area natives Lock, Harris, sophomore safety Anthony Sherrils and senior center Evan Boehm. No current Tiger has played a game at Arrowhead and with the new uniforms and the chance to finally play football and get a distraction from the media attention is exactly what Mizzou needs.