While analyzing Mizzou's 2009 schedule before the season kicked off, many fans were weary of the Tigers trip to Reno to face the Nevada Wolfpack. Now that we are three weeks into the season and the Wolfpack are 0-2, should Tigers fans still be worried about this game?
Yes, Nevada has started out 0-2 with losses on the road to Notre Dame and Colorado State, but don't be tricked into thinking the Wolfpack is a bad team. Many odd factors could have contributed to their slow start, but they have a lot of things going for them in today's game.
The new and improved Missouri defense will get a test from a Wolfpack rushing attack that finished 4th in the FBS last season in yards per game. The rushing defense has been a relative strength for the defense this year, but they will have to deal with one of the most dynamic rushers in the NCAA this year, Vai Taua. The junior is averaging an impressive 6.5 yards per carry after having 6.4 yards per carry in 2008.
Jaron Baston, Terrell Resonno and the linebacking crew must fill the defensive gaps well in order to contain this playmaker. If they can, it will be nearly impossible for the Nevada offense to get going.
Junior QB Colin Kaepernick was one of the more exciting players to watch in all of college football last year, as he was always a threat to create a big play, whether with his arm or legs. His stats from last year were impressive, rushing for over 1,100 yards while passing for 2,800 yards and 22 TD's. With that said, just like the whole Wolfpack offense, Kaepernick has struggled this year after being very successful last season. The Tigers are hoping to lengthen the junior's struggles in 2009 in Friday's nationally televised game.
One more thing that the Wolfpack has going for them is the home crowd at Mackay Stadium. Nevada fans were expecting a lot from their team this year, so the 0-2 start could make this a bit of a desperation game. Add that to the fact that this is probably the most hyped game of the year for Wolfpack fans and the Tigers could be in for a distinct home field disadvantage.
Tiger fans shouldn't expect a blowout tonight, but this is the kind of game Mizzou needs to win if they are a legitimate contender in the Big XII. Blaine Gabbert will get a good test in his first true road game tonight, but in the end I think the offense of Mizzou will be able to attack to attack the weak secondary of the Wolfpack. Expect a Mizzou win with a score of something like 41-21.