Tigers favored over Cornhuskers

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 11:01 p.m. CDT; updated 1:49 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 3, 2008

COLUMBIA - Whether you are heading to Lincoln, Neb., or turning to ESPN for Missouri's first Big 12 Conference game of the season, here is a quick look at the matchup.

The No. 4 Tigers head into the game as 10 1/2-point favorites over 3-1 Nebraska, who lost to Virginia Tech last weekend. Missouri is seeking its first win in Huskers' territory since 1978, while Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told reporters he is still aiming for a shutout.

Tiger Offense vs. Husker Defense

There is little doubt these days in Missouri's offense, ranked No. 2 in the country and led by one of the top Heisman candidates, Chase Daniel. The Tigers know how to score and score quickly. Fourteen of the team's touchdown drives have lasted less than two minutes. Is there any reason to think the Huskers can contain Missouri?

Nebraska fans are likely to give the Tigers a tougher time than Nebraska's defense will. The Huskers are ranked No. 96 in passing defense, and the team gave up 206 rushing yards to Virginia Tech.

Pelini said he knows Daniel will not get sacked often because the quarterback plays deep, but Pelini wants to disrupt Daniel's rhythm and make sure his defense follows the spread offense.

"The keys are executing, getting guys in the right place," Pelini said. "You need to tackle well against a team like this, because you're going to be in space a lot. You need to make tackles in the open field."

The Tigers need to manage their own performance. The Buffalo game showed that their offense can have lapses. Missouri lost three fumbles to the Bulls. Tight end Chase Coffman said the strategy this week is simple: "Don't turn the ball over."

If the Tigers keep possession and do not let the crowd hinder them, offense should not be a concern.

Husker Offense vs. Tiger Defense

The Huskers have a versatile quarterback in Joe Ganz (67 of 104, 997 yards), who threw, caught and ran for three touchdowns against New Mexico State.

Missouri lineman Stryker Sulak said the Tigers need to prevent the long plays they've given up in past games. "We've let too many of those go," he said.

Nebraska's offense will likely be looking to limit Missouri's time of possession by mixing in more runs.

"I think it's important in all games, obviously," Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said in a post-practice interview posted on "So it will be important again in this game because you want to try to limit their touches on offense."

The Tigers will need to keep an eye on running back Marlon Lucky, the Nebraska's leading rusher who warned Missouri to "watch out" this Saturday. What does not bode well for Nebraska are the 55 yards on 25 carries in the team's loss to Virginia Tech last week. Missouri has allowed only one rushing touchdown in four games but gave up 182 yards to Nevada.

All-American safety William Moore is set to return for the Nebraska game, which could give Missouri's still-questionable defense (No. 79) a boost.

Special Teams

Missouri is looking to improve its special teams performance after mistakes kept Buffalo in the game into the third quarter.

The Tigers, who allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown two weeks ago, will need to be stingier with Nebraska's Niles Paul, who is No. 28 in kickoff returns. Similarly, the Huskers have to watch out for Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, averaging 31 yards per kick return.

"You have to be smart," Pelini said. "You have to give him attention."

Maclin is equally aware of what Nebraska can do.

"They're a lot better than last year," Maclin said. "They play with a lot more passion."

Kicking-wise, Nebraska and Missouri are about on par this season. Nebraska kicker Alex Henery and Missouri's Jeff Wolfert have both made six of seven field goals, with Wolfert's longest 51-yard touchdown, just edging Henery's 48-yarder. Missouri punter Jake Harry has only been called to the field nine times this season but is averaging 42.6 yards. Nebraska's Dan Titchener has a 38-yard average in 13 attempts.


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