Just in case you hadn't noticed, the Sooners have a pretty big game this weekend in Columbia against the 6-0 and 18th ranked Missouri Tigers. Among the challenges presented by the Tigers is that they have the top scoring defense in the Big 12. Here to help us understand their perspective is RPT from SBN's Missouri blog Rock M Nation.
CC Machine: The Tigers are tops in the Big 12 in scoring defense. How do you see them attacking Oklahoma's offense?
RMN: Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel has said he's been running similar schemes this year, but from a layman's perspective, Missouri seems to be bringing a lot more heat than usual. Rather than sitting in the soft zone they've favored for so many years, Steckel has put a tremendous amount of faith in his defensive backs to be left alone in man coverage. So far, they've rewarded that faith. That's not to say that Ryan Broyles doesn't break free on Saturday night, but through six games, corners Carl Gettis, Kevin Rutland and Kip Edwards have exceeded almost everyone's expectations. It's also been helpful that the front four has been incredibly productive on its own without the help of the blitz on many occasions. Even with Aldon Smith out with injury, Mizzou flat out abused an admittedly sketchy Texas A&M offensive line last week for seven sacks.
CC Machine: What's you gut telling you about defensive end Aldon Smith, playing or not?
RMN: My gut says he'll play, but to be fair, Aldon's told us at media day for the last three weeks that he was going to be play each week. This time, though, I think Pinkel lets him. I'll set my odds at 80 percent.
CC Machine: Blaine Gabbert and the Missouri passing attack have been getting a lot of mention here in Oklahoma as the centerpiece of the Tiger offense but tell us about the rushing attack.
RMN: It's a bit of an enigma at this point. Since Derrick Washington's permanent suspension, Missouri has gone four-deep at the tailback-by-committee with DeVion Moore, Kendial Lawrence, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy. Josey is the big-play threat out of the bunch, Moore is the steady threat, Lawrence is the shifty runner, and Murphy is developing his vision but has good straight-line speed. The running game feasted on bad teams and has been rather average against others. Mizzou's shotgun zone rushing attack is heavily predicated on teams overpursuing to open up lanes, so if Oklahoma stays home in their gaps, Mizzou could be in trouble on the ground. Plus, the Tigers' modus operandi since 2009 has been to shy away from the run if it doesn't work early, and becoming one-dimensional against a Venables defense is a scary thought.
CC Machine: After the Big 12 Championship games of 2007-08 how much of a revenge factor is involved with this weekend?
RMN: A complete non-factor. The Big 12 revenge factor is a narrative created and embraced by fans and media, so I'm sure fans are bloodthirsty for some modicum of "revenge." For the players, though, this is largely a new team from the ones you saw in San Antonio and Kansas City. They don't want this win because of previous losses. They want this win because of what it would do for them this season.
CC Machine: This is the biggest game in Columbia since...
RMN: Missouri/Nebraska 2007. Now, Nebraska ended up being historically putrid in 2007, but here's how it breaks down: Missouri was playing decent football and was still undefeated through the first few weeks. A "big name" team comes to town for a nationally-televised night game as Mizzou's national litmus test. You'll hear a lot of Missouri fans refer reverentially to that night as Faurot Field's shining moment. Missouri fans have always wanted to recapture that night and that atmosphere, and Saturday might be the first legitimate shot at doing so (though I'd be incredibly surprised if the score is the same...)