Missouri-Kansas preview

With Missouri and Kansas meeting for the 112th time, who has the advantage at what positions? And who really matters in the end? Inside Mizzou breaks the game down.

Quarterbacks: Brad Smith is finally getting national attention, and it's serious. Other than voteheisman.com, which doesn't list Smith as a candidate, every other national Heisman poll on the Internet has Smith in the top six. Most credited the way he brought Missouri back against Middle Tennessee, which was truly an amazing feat. But he has some competition this week. Bill Whittemore is probably the best passer the Tigers will see this year. He is fourth in the nation in passing after a 319-yard effort last week. Both can run, but Smith is the better runner, and he has seen more pressure situations than Whittemore and succeeded in them.

Advantage: MISSOURI, by a hair

Running backs: Missouri has rushed for almost 40 yards more per game than Kansas, but credit Brad Smith with much of that. Clark Green, only a sophomore, has been a pleasant surprise for Kansas, with two 100-yard games in the Jayhawks' young season. He has also caught 17 passes for 183 yards. Missouri's Zack Abron has been very consistent, averaging five yards a carry. Green has had his moments, but Abron is a proven runner.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Wide receivers: Tough one to call. Before the season, Missouri looked like it had the obvious edge. But things have changed. Sean Coffey had two bad drops last Saturday. Darius Outlaw isn't getting the ball enough. And J.D. McCoy, who had two great catches, will be out for the Tigers. Meanwhile, Kansas receiver Mark Simmons has four touchdowns this season and more than 85 yards per game. Simmons is averaging 31.2 yards per catch. Redshirt freshman Charles Gordon has 15 catches for 314 yards and a touchdown.

Advantage: KANSAS

Offensive line: Hand it to Missouri's offensive line: It has gone two games without giving up a sack. And in two games, Missouri has gone over 290 yards rushing. But at the same time, the line hasn't been there early for the Tigers to get a head start. And a look at Kansas' numbers, and their offensive line has been amazing. Bill Whittemore has been sacked once all season, and he has had a good amount of time to pass for the kind of yardage he has. And Kanas has still rushed for almost 200 yards a game.

Advantage: KANSAS

Defensive line: Like most of the defense on Saturday, this unit took a hit against Middle Tennesse. But at the same time, it has been dominant for the rest of the season. Brian Smith is one of the nation's leaders in sacks, and he is on pace to break the single-season Missouri sack record. Zach Ville, Aatiyah Ellison and C.J. Mosley have all been productive. Kansas has given up 186 yards rushing per game this season, not exactly superb stats, although it does have 10 sacks.

Advantage: MISSOURI

Linebackers: Kansas' strongest unit on defense. Sophomores Banks Floodman, Gabriel Toomey and Nick Reid lead this defense. Toomey has 47 tackles, one more than Missouri's James Kinney. Kinney and Barnes have to rebound from a subpar game against Middle Tennesse where they let too many runners get into the secondary.

Advantage: KANSAS

Secondary: Both units look shaky here. Kansas has three newcomers in its secondary, and the Jayhawks have given up 221 passing yards a game. The Jayhawks do have four interceptions, three more than the Tigers. Missouri's secondary is still coming together with two newcomers, and it has a huge challenge against Whittemore. It can't keep giving the same cushion it has been, but at the same time, it can't let Simmons go deep.

Advantage: Toss up

Kickers: Neither look good. Matheny has been very shaky, seeming to let missed kicks get to his head. He has 3-of-4 kicks, but all three made kicks were from 20-29 yards. Kansas' Johnny Beck is 4-for-8, but he has missed three from 40 yards or more.

Advantage: Toss up

Punters: With so much attention on Matheny and the defense, Brock Harvey has backed into mediocrity quietly. He had dropped below 40 yards a kick after some bad punts last Saturday against Middle Tennessee. Curtis Ansel might be the best punter in the Big 12, and he is averaging 44.2 yards a punt, even with four going inside the 20. It will be interesting if MU's punt block team returns to Eastern Illinois form.

Advantage: KANSAS

Prediction: Missouri 41, Kansas 35. Kansas has the advantage at more positions, but Brad Smith is battle-tested for the fourth quarter. Should be a great one.


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