Who said defensive tackle wasn't a glamour position? At Missouri, it is, with Hamilton, Resonno and Richardson combining to make 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Hamilton is the team's best nose tackle and one of the more active nose tackles in the league. And while Resonno is listed as a starter, Richardson is the tackle who seems to be coming on the most in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Texas center Dominic Espinosa and Longhorn guards Mason Walters and David Snow have been outstanding in recent weeks, paving the way for consecutive 400-plus rushing days. The key here will be holding up those blocks. Texas needs to avoid negative plays in the rushing game, while Missouri needs to make them to alleviate pressure.
Brown would have been ready to go last week, had the Longhorns needed him. But they didn't, thanks to Bergeron's 191 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. Now, the Longhorns will probably attempt to mix-and-match the two — along with speed threats Fozzy Whittaker and D.J. Monroe — to mash through a Missouri linebacking corps that has some speed but isn't overly big. Wilson has an excellent nose for the ball, but the way Brown and Bergeron win yards after contact, he'll need fellow linebackers Gooden and Lambert to make plays. Lambert is especially huge, as he's a big-play linebacker who has seven tackles for loss so far this season. Simply put, if they can slow down the Longhorn run game, they'll slow down the Longhorns.
Two weeks ago, this would have been a scarier matchup for the Longhorns. Josey is the nation's most explosive running back, as evidenced by his leading the country in 10-plus and 20-plus yard carries. He's averaging an amazing 8.6 yards per carry, and he breaks those off in chunks. Despite not starting the first two games, he's rushed for 1,149 yards and nine touchdowns, at 127.7 yards per game. But after allowing big runs against both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Texas run defense has clamped down, not allowing any more than 30 rushing yards in each of the past two games. Don't expect that to happen again, but if Acho and Robinson do a nice job of filling their gaps, Texas does have a chance to overpower a Missouri offensive line that is pretty banged up.
Here's the first matchup that doesn't have to do with either team's running game. Davis has a talent for getting open down the field, particularly when he finds himself in one-on-one situations thanks to the running game. And while the Tigers like both Edwards and Gaines, the Missouri defense has been torched through the air at times this year. If Texas is able to run the ball, watch out for Davis on the post route against either of those two. The Longhorns probably won't throw the ball any more than they have to, but a similar performance to last week's game — when Davis opened things up by snagging two passes for 72 yards — would go a long way toward opening things up offensively.
Okafor and Jeffcoat face a difficult challenge this week in trying to corral Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who has rushed for almost 600 yards and 10 touchdowns. He'll be reading both ends on zone reads, which could limit their aggressiveness on play-action. But Okafor and Jeffcoat have come on in recent weeks, and they're starting to get to the passer more. Given that Franklin can be coerced into making mistakes, any pressure that they can apply will be a major bonus. And they will need to be aggressive on the zone read, trusting that the guys behind them will finish off whichever player gets the ball.
X-Factor: The Running Game
If you look at the above matchups, most have to do with the running game in some way. Even picking Mike Davis against the Missouri secondary was based on the Longhorns opening things up for the run. And that's why the game will revolve around each team's ability to run the ball and stop the run. Simply put, whichever team has the most success at running the ball will probably be the team that leaves Saturday's game with a 'W'.
If the game is going to be based around the run, it's hard to pick against the team that has run for more than 400 yards in each of the last two games, nor the same team that isn't allowing teams anything on the ground. Texas has a strong run defense, whereas Missouri is just middle of the pack in that category. So if the game is based around running the ball, and the Longhorns are both better at running and stopping the run, it would seem to look good for the boys in burnt orange.