Scouting the Tigers

Colorado goes on the road for the second time this season this week at Missouri where it hopes to put an end to a 12-game road losing streak.

INSIDE SLANT

The numbers have been lopsided, and the games haven't been close.

Since 2006, Missouri has won four straight games against Big 12-foe Colorado. Since 2007, Missouri has outscored the Buffaloes 149-27. Even in the Tigers' rebuilding 2009 campaign, Missouri raced to a 33 point lead before holding on to a 36-17 victory.

But these Buffs, the 2010 variety, are giving Missouri pause. Much of that comes from their surprising 3-1 record, and their physical, 29-27 win over Georgia in Boulder on Saturday.

"They're running the football well," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "That's what they believe in doing and playing good defense and that's got them off to a very good start this year. Our challenge is to work hard and try and play our best football game."

Colorado's team statistics have been skewed by its lone loss, a 52-7 defeat against California in the season's second week. The Buffaloes have relied on a balanced, ball-control offense, and the improvisational skills of their quarterback, Tyler Hansen.

For the last two years, Missouri's defense prepared to face two quarterbacks in each of its games against the Buffaloes. Although the Tigers will only have to prepare for one quarterback on Saturday, Pinkel said that doesn't necessarily make anything easier.

"I'm very, very impressed with him (Hansen)," Pinkel said, "and how he is quarterbacking now. You can just see the experience take over. He's using his athleticism, his quickness and his speed and puts a lot of pressure on the defense in many, many ways. He keeps drives alive and he converts third downs and I'm just very, very impressed of how he's matured."

No matter the recent history, Missouri players aren't overlooking Colorado. With the topsy-turvy nature of the Big 12 this season, it appears the conference might be more even than years past.

"I think you could definitely say that," cornerback Carl Gettis said. "You see the way Baylor and Iowa State came out and played, got good wins. Every team this year seems like they're competing. It's not gonna be any easy games. There will never be an easy game when you get into Big 12 play."

Missouri's game against Colorado will mark the final meeting between these two former Big 8 rivals for the near future. Colorado jumps to the Pac-10 in 2011.

NOTES, QUOTES

--One look at Missouri's quarter-by-quarter statistics, and its easy to see why the Tigers are undefeated. Missouri is one of only six teams in the nation that have not allowed a third-quarter touchdown. The Tigers have outscored opponents 50 to 3 in that period, and have forced five of their 13 turnovers.

--Missouri's running game, which has taken a backseat to the passing game in the last five years, is beginning to get more attention. That's due in large part to their first-quarter success. Missouri rushers lead the nation in first-quarter yard-per-carry (10.04). However, Missouri has only run the ball 27 total times in the first quarter, which is puzzling given the recent success.

--Last year, Missouri's passing game was dominated by one receiver, Danario Alexander. This year, two receivers, T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew, have accounted for 62 percent of Missouri's receptions, and 63 percent of Missouri's receiving yards. Moe said that distribution shouldn't be a problem.

"The guys in the slots a lot of times are the first reads," Moe said. "It's not Blaine's job to go past the first reads if we're open. So we have some plays for some of the other guys and that will start to develop a little more as the season goes on, but right now we're just going to keep trying to catch the football."

Egnew and Moe have combined for 70 receptions, 692 yards and three touchdowns. Moe's 9.25 receptions a game lead the nation.

SERIES HISTORY: Missouri leads the series, 41-31-3 (last meeting, 2009, Missouri 36-17).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The passing game hasn't been its normal self to start the season, as QB Blaine Gabbert has thrown five touchdowns and three interceptions in the first four games of 2010. A year ago, he had 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during non-conference play. However, it appears that Missouri's offensive staff is making a dedicated effort for a more balanced effort, and are mixing in more running plays early in 2010. California used a balanced attack to beat Colorado 52-7, and Missouri will probably try that route, as well.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Missouri's defense was the story of non-conference play, finishing with 13 forced turnovers, just five off the total number of 2009. Will that carry over into conference play? Colorado has given the ball away eight times this season, five by way of interception. Colorado's running game will try to drain the clock, so turnovers and three-and-outs will be the goals for Missouri's emboldened defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not an issue for me." -- WR T.J. Moe, laughing, when asked about Missouri's pass distribution. Moe has 37 receptions for 394 yards and two touchdowns.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Colorado at Missouri, Oct. 9 -- Missouri (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) faces Colorado (3-1, 0-0 Big 12) for the final time in conference play. After this season, Colorado jumps to the Pac-10. The Buffaloes are riding a wave of confidence after a surprising 3-1 start to the season, but Missouri hasn't loss to Colorado since 2005. The past three meetings have seen Missouri outscore the Buffaloes, 149-27.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Keep Colorado's offense off the field. The Buffaloes offense isn't very explosive, but they dominate the time-of-possession stat line. Score early, and force QB Tyler Hansen to throw the ball.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Henry Josey -- The freshman has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season, averaging over eight yards a carry in Missouri's tailback-by-committee. The most he's carries he's had in a game was 10, and that might be where he's most effective. If he breaks two or more long runs early against Colorado, look out.

WR T.J. Moe -- Moe leads the nation in receptions-per-game, and is one of two consistent receiving threats for Missouri. If Colorado tries to shut down Moe, that might open the field for a healing Jerrell Jackson to make his first impact plays of the season.

DE Michael Sam -- Sam, a redshirt freshman, has four impact plays in four games. With DE Aldon Smith out for the second-straight game, Sam will see more playing time. Can he be effective throughout the course of an entire game?

ROSTER REPORT:

--FS Jasper Simmons and DT Jimmy Burge have both been suspended indefinitely. Simmons was suspended prior to Missouri's final non-conference game for a violation of team rules. Burge was arrested on Saturday night for driving while holding an open container of alcohol. He passed a breathalyzer test, however, so was not charged with a DWI.

--DE Aldon Smith will miss his second straight game with a fracture in his left fibula. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel wouldn't set a timeline on his return.


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