Tale of the Tigers: Breaking Down KSU’s Next Opponent

6 Oct

Some are outraged that the odds are on unranked Missouri to defeat No. 20 Kansas State in Manhattan this weekend. Yes, Tigers sit at 2-2 while the Wildcats stand 4-0, but both Missouri’s losses have come to ranked teams, including No. 1 Oklahoma, who won 38-28 in Norman. Also, the Wildcats have not defeated the Tigers in five years.

However, Missouri is not the same team now that it was then. If you look at the offensive numbers the team lists in its game day guide, you’ll see that over the past five years, over 65% of the Tigers’ offense came on passing plays. After four games in 2011, Missouri has passed 1,055 yards and rushed for 1,013. It’s the most balanced attack the team has had since 2005, when the season ended with a 47.8/52.3 percentage split between the ground game and the air attack.

First-year starting quarterback James Franklin is averaging nearly 400 yards of total offense on the road against ranked teams (i.e. against Oklahoma and Arizona State). Running back Henry Josey – who began the season third on the depth chart and has moved up due to injuries to other players – ranks sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game (133.25) and has been netting over 12 yards per carry. It must be noted that all of Missouri’s offensive statistics are somewhat inflated because of the team’s 69-0 pummeling of Western Illinois, a game in which the team amassed 744 (yes, you’re reading that correctly) yards of offense, including 263 yards and three touchdowns from Josey.

That said, of course, this is still a very quality – and very dangerous – opponent for the Wildcats. When asked about the positives of Missouri, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder quipped, “How much time do you have? … I don’t have that much time.”

He said the Tigers remind him of the Bears in the diversity of what they can do.

“The neat statistic that is something that we would always strive for is in all four ball games they have thrown and passed in excess of 200 yards in each one,” Snyder said. “That’s what identifies real balance, I think. And is it hard to defend? Yes, certainly.”

Snyder’s list of what to watch for from Missouri’s offense included Franklin, Josey, tall wide receivers and tight ends and a talented offensive line that facilitates all that. Kansas State defensive end Jordan Voelker added that the Missouri offense has a very familiar element to it.

“It’s basically sort of like the Wildcat offense every play,” Voelker said. “They do always have that option. They basically have two running backs in the backfield at all times. That’s sort of a little bit more diverse offense, and there’s more stuff they can open up their playbook with.”

Averaging 517 yards of offense per game, Missouri’s attack ranks 17th in the country. (Kansas State’s is 91st.)

On the other side of the ball, the Tigers’ rush defense is nearly equal with the Wildcats’. Thus far it has allowed just 87 yards per game, while Kansas State has given up a mere 87.5. Snyder also noted that Missouri has played largely man-to-man coverage, which he said teams will not do unless they have players who excel in that area.

What does all this mean as far as the outcome of the game? To borrow the phrase from Jim Mora, “diddly poo.” Just like people weren’t sure what to expect before Miami and Baylor, no one knows what will happen on Saturday. Keep in mind, though, that numbers can’t account for the advantage that a team earns through its preparation, desire and a coach named Bill Snyder.

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