Tuesday, November 27

Why Missouri Won't win the BCS Championship, Regardless of Who's the Best of the Three Contenders

Reason #1: Oklahoma with Bradford is better than Missouri, West Virginia, and Ohio State. Well, it had to be said because I think it's true... and if it is then the Tigers won't make it past the B12CG. But there's another reason to go with that one, because really OU and Mizzou looked pretty close on the Sooners' home turf...

It all started eleven months ago with a simple letter:

Dear Coach,

As you know, the bowl season is an incredible and important time in college football. Not only for you, but also for me. There's great online bragging rights on the line with these games, and I can't afford to pick the wrong teams. I'd like to consider your team, but first I'd like to get to know your coaching philosophy a little better.

Let's suppose you're up by... I don't know... say, 14 points. And there's 10 minutes left in the game, and you have the ball. Things are looking good. Do you:

a) Start trying to run out the clock on offense and go into a prevent defense. or

b) Do something else that isn't that.

Thank you for your time!
- teh_pr0gnosticaterer

This farce of a letter was of course in response to the 2006 Sun Bowl, won by Oregon State scoring 15 points in the final minutes of the 4th quarter including a two-point conversion for all the marbles. Missouri was the opponent

"It only prevents you from winning."

Think Missouri at Illinois in the season opener was a hard-fought game? The first 40 minutes weren't - 37-13 with 6:11 remaining in the 3rd quarter

The Tigers' following game at Ole Miss went from 35-7 to 38-13 to 38-25.

Then of course there was last week's nationally televised Missouri vs Kansas. The Tigers lead 28-14 early in the 4th qaurter and drove down for a field goal, 31-14. Next thing you know they're rushing 3 linemen and dropping 8 into coverage. The Jayhawks' next two scoring drives TOTALED 14 points in 3 minutes of possession.

Missouri pulled out each of those games this season. However, Illinois and Kansas both had the chance at a winning TD drive down by 6 points with a minute or so remaining. Neither ever should have been within two possessions. But the red carpet was laid out and they were allowed to waltz into the end zone 15 yards at a time. By the way, did anyone reading this see Pat White score from 50 yards out against Louisville to win the game? The Cards were dropping into a zone hoping WVU would be content to go to overtime. With 3 minutes left? lol, not happening. Possible repeat of that in the BCS Championship Game? You betcha. (Though should the opposing team be Ohio State, we could see a comedy of errors with Boeckman having all day to stand back there and find wide open safeties.)

Looking at Missouri's defensive stats for the season, we see that all but 21 passes against this defense have come with the game tied or Mizzou ahead. When Missouri is leading by 0-7 points, the opposing QB has a rating under 100. 0-14 looks to be just about 100 even with only 6 TDs and 10 INTs. But if Mizzou leads by 15 or more? 145.1 rating, 9:6 TD:INT ratio, and the completion percentage jumps by 10%. This is a team that loves sitting on a lead like Cartman loves his cheesy poofs.

And if you think all defenses probably share that pattern, check out Ohio State, whose opposing QB rating drops by over 30 when they get ahead by more than 7... or Oklahoma, where moving from the lead of 8-14 range to the lead of 15+ range means almost a 40 point drop. Turns out, if you're not ceding the short-mid range completions, it actually gets easier to defend the pass when you know they're forced to throw it. Crazy, I know...

Anyway, all that actually makes sense looking at the numbers, because Missouri's defensive statistics overall are pretty mediocre. I was amazed on Saturday night to see Kansas, the #2 scoring offense in the country, shut out for the first half and held to just 7 points through 3 quarters. Mizzou brought pressure, stuffed the runningbacks, made an outstretched red zone interception, and had some opportunistic plays. They benefitted from two missed FGs but still, this was very obviously the best defense Kansas had faced all year by a long shot. How were they hovering in the mid 30s for ppg allowed? Then the 4th quarter came and they built a 17 point lead. Ah, that's how...

Oklahoma has a top 10 scoring offense and the #1-rated starting quarterback in the country in term of passing efficiency. Unlike Kansas, Oklahoma has done this against a reasonable share of good teams. Should Mizzou be up in the 4th quarter, can they really sit on a lead against them and hope to come out with the victory? But with Pinkel's repeated demonstration that he's learned nothing from the Sun Bowl, it seems to me like the Tigers have two ways to beat OU this weekend: build a 30+ point lead in the first three quarters, or be losing a close game late and put the ball in Daniel's hands. The first is almost laughable unless Bradford goes down again, and frankly I don't like *having* to score on a certain possession to win. OU isn't going to just back off and let a QB who just completed 82% of his passes a week ago take free shots at their secondary. Stoops can be a jackass, but he isn't a dumbass.