Missouri Three Keys: Vanderbilt

Three keys Missouri

The Missouri Tigers have suffered some key injuries in recent weeks, which means that they won’t have their ideal and fully-stocked roster for the huge Georgia and Florida games which await in the month of November. Those two games will decide whether the Tigers can win the SEC East.

By Matt Zemek

However, in the short term, it is a blessing that Missouri has been given the softer portion of its SEC schedule precisely when the Tigers are trying to work through these injuries, make various adjustments, and see what their revised roster can do. The Tigers have time to build toward the Georgia and Florida games. The nuances of the schedule worked in their favor; now let’s see if Mizzou can continue to take advantage of this fact when it plays Vanderbilt. Remember that as important as it is to win, there is also something to be said for HOW one wins. That is something Missouri should keep in mind as it goes to Nashville:

1 – Win efficiently

If trying to address the “how” of a victory, Missouri needs to win efficiently.

The Tigers need a game with less strain, fewer high-stress plays, fewer plot complications, fewer chances for something to go wrong.

Against Georgia and Florida, Missouri will need to make large numbers of high-leverage plays. The Tigers can’t win minimalist games against the Bulldogs and Gators… but against Vanderbilt, Mizzou should be able to win without much trouble.

This is the kind of game in which Missouri needs to put the boot on the opponent’s throat early; elicit a quick surrender; and get the starters out of the game as soon as realistically possible.

Vanderbilt just got thumped at home by UNLV. The Commodores are reeling, and head coach Derek Mason is almost certain to be fired at the end of the season. Vanderbilt might come out of the gates flying in an attempt to save Mason’s job, so if Missouri doesn’t answer the bell in the first quarter, the Tigers could trail 14-0 before they realize what has happened to them. They could get roped into a long and difficult game which would stretch their resources at a point in the season when Mizzou needs to win with relative ease and not beat itself up before November’s huge SEC East showdowns.

Being ready from the opening kickoff, and jumping on top of Vanderbilt in the first quarter, maximizes the chances of a big first-half lead, which in turn will enable Barry Odom to get his starters out by halftime at best, in the middle of the third quarter at worst. This is a goal Mizzou should aspire to.

2 – Run the ball

Kelly Bryant can play; we know this. He needs to save his heavy gunpowder for Florida and Georgia. Against Vanderbilt, Missouri needs to establish the most direct path to victory: right through Vanderbilt’s struggling defensive front. Don’t complicate this game. Mizzou should be able to overpower Vanderbilt and win at the point of attack.

3 – Continue to find defensive combinations that work

Without Cale Garrett at linebacker, it is clear Missouri has some reorganizing to do on defense before UGA and UF meet the Tigers in November. Odom watched his defense play an imperfect game against Ole Miss which showed how far this diminished unit has to go. Odom can’t be afraid to tinker and try new approaches on defense. Vanderbilt is precisely the opponent against which he can experiment and develop new ideas which could pay off down the line, in far bigger games.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 3:00 PM CT. Watch on the SEC Network.

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