COLUMBIA — Missouri football will get its first test against a Southeastern Conference opponent Saturday when it travels to play Vanderbilt.
Missouri, for the most part, has dominated its first four opponents this season. The offense has averaged 45.5 points per game and more than 500 total yards in each of its first four games.
But those numbers will certainly decrease as the team faces some of the tougher SEC defenses.
Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2 SEC), on the other hand, has already faced two SEC teams, losing to Ole Miss and South Carolina. The Commodores beat Missouri 19-15 last season, something the Tigers haven't forgotten, writes Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star.
Missouri's noncon under more scrutiny bc no SEC games yet but MU noncon lineup no easier than Vandy, A&M, Ark, Aub.— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) September 30, 2013
Missouri was missing receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and linebacker Will Ebner for the game last year, but as Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, that was just the beginning of the problems against the Commodores. Green-Beckham was suspended for last year's Vanderbilt game after being arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. He's eager for his first shot against the Commodores, Matthew Fairburn of the Missourian writes.
The Tigers' offense has made many big plays this year — many of those coming from the three-man rotation between Missouri's three running backs: Marcus Murphy, Henry Josey and Russell Hansbrough. That rotation has helped put the Tigers at the top of the SEC in rushing yards per game, Palmer writes. Both Hansbrough and Josey broke runs of more than 40 yards against Arkansas State last week, as can be seen below.
Josey's 45-yard run:
(Videos: The Mizzou Network)
In addition to the backfield, the offense has seen bright spots from senior quarterback James Franklin and sophomore wide receiver Green-Beckham. Much of Missouri's new-look offense has been a result of newly appointed offensive coordinator Josh Henson, Matter writes.
Pinkel: Did not want to change the whole offense, but talked about tempo and play-action game when OC Henson was hired. #Mizzou— Tod Palmer (@todpalmer) September 30, 2013
The Commodores might be 0-2 in SEC play, but don't sleep on them just yet. The offense, like Missouri's, has a big-play wide receiver in Jordan Matthews — someone the Tigers defense will have to keep an eye on, Fairburn writes. Matthews has had 100-plus yards receiving or a touchdown in four of the team's five games.
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels is congratulated by tight end Steven Scheu, right, and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, left, after Carta-Samuels scored a touchdown on an 8-yard run against Austin Peay on Sept. 7. (Photo: MARK HUMPHREY/The Associated Press)
Vanderbilt is ranked No. 10 in ESPN's SEC Week 5 Power Rankings, while Missouri is at No. 8.
Along with Vanderbilt's Matthews, the team also has a strong quarterback in Wyoming transfer Austyn Carta-Samuels, Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean writes. Carta-Samuels is just behind NFL quarterback Jay Cutler's numbers as a senior, he adds.
Franklin: Vandy can stretch the field more, get ball to WRs faster because Carta-Samuels has stronger arm than Jordan Rodgers— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) October 2, 2013
What the Tigers might have going for them this week is their read-option type offense, which has "caused issues for Vanderbilt's defense" this season, Lockridge writes. If the Tigers can accomplish that, they might leave Vanderbilt sitting at 5-0.
Supervising editor is Frank Russell.