Monday, December 27, 2010
Insight Bowl: Three keys for Missouri
By David Ubben
1. Take care of the football. It sounds obvious, but Iowa's offense doesn't look like a unit capable of stringing together 80-yard drives with any kind of consistency. The Hawkeyes are playing without leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson. If the Tigers hand the ball over to the Hawkeyes on the Missouri side of the field, playing through those losses becomes a lot easier very quickly. The good news for Missouri is the Tigers have turned the ball over just 16 times in 12 games this season, tied for fewest in the Big 12 with Oklahoma and tied for 15th fewest in the country. Who has the fewest? Iowa, of course. The Hawkeyes have just nine turnovers, tied with Big Ten champion Wisconsin.
2. Establish the screen game with T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew. Missouri has had success doing it more often than not in 2010, but it'll be especially important against a stingy Iowa defense that ranks sixth nationally against the run and 54th against the pass. The Tigers flip it to the edge to Moe and Egnew often as an extension of their running game. Doing so should soften up the middle for the Tigers and allow some double teams on the Iowa defensive line. The screen also gets the ball out of quarterback Blaine Gabbert's hands quickly and minimizes Iowa's biggest asset -- that defensive line. The more five and seven-step drops Gabbert has to take -- be it on third-and-long or otherwise -- the more impact that front four can have.
3. Score early. Iowa's offense ranks just 61st nationally in total offense, and isn't built for big points. The Hawkeyes have scored 20 points just once -- against Indiana -- in their past four games. If Missouri goes up 14-0 in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, you may see a group of inexperienced players around Ricky Stanzi trying to make the big play, or Stanzi himself forcing a few passes. Missouri can comfortably beat Iowa if the Tigers can convince the Hawkeyes that will it take 30 points or more to win. But if Iowa can control the line of scrimmage early and limit the winning score to only 20 points, then the Hawkeyes can take the game.