Pregamin’ Memphis – Rock M Nation

Pete Scantlebury, Football Editor: Yeah, my outlook has changed. After the Georgia game, I really thought this would be a 9-win team. Then South Carolina happened, and now I’m thinking 7-5 is all but guaranteed. Before the season, I was predicting 8 wins (plus a bowl game). I just don’t see how this team goes 5-1 over the final six game to get to eight regular season wins. It’s not so much that they went 0-3 over that stretch; it’s how they did it. Not many redeemable or encouraging performances outside of the running game in two of those three games.

Mitchell Hill, Social Media Editor: Georgia stung because Mizzou made mistakes that, if eliminated, they would probably (maybe) win that game. That would change a whole lot of things on the season. South Carolina hurt my outlook because there’s just no reason Mizzou should’ve lost that game.

I would like a big game from Lock against an opponent of equal or greater strength, but all in all, I still have Mizzou at 8-4.

Josh Matejka, Editor: I suppose on a grand scale nothing has changed — Missouri is what it was at the beginning of the season. However, I feel some of the optimism has been drained from me. I haven’t seen enough from Drew Lock to convince me he can put Missouri over the top against top-flight opponents, and the defense — while improved! — still looks vulnerable against any quarterback you put in front of them. Could Missouri go 8-4 or 9-3? Sure, they could. The talent is there. Will they? That’s the question we’ve been asking for years, isn’t it?

AlaTiger: It hurts that Mizzou lost a game they should have won at South Carolina. Football is a funny game. A 96% second order win probability means you lose that game 4% of the time. On the other hand, Missouri loses the Purdue game two out of three times. Still, there’s a big difference between two out of three times and 24 out of 25 times. Bounces tend to even out over the course of the season, so maybe Mizzou gets some more breaks in the back half of the season.

Per Bill’s team profiles, in five of the six remaining games, Missouri’s win likelihood is between 48% and 77%. Seven wins still seems like a reasonable outcome with eight possible if Mizzou catches some breaks, so I’m down about a game from where I was earlier in the season. Homecoming is a big deal at the University of Missouri, but the Tigers have been fairly mediocre in homecoming games since joining the SEC (3-3, with two crushing losses to South Caroline and Middle Tennessee.) Do you think the homecoming atmosphere provides any legitimate advantage, or is it just another game?

Pete Scantlebury: It’s just another game. I mean, people get all bent out of shape about who you schedule for homecoming, or they get bent out of shape when your team gets scheduled for another team’s homecoming. But, come on. It’s the date that decides homecoming, not the opponent. I apologize if I come off all curmudgeonly, but homecoming is overrated and not even “just another game.” It’s just another date.

Josh Matejka: My statistic/analytic leaning brain tells me homecoming means nothing, and it’s just another game. But the part of me that attended several homecoming games tells me there is something different… and it’s not always positive. There’s a different kind of momentum that builds toward game day, and it really snowballs with how the team is going. You can’t play a messy game against a good team, or else the crowd will get testy and the weight of expectations settles in and then… well, we all saw what happened against Middle Tennessee.

Pete Scantlebury: Holy crap this game terrifies me. Memphis is fantastic on offense, and relatively stout on defense — their pass defense numbers were skewed by one game against South Alabama, and their run defense was skewed by two games against triple option teams in Navy and Tulane. Now, the good news is that while they almost beat UCF, they didn’t and Josh Heupel’s offense got going in the come-back victory. And, guess what? Missouri’s offense is still at least aesthetically similar to the one its former OC employed. So, I think Missouri should have some room through the air to rack up some yards. But can the home Tigers stop the visiting Tigers? Man, I’m not so sure.

Mitchell Hill: Memphis has a good running game, that much I know. Mizzou’s run defense has been pretty good so far this season, and if that continues, the outcome will be in Mizzou’s favor. You can score on Memphis and Mizzou has been known to score. This could be a good way to bounce back on offense, put up some big passing numbers and see Lock perform in a way that many believe he can. How does Memphis react after being blanked at home in the second half to UCF? If they come out hot and Mizzou is sleep walking to begin the game, that’s trouble.

Josh Matejka: Darrell Henderson is going to be Memphis’ biggest threat, and luckily, Missouri is equipped to deal with him. That’s not to say he’ll be shut down, but the Tigers have shown the ability to mitigate the damage a good running game can do. That doesn’t say much about how they’ll deal with the quarterback — at this point, shouldn’t every QB be a threat?

AlaTiger: Mizzou should run the ball down Memphis’ throat, peppering in the occasional deep ball to keep them honest. Memphis’ run defense is about as bad as Missouri’s pass defense, so we should expect a steady diet of passes from the other Tigers. Memphis’ strong run game appears illusory, as they haven’t faced a run defense as good as Missouri’s. People get excited about the UCF game, but Memphis got thrashed by Tulane. Let’s hope the team that played Tulane shows up. PICK ‘EM. Let’s get a score and what your prediction would mean for the Tigers moving forward

Pete Scantlebury: This has Middle Tennessee State 2016 written all over it, right? Right. However, I think Missouri paces the game just enough with its ground game to keep Memphis off the field and win this one, 49-34. What does it mean for the rest of the year? Nothing. This is a game Missouri has to win, but I don’t think a win will re-write the current narrative about this team. That’s going to have to wait until Kentucky the following weekend.