116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When the Hawkeyes have the ball
This is where the Tigers lived in 2010.
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel is in his 10th season at Mizzou and his second as coordinator under coach Gary Pinkel.
The Tigers are a devout 4-3 defense with Cover 2 zone schemes in the secondary. This is born out of visits with Tony Dungy's Indianapolis Colts staff. This is the Tampa 2, with the middle linebacker dropping into coverage, an active four-man pass rush and keeping everything in front of it.
The Tigers will allow their secondary, led by experienced corners Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, to play more man-to-man than what Iowa is willing to allow in its 4-3, Cover 6.
The underlying theme remains. The Tigers and Hawkeyes have “bend, don't break” written somewhere on their helmets.
Missouri is No. 6 in the nation in scoring defense (15.17 ppg), 10th in pass efficiency defense (108.20 with 56.7 percent 16 INTs to 13 TDs, 203.8 yards), sixth in sacks (3.08 a game) and 14th in turnover margin (27 takeaways, five more than Iowa).
Missouri has held five foes to single digits with two shutouts (Colorado and Iowa State).
The 37 sacks in 12 games is six more than UM totaled in 13 games in 2009. Five different Tigers have recorded 3 sacks or more, led by sophomore DE Brad Madison's 7.5. Madison also leads MU with 11 tackles for loss. He sealed the Iowa State victory with a late-game sack and a forced fumble.
Sophomore Aldon Smith, considered by some as the premier rush end in the Big 12 Conference, has returned from a broken leg (cracked fibula) suffered in game against San Diego State on Sept. 18th. Smith, who went to Cedar Rapids Washington as a freshman, was the Big 12 defensive freshman of the year in 2009. He had a pick in Mizzou's upset over then-No. 1 Oklahoma. He has 5.5 sacks after missing three games.
The Tigers' rush D has sprouted leaks at times this season, allowing two games of plus-200 yards and 328 against Nebraska.
MU's redzone defense, however, is No. 1 nationally, allowing just 17 scores on opponents' 31 trips inside the Tigers' 20-yard line.
You could argue that wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was the only offensive player who played the Minnesota game as though it meant something. He caught a TD pass and returned a kick 88 yards for a TD. He has an explosive gear that only maybe junior wide receiver Marvin McNutt has. But, of course, he's gone after a drug-related arrest.
Will McNutt be able to make his own space while seeing a safety bracket him and the lockdown corner, if Missouri has one who fits in that category?
RB Adam Robinson has led the team in rushing the last two seasons. The Hawkeyes finished 1-2 when he didn't start. True freshman Marcus Coker has rushed for 403 yards in six games.
Coker can run. There's no no-brainer replacement for Johnson-Koulianos.
When the Tigers have the ball
When the Iowa defensive coaches, including coordinator Norm Parker who's back to mostly full duty this week, starts video study of the Tigers, they shouldn't be too surprised by anything they see.
The Tigers run a spread offense that relies on a supremely timed short-passing game, but that's not their only trick. They are well balanced (433 passes to 410 rushes, which is more balanced than Iowa's 412 rushes to 336 pass), with running backs De'Vion Moore (485 yards), Henry Josey (425) and Kendial Lawrence (382).
This trio became the Missouri running back after senior starter Derrick Washington was kicked off the team after being accused of sexual assault. His case is still being heard in Columbia courts.
In Missouri's season finale, a 35-7 victory over Kansas, seven different players ran the ball, including four running backs, two receivers and quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Sophomore receiver T.J. Moe scored on a 2-yard run and became the eighth different player to score a rushing touchdown this season, the most since 1970.
Is Blaine Gabbert a Dan Persa type? The biggest difference between the two - besides Gabbert's 6-5 to Persa's 6-1 - is completion percentage. Persa was in Big Ten record range with 73.5 percent (222 completions). Gabbert is at 62.2 percent with 260 completions. Gabbert, who's 18-7 as a starter at UM, rushed for 405 yards (before negative plays) and four TDs. Persa had 717 yards (before negative plays) and nine TDs.
Gabbert, who was sacked six times against Nebraska, is Persa-like. Probably not quite as quick on his feet, but a bigger arm, just based on the fact that Missouri attempted 78 more passes than NU.
Tight end Michael Egnew (6-6, 235) led the Tigers with 83 receptions, which is tops among the nation's tight ends. The junior is a Mackey Award finalist. The award goes to the nation's top tight end. Going into the season finale against Kansas, Egnew also was second among tight ends in receiving yardage per game with 58.60 yards.
The Tigers have four receivers with 30-plus receptions. After Egnew, it's Moe, a 6-0, 200-pounder, with 77 receptions and a team-high six receiving TDs.
The Tigers' O-line has an impressive 136 career starts.
If the Hawkeyes want to win this, the defense has to get off the field.
Last season, Iowa's defense came up with clutch stops. This year, the Hawkeyes couldn't get off the field in the fourth quarter, allowing offenses to convert 17 of 33 third- and fourth-down conversions.
Iowa's offense will need as many chances as it can get, especially with the obvious personnel hits it took because of the off-field this month. Parker, who's been Ferentz's only DC at Iowa, should help, but he won't be able to bring health to the linebackers, which will be vulnerable against Missouri's spread attack.
Going against such a decorated defense like Missouri's, Iowa's offense is going to need time to feel its way and find rhythym. That's on Iowa's defense
Going hand-in-hand with the Tigers' redzone prowess is some nastiness against field goals.
Opponents have hit just 44 percent against Missouri (8 of 18, and just 3 of 10 in the Big 12). The Tigers have blocked an incredible five FGs in 2010. That probably has something to do with cold feet.
Through 12 games this season, UM kicker Grant Ressel is 16 of 18 with 2 of 3 from 40 to 50 yards. The Lou Groza semifinalist made 13 consecutive kicks before missing what would've been a career-long 54-yarder.
Senior punter Matt Grabner's journey has been circuitious - attended Mississippi and then transferred to UM to focus on school and playing club soccer before trying out for football - but he's making the most out of it.
Grabner has averaged 42.66 yards per kick, 5th in the Big 12. But UM's net of his punting has been the headliner, ranking fourth in the conference and and 13th nationally with an average of 38.87 yards per punt.
The specialists have been the standouts. The return games haven't been explosive. The kick return has averaged 21.93 yards for ninth in the Big 12. Punt return is 10th with 6.4 yards a return.
Kick return defense isn't great (62nd nationally at 21.44 yards, just two spots ahead of Iowa), but the Tigers have covered punts, allowing just 4.24 yards a return.
Johnson-Koulianos led the Big Ten with 29.3 yards on 17 kick returns. His replacement will be senior Paul Chaney. who's returned one kick this season. Chaney also might still hold the punt return duties, pending the health of senior Colin Sandeman.
But the bottomline here is that Iowa's special teams, specifically kick coverage, have been an ongoing headache the entire season. The special teams, which have included several true freshmen at various times this season, probably won't improve all that much over the course of a month. The best Iowa can hope for is a quiet performance or a stalemate.
Iowa's best shot in this game is to make the Tigers one dimensional and pressure QB Blaine Gabbert. And Iowa's D will do that, for about 3 1/2 quarters. And then Gabbert will find a way to win. The Missouri camp this week has been focused but loose. The Hawkeyes have been extremely intense and solemn. Iowa can't win its season back, but it can win something back with a victory. There has been no evidence since Oct. 30 that this team is ready snap out of it. Missouri has bigger, better wins and the bigger, better 2010.
Missouri 34, Iowa 28