COMMENTARY: Tigers Must Take to the Air to Beat Vandy

Friday, Oct. 5-

The casual observer may look at the Missouri football team’s 3-2 record and think that the Tigers are on their way to a winning season and a guaranteed spot in a bowl game this winter. Yet, anybody who knows a thing or two about the SEC realizes that this is no easy task.

Saturday’s home clash with Vanderbilt takes the Tigers on a brutal stretch through college football’s hardest conference, as six of their last seven games include conference foes.

If Missouri is able to take down the Commodores this weekend for its first-ever SEC victory, it will certainly need a big performance from quarterback James Franklin. He and the rest of the offense have been far from spectacular in recent weeks against top-notch defenses like Georgia and South Carolina.

Granted, those are two of the top 10 teams in the country, but the SEC is full of tenacious defenses. Missouri won’t have the luxury of playing against a weak, non-conference foe like Central Florida this weekend.

While Franklin did throw for 257 yards and a touchdown, he has rarely thrown passes longer than 30 yards down field to keep the defense honest.

This leads us to this week’s primary key to the game, which is that the Tigers must throw the ball deep early on to open up holes in the Vanderbilt defense. SEC defenders are simply too strong and too fast to beat with an assortment of short runs and passes. The Commodores are no different.

In order to accomplish this, Missouri needs much better pass protection than the offensive line has provided in recent weeks. Luckily, veteran offensive lineman Elvis Fisher, who has not played since injuring his knee against Georgia, will be back in the lineup to make Franklin’s life a whole lot easier.

If Franklin does indeed have time in the pocket, and his arm strength is completely back to normal following his shoulder injury, the Tigers would be foolish not to at least test the Vanderbilt secondary in the first half.

Otherwise, Mizzou will struggle to get first downs and have to rely once more on extraordinary special teams performances from players like Marcus Murphy.

The Tigers duel with Vanderbilt kicks off at 6:00 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.

-Nick Hehemann
23 Sports
Staff Writer