Both Missouri and Nebraska are coming off important wins against conference rivals this past week. Missouri won a closely contested game against then #1 ranked Oklahoma at home, and Nebraska was able to beat #14 ranked Oklahoma State on the road.
The winner of this game will take control of the North division in the Big 12 Conference, giving them a leg up in the goal of being the Big 12 champion and keeping their hopes alive to play in the national title game.
Missouri offense vs Nebraska defense: Missouri’s offense is led by junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The system is a traditional spread offense with a majority of their formations involving four wide receivers. Gabbert shows good control of the offense and will keep a hurry up tempo for most of the game, mixing up bubble screens, bunch formations, and inside draw plays for the majority of the snaps. As Blaine Gabbert goes, so goes the Missouri offense.
Missouri’s system is a pass dominant scheme and doesn’t involve many option runs. Gabbert has been very efficient this season and is generally very careful with the football. At 6’5 240 he has ideal size and will surprise you with his running ability when a play calls for him to leave the pocket and make plays with his legs. Missouri likes to attack the underneath zones and the shallow flat of the field, only going deep once they’ve established a rhythm offensively; forcing the safeties to play inside and leaving single coverage on the outside receivers.
Nebraska plays a variation of cover two and cover three with the safeties and middle linebacker in a base 4-3 alignment, at times bringing the cornerbacks inside to press and bump and run in man coverage- which is the strength of their defense. Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard show very strong skills in man and zone coverage, forcing quarterbacks to make tight throws and hesitate to let go of the football. Prince Amukamara is as good a cornerback you will see at the collegiate level, and for the most part, shuts off his side of the field.
The Nebraska defense hasn’t given up a lot of points this season. Despite giving up 41 to Oklahoma State last Saturday, it was the first time a team had scored more than 21 points on them this year; they have held teams to under 17 points in four of their seven games.
Nebraska offense vs Missouri defense: Nebraska also runs the spread offense, but it is a bit different from Missouri’s spread. The Cornhuskers have found a gem in freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez; a special athlete. He’s listed at 6’1 but is probably closer to 5’11; he can both pass and run. He shows great straight line speed and is almost impossible to catch once he gets to the perimeter at the second level. Martinez makes quick decisions in the passing game and has a quick release to get rid of the ball with bodies around. Similar to the threat that Cam Newton brings, you have to keep extra guys inside to play the run because Martinez can hurt you in both the passing game and the running game.
Nebraska likes to play with a variation of three or four wide receivers and two tight end sets in their spread offense. They call more running plays to the tailbacks and designed quarterback draws. When Nebraska goes to their two tight end alignment they are running the football 80% of the time. Wide Receiver Niles Paul had a breakout game last week catching 9 passes for 131 yards and he’ll have opportunities against Missouri’s secondary to duplicate his performance.
Missouri’s defense is also a base 4-3 alignment, but they play zone coverage most if not all game. They do a great job with their zone blitz calls, dropping lineman and blitzing linebackers and safeties to throw off the rhythm and timing of the opposing offense. The defense has produced 21 sacks, which is tenth best in the country.
The Missouri scheme allows a combination of players to generate pressure, but defensive end Aldon Smith is a great athlete at the position and would standout for any defense. He has 3 sacks this season despite missing three games and has 14.5 sacks in 15 career starts, which still doesn’t speak of his potential if he can stay healthy and put it all together.
The edge: The Nebraska offense comes into the game averaging 290 yards a game on the ground, good for fifth best in the NCAA. Ironically, Missouri comes into the game averaging 290 yards passing, with both teams averaging 30 points per contest. This game could go either way, with both teams having equal talent, coming off big wins, and having much to play for. Unfortunately, the Missouri Tigers are 1-15 when traveling to Lincoln, and Nebraska has already lost a big game at home against Texas. I don’t see Nebraska losing two straight at home. I believe they win a back and forth game in the final quarter.
Other notable games: #5 Michigan State vs #18 Iowa, #2 Oregon vs USC, Florida vs Georgia.