The Tigers' run defense is coming off a game in which they gave up 367 yards on the ground to Kansas State. Prior to that game, however, Missouri had not allowed more than 107 rushing yards in a contest in a month. In seven Big 12 games, the Tigers have given up 1,264 rushing yards—181 yards per game—and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. In the two games before the K-State debacle, Missouri had held its opponents to less than three yards per carry. Advantage: MISSOURI.
ISU pass offense vs. Missouri pass defense: Apparently, Waye Terry will remain the starter for the Cyclones in the season finale on Saturday. It has been difficult—if not impossible—to figure out Iowa State's quarterback scenario all season. As usual, the QB gets more than his share of the blame when the offense is inconsistent (that's putting it nicely). Terry has completed 41% of his passes, including one touchdown and four interceptions. He has gained an average of 3.7 yards per attempt. The junior has a 66.5 quarterback rating.
Just for comparison's sake, freshman Austin Flynn has completed 47% of his passes, including five TDs and nine picks. Flynn has gained an average of 5.9 yards per attempt. His QB rating is 95.0.
Cris Love has completed 43% of his passes, including three scores and two interceptions. He has gained an average of 6.5 yards per attempt and has a 106.9 QB rating.
In its last two home games, Missouri has allowed an average of 400 yards passing per game. In its seven Big 12 games so far, the Tigers have given up 227 passing yards per contest and their opponents have completed 63% of their passes. Advantage: PUSH.
Missouri run offense vs. ISU run defense: The Tigers' leading rusher is quarterback Brad Smith, who has gained 1,115 yards on the ground on 175 carries for a 6.4-yard average. Smith has run for 15 touchdowns this fall. Tailback Zack Abron has gained 972 rushing yards and has a 5.1-yard average per carry. Abron has run for 12 TDs. Damien Nash has 311 yards rushing, a 4.4-yard average and three scores.
Kansas ran for 180 yards against the Cyclones last week. Kansas State ran for 356 yards three weeks ago against Iowa State. Advantage: MISSOURI.
Missouri pass offense vs. ISU pass defense: Smith has thrown for 1,714 yards and completed 61% of his passes this season, including an 11 to 6 touchdown to interception ratio. The Tiger QB has a 117.3 quarterback rating. Smith's favorite targets are receivers Thomson Omboga (390 yards and one TD) and Darius Outlaw (333 yards and four TDs).
The Cyclones gave up 221 yards in the air to the Jayhawks last week. Colorado threw for 288 yards against ISU the week before that. Missouri will likely do most of its damage on the ground, but the Tigers should be effective in the air, as well. Advantage: MISSOURI.
Special Teams: This has been a difficult season in Ames all the way around. Special teams have not been a strength, either. Advantage: MISSOURI.
Coaching: Dan McCarney brought life back to the Iowa State program, leading the Cyclones to three consecutive bowl games before this disappointing season. His record stands at 38-66 (37%) in nine seasons for ISU. Gary Pinkel is in his third season at Columbia and has a career record of 89-55-3 (61%). After the Tigers were 4-7 and 5-7 in his first two seasons at the helm, Pinkel has guided Missouri to a 7-4 mark this year…and the Tigers will be headed to a bowl game for the first time since 1998. Advantage: MISSOURI.
Intangibles: Iowa State is looking at suffering through an 0-8 season in the conference. Its closest loss was a 40-19 defeat at the hands of Texas. Cyclone fans would like to see this frustrating season come to an end…and get the preparation for the 2004 season underway as soon as possible. Missouri is looking to even its Big 12 record at 4-4 as it heads to a bowl game in December. The Tigers have outscored their Big 12 opponents by an average of 29-27 per game. But at HOME, Missouri is 3-0, with the average score being 49-26. Advantage: MISSOURI.
PREDICTION: I just hope the Cyclones can get off to a good start and keep up a good fight throughout. If Missouri gets out to an early lead, I fear how quickly the score could snowball against ISU. If Iowa State can somehow battle the Tigers to a close game, it could give the Cyclones something to feel good about as the 2003 season comes to an end. But, considering how things have gone for ISU recently…and Missouri's tremendous success in Columbia this season…it's hard to think this will be a tight game in the final quarter. FINAL: MISSOURI 34, IOWA STATE 20.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)