Although the Tigers have won each of their first 4 games of the season, they still entered the week unranked in the AP poll. The good news for the Tigers is that they will get their first chance to make a lasting impression with a win on Thursday against a tough, ranked Nebraska team.
This game against the Cornhuskers begins the toughest 3 game stretch of the season for Mizzou. 9 days after the Thursday night game, the Tigers will travel to Stillwater to face the 14th ranked Oklahoma State Sooners. Then comes the toughest game of the year when the Texas Longhorns come into Columbia for Mizzou's homecoming game. What will the Tigers have to do to in order have a chance in all three games?
The question marks for the Tigers are pretty clear. They need to start establishing Derrick Washington early in the game so opposing defenses can't drop more people back into coverage to try and bait Blaine Gabbert into making mistakes. What was once thought to be the strength of the offense has been a liability this year and that needs to be turned around if the Tigers want to avoid being predictable on offense.
Although Washington and crew have not performed that well this year, the blame should probably fall mostly on the shoulders of an underperforming offensive line. The line has been improving at pass blocking in recent weeks, but they have continued to block poorly for the backs. Maybe an extra week of practice will give the line a chance to get in sync.
Another area of concern is the rushing defense up the middle. Jaron Baston was supposed to be a good anchor of the middle of the line, but he hasn't provided the force that many fans though he would coming into this season.
Nevada's strong rushing attack gave the Tigers fits throughout the game and it prevented Mizzou from ever pulling away in that game. The Huskers have a explosive rushing attack led by Roy Helu Jr, so the Tigers must find a way to improve their gap assignments, etc. in order to defend the run more effectively.
If the Tigers can win while improving these question areas, expect the Tigers to earn a lot more national respect in the week 6 poll.