Each week, PowerMizzou.com breaks down the Tigers' upcoming game from every angle. But on Friday, we get you set for kickoff. Here is the exclusive PowerMizzou.com breakdown of Saturday's final non-conference game against Illinois State:
When Missouri runs the ball
Tony Temple has run for 221 yards in the last two weeks and the line looks to be clicking at a much higher level. The interesting thing here will be to see how much Derrick Washington plays and how well he does when he's in there. If Marcus Woods can get back, it would be beneficial to get him some snaps prior to the Big 12 season. Illinois State is giving up 165 yards a game and nearly four per carry. Those numbers are okay, but if they're giving up that to Eastern Illinois and Drake, the Tigers ought to be able to run for a bunch.
When Missouri throws the ball
Well, Chase Daniel can put himself in position to be vaulted into serious discussion as a Heisman hopeful in games against Nebraska and Oklahoma. With a big day here, he could go into those games with 15 touchdown passes. The Redbirds are giving up 7.3 yards an attempt to the opposition. That does not bode well. What is worse? Illinois State has not intercepted a pass this season.
When Illinois State runs the ball
ISU runs the ball very well, averaging better than five yards per rush and 218 per game as a team. Rafael Rice averages 132 yards a game and that's very good. But again, the fact of the matter is that Illinois State hasn't played anyone with anywhere near the talent the Tigers have. I think the Tigers have the advantage, but I'm just hesitant to put too much faith in the run defense until they come out and show it every single week.
When Illinois State throws the ball
Illinois State wants to run on first down, run on second down and, in this game, if possible, run on third down. The passing numbers aren't bad, at about 194 yards a game, but the Redbirds aren't going to win this one on the arm of Luke Drone. Jason Horton is the only receiver with more than 81 yards through three games.
Illinois State is averaging nearly 40 yards per punt, net. Missouri is down around 25. The Redbirds' kickoff return game has been very good, at 28.5 yards per return. The Missouri coverage last week was, in the words of Gary Pinkel, "absolutely awful." Jeremy Maclin is a difference maker, but Jeff Wolfert is struggling on both kickoffs and field goals right now.
Advantage: Illinois State
Missouri Keys to the Game
Frankly, just do what they have done for three weeks. If Missouri plays its A game, they cannot lose this one. If the Tigers even bring a B game, it is probably a comfortable win. Mizzou needs to stay healthy in this one and get its reserves some work. The only way it is close is if the Tigers turn it over or allow multiple game-changing plays against them on special teams. If that doesn't happen, this one will be over early.
Illinois State Keys to the Game
It's real simple: Play a perfect game. That is it. Nothing short of that will allow the Redbirds to win. Even a perfect game probably isn't enough without a few Tiger mistakes. The Redbirds have to win the turnover battle by at least three and run for at least 225 yards. If they do that, they may have a chance.
The Wild Card
The Illinois State secondary. They haven't picked off a pass this season. Will they figure something out and be able to turn Daniel over? It isn't likely, but it's the only thing that can keep ISU in the game.
Let's not get too technical on this one. Missouri should win and they should win easy. Daniel should play no more than one series in the second half. The Tigers have not lost to a I-AA team ever. They're not going to start with Illinois State.