Saturday, December 27

The Alamo Bowl: A Historical Reenactment

Since the modern era began, the Alamo Bowl's been played 15 times. The biggest margin of victory was 66-17 (2000, Nebraska over Northwestern). Why's that matter here? Because Northwestern is something beyond horribly overrated and likely going to serve as cannon fodder for Missouri - especially if they remember how to play like they were when this season started.


The Wildcats opened up the season 6-0 before skidding their bandwagon around, throwing it in reverse, and finishing the season on a 3-3 skid. Of course, that skid was "helped" by a last-second TINT for a win over Minnesota. Minnesota, on the other hand, gets to play Kansas. Well played, Golden Gophers. If you're looking for a signature win here, that's probably it - either that or the 22-19 win over an also lucky-as-shit Iowa team (playing the fucking Gamecocks? Good show). Losing your only games against ranked opponents by a combined score of 85-30 does not make for a confidence pick, but apparently it puts you in a decent bowl game. What has this season come to?

Like so many teams this bowl season, Northwestern really doesn't do anything well; they can't really score (24.5 ppg, just behind the lofty Diabeetus'd attack of Purdue), they don't play spectacular D (19.3 ppg allowed seems decent, but that's buoyed in part by an opening four-game slate where Duke was the toughest team they played - and the Blue Devils rang up 20), they don't run or pass particularly well, they don't stop the pass, and they do a decent job stopping the run. Oh boy - who's excited?

It's always a good sign when your two leading QBs combine for a 16/17 TD/INT ratio. Backup QB Mike Kafka gets an A- for name quality but a D+ for performance - a 70% completion ratio isn't bad, but that should be the minimum when you're getting 7 yards per attempt in a small sample size. Fortunately, C.J. Bacher is back - he's a name you've possibly heard of, but it's not one to fear. RB Tyrell Sutton is the most talented guy on the team; he's averaging 5 yards a carry (but not getting the ball as much as he probably should) - the downside is that the running game consists of him and scrambles.

On defense, there's not much to see here. The pass rush does a good job - Corey Wootton leads the team with 9 sacks - but the pass defense is middling. (This probably explains why the rush is good - blitz central.) It's interesting that S Brendan Smith has returned both of his INTs for TDs, but that's a factor of small sample size and not of any type of inherent skill.

Northwestern is one of those teams that's really good at third down on both sides of the ball; however, that's about it for the margins. K Arnando Villareal is solid, but the punting game is abysmal, good for 95th nationally. That bodes well against a team with a defunct offense like Missouri, wait.

So what do they have to do? Well, they need to get lucky and hope they don't have to punt that much. They should ride Sutton as hard as they reasonably can and limit the amount of damage that Bacher / Kafka can do. On defense, the stats read like they already do a good job of getting pressure on the QB; they better hope like hell that continues, because if not they need to have a garden hose available on the sidelines. The kids are going to be torched otherwise.


The Missouri Tigers opened the season 5-0 and climbing to #3 in the country before consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas expelled them from further national championship discussion. The Tigers appeared to right themselves with a blowout of Colorado, but not long after a closer-than-expected win over Baylor, they were upset by divisional rival Kansas. Not quite backing into the Big 12 title game, the blowout loss to Oklahoma was nonetheless completely expected.

Offensively, this is a team that strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. Chase Daniel completes 74% of his passes for 318 ypg and a 37/15 ratio. His main targets are speedster Jeremy Maclin and big tight end Chase Coffman, hauling in about 180 ypg combined. Derrick Washington gives the team a more physical aspect, with 76.3 ypg on the ground to go with 17 touchdowns. The other side of the ground game comes in the form of trick plays to Maclin and draws by Daniel, contributing almost 20 ypg apiece.

Defensive toughness, however, never solidified this season, which is for the most part why the Tigers won only nine games. The Tiger defense ranks 75th in scoring at 27.5 ppg given up, and while this is in part attributable to playing in a conference full of strong offensive teams, we also remember that these guys gave up 42 points to Illinois – 14 more than the Illini's season average. Missouri is, however, 6th nationally in scoring offense and 4th in passing offense. You know what you're getting into here.

What's Missouri's gameplan? Just play smart. The Wildcats' offense is not going to keep pace with Daniel, Maclin, & Co. Missouri also has a devastating special teams edge with Wofford kicking and Maclin returning. Turnovers are about the only thing that can turn the game around, so if I'm Gary Pinkel, I make sure Chase Daniel knows there's no need to force things with his arm. (remember Okie State?) A patient, methodical attack will be enough to overwhelm Northwestern.