1. So year two of SEC play is a liiiiittle bit different for Missouri. Talk about what has made this team so different than last year's embarrassment.
The obvious answer here is that we're finally healthy. Last year, only ONE player on the offensive line (Evan Boehm) played in every game last season, Henry Josey was out, James Franklin missed a major portion of the season (not to mention Berkstresser was not nearly as capable a backup as Mauk), and we just couldn't seem to get any kind of consistency. With that health being a contributing factor, our offensive and defensive lines have set the tone in our games this year. Shane Ray, Kony Ealy, and Michael Sam are all major threats as pass rushers, and our offensive line has done more than enough to let our skill players shine. James Franklin and Maty Mauk have enjoyed nice big pockets to sit in while they pick apart defenses, and our stable of highly talented running backs in Henry Josey, Russell Hansbrough, and Marcus Murphy have had holes the size of Texas to run through. Our WRs have obviously benefitted from this as well, seeing as we have two competent QBs who can get them the ball. L'Damian Washington has really stepped up as a senior and made himself a threat in the passing game, Marcus Lucas has fixed his stone hands, and DGB is finally becoming DGB.
2. Ole Miss heavily recruited Dorial Green-Beckham only to have him sign with Missouri. Talk a little bit about the type of receiver he has become. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
He was fighting the perception of some Missouri fans who thought he was a disappointment through the first part of this year, but his game against Kentucky really seemed to get people back on the bandwagon. The guy is a nightmare for any corner that has to try to take him one on one in man coverage as there's really no good way of shutting him down. He's extremely fast, his vertical is ridiculous, and he doesn't go down easily. He's still a bit rusty in the route running department, so I think zone coverages tend to make him look less impressive at this point in his career. Regardless of the scheme, you would be hard pressed to find anyone excited to line up across from him.
3. I have watched Missouri play a couple of times this year, but I confess that I haven't been paying close attention schematically. Talk a little bit about the similarities and differences between James Franklin and Maty Mauk.
Simply put, James Franklin is about efficiency and Maty Mauk is about explosiveness. Mauk likes to throw BOMBS in the downfield passing game and sometimes struggles with the short touch passes while Franklin distributes the ball to everyone and their grandmother, so our offense just seems to hum with him behind center. They're both running threats, with Mauk being a bit quicker and faster and James having some power. I don't think we'll see James trying to run over too many people this weekend as he recovers from his shoulder surgery though. Aside from those differences, our offense will look basically the same no matter who is QB.
4. Defensively, Missouri's defensive line seems quite strong, yet the team still gives up a lot through the air. That happens to be a strong suit of the Rebels. Can you pinpoint a reason or two that teams have had success passing the ball against the Tigers?
First off, you'll hear the same thing from the Mizzou perspective any time this is brought up. The numbers are inflated because we have played with a lead almost the entire year and teams have to throw the ball against us. Our sacks and interceptions are some of the highest in the country, and that's because we've had more opportunities to get them. We also give up a lot of yards in the process, although we seem to tighten up in the red zone and don't give up a lot of points.
5. How does the game play out? What's the score, and how does it get there?
This game will be a very hard fought contest between two teams absolutely loaded with explosive offensive talent, so I think it's going to be in the 30s both ways. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Ole Miss in saying this, but give me Mizzou 38-31. I think at the end of the day, Mizzou is deeper and more talented overall than the Rebels (not by much) and has the defense to make just enough stops to give our offense a chance to pull away in the fourth quarter. Mizzou is so balanced on offense that it's hard to get the offense off the field without letting them score, and while Ole Miss can say the same thing, I think the Tigers defensive line will make the plays the team needs to help put the ball back in the hands of Franklin. I HONESTLY would not be surprised one bit to see this go the other way, as the Rebs have proven that they are not to be taken lightly at home and don't have a defense you can simply overlook either. My advice to those with heart conditions is to stay as far away from this game as you possibly can this weekend because this will be a wild one.