Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Alabama/Missouri: Hapless Tigers prep for high Tide

As the 2012 college football season enters the second week of October, the Missouri Tigers currently find themselves trapped in a nightmare.

The Tigers, who had aspirations of making a major splash in their first season in the SEC, are currently 3-3 overall, and 0-3 in the league. After one month of play, Missouri’s last conference win is still courtesy of the Kansas Jayhawks…a member of the Big 12.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel

After falling to the lowly Vanderbilt Commodores in their most recent outing, the downtrodden Tigers must now play host to the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, and do so with a backup quarterback.

Starting signal-caller James Franklin suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee during the first quarter of Missouri’s contest with Vanderbilt. Franklin, who is essentially the “commander” of Mizzou’s spread offense, will now be forced to watch redshirt freshman Corbin Berkstresser attempt to lead the Tigers against a daunting and disciplined Crimson Tide defense.

Corbin Berkstresser

In respect to statistical credentials, Berkstresser is 42-of-84 for 501 yards thus far in 2012, including three touchdown passes and one interception.

While the injury-plagued James Franklin battled a shoulder issue during the early portion of the season, Berkstresser garnered the first start of his career on Sept. 15 as the Tigers hosted Arizona State. The redshirt freshman completed 21-of-41 passes for 198 yards and one interception, as he led Mizzou to a 24-20 victory.

In regards to the contest with Vanderbilt, Berkstresser completed only 9-of-30 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. Berkstresser has obviously never faced a defense as stingy as that of Alabama, but he has played substantial minutes either in a starting role, or in relief.

Tigers on the run

While Missouri runs the spread offense, the Tigers do have a respectable ground attack.

Kendial Lawrence leads the team in rushing with 487 yards and five touchdowns, while Marcus Murphy has 122 yards after the first six games. Although Lawrence has carried the bulk of the load, the Mizzou combo have accounted for 609 of the Tigers 837 rushing yards this season.

The Tiger paws

At the wide receiver position, one can’t discuss talent without first mentioning the setbacks. Not only setbacks that impacted the receiver position, but several aspects of the team.

Just days before Missouri's game against Vanderbilt, a total of three players, including highly-touted freshman wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, were arrested for possession of marijuana. Suspensions were delivered, and each arrested player, including two other players who were at the scene, were forced to miss the contest against the Commodores.

While Green-Beckham is expected to return for Saturday's game against Alabama, the biggest receiving threats thus far in 2012 have been Marcus Lucas and T.J. Moe. Lucas currently leads the team in both receptions and receiving yards with 30 catches for a total of 309 yards, including two touchdowns. Moe, an exceptional receiver in his own right, has 24 receptions for 231 yards and one touchdown.

Courtesy of the spread offense, many Mizzou skill players have seen plenty of action and have obtained some impressive early season numbers.

Kendial Lawrence - 10 receptions 81 yards
Jimmie Hunt - 5 receptions 100 yards 1 TD
Gahn McGaffie - 18 receptions 124 yards
Dorial Green-Beckham - 7 receptions 128 yards 1 TD
Bud Sasser - 5 receptions 139 yards 1 TD
L'Damian Washington - 9 receptions 167 yards 1 TD

The final verdict

The 2012 edition of Alabama-Missouri will mark the first meeting of the two programs since 1978. On that day, the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers to the tune of 38-20. Even though ‘Bama was victorious some 34 years ago, the Tigers hold the overall series lead, 2-1.

As we turn to the present, and the future that will be Saturday afternoon, one can only assume that Missouri wishes they indeed had a time machine.

Since joining the SEC, the Tigers have been essentially overmatched in every conference game. Crushing losses to Georgia and South Carolina were only worsened by a home loss at the hands of Vanderbilt. The Tigers are playing SEC football, with mediocre Big 12 talent, and the results have been dreadful.

Alabama is currently a 21-point favorite, and that line, unfortunately for Tiger fans, should be an ideal representation of Saturday’s contest.

Expect the Missouri offense, led by a redshirt freshman quarterback, to be foiled by the dominant ‘Bama defense at essentially every turn.

The Alabama defense has pitched two shutouts this season, and only allow a grand total of seven points per contest on average. Don't expect too much to change come Saturday afternoon.

Alabama 35
Missouri 10

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