Early Analysis: Missouri at Ole Miss

PHOTO: USA Today Sports

#8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1) at #24 Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3)

Saturday, 7:45 PM EST, ESPN

Line: Missouri by 2.5

The Missouri Tigers are one double-overtime home loss away from being undefeated heading into their last two games. Despite the three point loss at the hands of Connor Shaw and South Carolina, the Tigers have still had a magnificent season but how the fairy-tale ends will depend on their last two regular season games. Ole Miss is up first and the Tigers will welcome their QB James Franklin back for this showdown in Oxford. 

Ole Miss comes into this game in the Top 25 after putting together a four game win streak that started when #6 LSU came to town and left with a loss. The Rebels have been streaky this season as they started with three wins, then lost three straight and now they ride a four game winning streak into this game against #8 Missouri. You can bet that the Rebels relish the chance to be a spoiler.

For Missouri to win: A huge difference-maker this year for the Tigers has been their defense. They have improved year-over-year by 8.2 ppg allowed, they've already gained two more turnovers in ten games this season then they did in twelve last year and they have 13 more sacks in 2013 then they did in 2012. The defense needs to turn the pressure up on Bo Wallace and force him to make mistakes. On offense, it's about Franklin spreading the ball around to his various weapons and keeping the Rebels defense guessing.

For Ole Miss to win: Against LSU, Ole Miss played well early and took a 10-0 lead into half-time. The Rebels need to get going early in this one and keep the crowd into the game. Franklin will be playing in his first game since October 12th and it will be important for the Rebels to make sure that he feels pressure and takes some hits. Missouri will move the ball, but the Ole Miss defense needs to be solid in the red zone. This season, Missouri is scoring TDs on 70% of their trips to the red zone. Ole Miss has given up 25 red zone TDs this season (10th in the SEC) so this will be a big tell on whether the Rebels win this game. 

Key Players, Missouri: Michael Sam and the Tigers defensive line. The Tigers have made huge strides on defense this season and the key has been the defensive line. Michael Sam leads the way with 10 sacks and 16 TFL (tackles for loss) but there are three other players on this line that have 4.5 or more sacks. The Tigers defensive line could very well be the difference in this game.

Key Player, Ole Miss: Barry Brunetti, QB. The favorite player in town is the back-up QB and Brunetti has been seeing more action recently. Brunetti gives Ole Miss a change of pace and is more of a threat to do damage with his legs than is Bo Wallace. What Brunetti does in this game during his snaps could very well turn the tide one way or the other.

Key Stat: Missouri has won the last four games between these two teams. In 1978 the #17 Tigers won 45-14. In 1979, the #9 Tigers won 33-7. In 2006 in Columbia, the Chase Daniel led Tigers won 34-7. In 2007 in Oxford, the Tigers won 38-25 despite 226 yards rushing by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

About Kevin Causey

Dry humorist, craft beer enthusiast, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, contributor for The Comeback.