Missouri-Middle Tennesee Preview

Inside Mizzou breaks down Missouri's game on Saturday against Middle Tennessee position by position.

Quarterbacks: Gary Pinkel flat out said Andrico Hines is the most athletic quarterback the Tigers will face this season. Fortunately for Pinkel, Missouri will never have to face Brad Smith. Hines has been good; Smith has been better. Smith is the better runner, even though he will have to watch himself with the Big 12 Conference schedule coming up. Hines might be a little better of a passer, especially with how many deep balls Smith missed last week.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Running backs: For the Blue Raiders, Don Calloway and Eugene Gross make quite the potent combination, averaging a combined 104.3 yards in the first three games. Not bad, considering Middle Tennessee State's schedule. Pinkel said Calloway's speed will put a lot of pressure on the Missouri defense. For the Tigers, Zack Abron has been solid in every game, and Damien Nash seems like he's ready to break out. If it's not him, then it could be Tyrone Roberson. Missouri is simply deeper, but give credit to the Blue Raiders for accomplishing what it did against two tough defenses.

Advantage: TOSS UP

Wide receivers: After Kerry Wright, Middle Tennessee State doesn't have many more impact players like the Tigers do. But it's time for some of those impact players, namely Darius Outlaw and Sean Coffey, to get the ball more. Thomson Omboga might have the most talent out there, and he's Missouri's leading receiver with 51 yards per game. Once again, Missouri is deeper.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Offensive line: A.J. Ricker admitted it: Missouri's offensive line has struggled. But he said don't count it out. The Tigers have only given up three sacks this season, even if Brad Smith helps the offensive line out every once in a while. Also, Missouri has rushed for 210.7 yards per game. Compare that to 148 yards for Middle Tennessee State, who has also given up five sacks. This game should be a big one for the Missouri offensive line.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Defensive line: The best unit for Missouri so far this season outside of the punt block team. Seriously, these guys have dominated the line of scrimmage. They have ten sacks, batted down a bunch of balls and have kept opponents to an average of 78.3 yards rushing. Middle Tennessee has eight sacks in its own right, and have given up only 125 yards a game, not bad considering the competition. But the benefit of the doubt has to go to Missouri after its dominating performances in the last two games.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Linebackers: You have to hand it to Brandon Barnes. He has been everything the Tigers have hoped for so far. James Kinney has been everything as expected. The Blue Raiders' linebackers in their 3-3 stack defense are good, but not this good.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Secondary: If Brad Smith wants his chance to throw downfield, this is it. The Blue Raiders have given up 276.7 passing yards per game. Missouri's receivers will be a serious test for the Blue Raiders' secondary, which plays similarly to Pinkel's five-man secondary. Pinkel's secondary, meanwhile, gets better and better, although it allowed Andy Vincent to complete too many passes last week.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Kickers: Last week, Mike Matheny missed a field goal and an extra point. He did make a chip-shot 24-yarder, but he hardly had a good day. Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders' Brian Kelly is 3-for-3, including a long of 41 yards.

Advantage: MIDDLE TENNESSEE

Punters: The question here isn't how good are Middle Tennessee's two punters, but will they ever get a punt off. The Tigers have been punt-block machines, and the punt return unit has been this biggest difference for the Tigers so far. I have it giving Missouri four touchdowns to this point, if you include two times where it gave the offense very favorable field position.

Advantage: MISSOURI

PREDICTION: Missouri 35, Middle Tennessee 13


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