Keys to beating Texas

The nationally-ranked Texas Longhorns visit Columbia on Saturday for a clash with the Missouri Tigers. The Longhorns who are ranked sixth in the newly-released Bowl Championship Series standings will be a formidable opponent for Gary Pinkel's Tigers. columnist Mike Morgan breaks down the game and provides keys for a Missouri victory.

1. The offensive line must protect Kirk Farmer, and give him time to throw the ball.

Riding the arm of junior quarterback Chris Simms, Texas relies heavily on its passing game. The Longhorns average 38 points a game so the Tigers will have to throw the ball effectively themselves to be competitive in this game. The offensive line will have to provide Kirk Farmer time to throw the ball down the field. To date, Missouri's offensive line has only yielded five sacks this season, and Farmer said Monday "I have a lot of confidence in them and always have. I trust them and I love working behind them." With the loss of senior Adrian Cole, Rob Droege will step in and take over for Cole at guard.

2. Defense must eliminate the big plays. Last week, against nationally-ranked Colorado, Texas scored 41 points and only allowed seven. Simms threw for three scores and has thrown eight touchdown passes in the last two games. The Longhorns have a stable of big-play receivers who thrive on big plays. The Tigers pass rush has to disrupt Simms timing and the secondary must mix up their coverages to eliminate the big plays.

3. Mizzou's secondary verses the Texas wide receivers. The Tigers secondary only gives up an average of 158 yards passing each game which is among the top ten teams in passing defense nationally. The Longhorns'offense averages 237-yards through the air per game. Longhorn quarterbacks have thrown 15 touchdown passes on the year, and the Tiger defense has only yielded six touchdown passes. The Tiger secondary must keep the receivers in front of them and not let them get loose in the defensive backfield for big plays. Texas' fine receiving corps is lead by Roy Williams. Wiliams has scored four touchdowns this year and is averaging 11 yards a catch.

4. The Tigers must win the give away - take away game.

Last week, Farmer threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Costly special teams turnovers killed Mizzou the week earlier vs. Iowa State. If the Tigers are going to beat a talented team like Texas they cannot afford to beat themselves with turnovers. Farmer must take care of the ball and not try to do too much on every play. It's preferable to throw the ball away or break out of the pocket and scramble than to give Texas any cheap points on Saturday. The defense has to force turnovers, and the best way to do that is for Bynum, Wright and Davis to lead a strong pass rush from the first series and rattle Simms in the pocket. Missouri will not beat Texas if it doesn't win the turnover battle.

5. Intangibles

Missouri has to take advantage of Texas' deficiencies. While Texas does have talent all over the field, the Longhorns have not been a particularly strong road team under Mack Brown. Texas remembers its last trip to Columbia in 1997, and it is a harsh memory indeed. Missouri has also improved incrementally in every game this season, and the confidence level in the locker room is at its highest level since the end of the 1998 season. Coming off a road victory over arch rival Kansas, the Tigers are expecting a near sell-out at Faurot, and many in the organization feel like this might be Gary Pinkel's chance to jump into the national spotlight with a major mid-season conference upset.

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