September 28, 2009

Ups and downs of the non-conference season

Through four games, some questions have been answered about the Missouri Tigers. And some still remain as the Big 12 schedule looms. In this bye week feature, we take a look at what's been better than we thought, what's been worse and where our pre-season thoughts were right on target.

Better than we Thought

Blaine Gabbert's performance: Yeah, we thought Gabbert was good coming out of fall camp. But this good? 1,100 yards, 11 touchdowns and no picks good? No way. Gabbert led a scoring drive the first time he touched the ball against Illinois. He has put together two of the best quarterback games in recent memory at Mizzou (the wins over Illinois and Nevada) in his first four starts. Even his worst game ended with a positive spin when he overcame two-and-a-half terrible quarters to lead the Tigers to a 27-20 win over Bowling Green with three second half touchdown drives.

Worse than we Thought

The Offensive Line: This pretty much explains number one. Coming into the season, many (including us) said this could be the best line in Gary Pinkel's Tiger tenure. So far, it's not close. Missouri has been unable to get anything consistently going on the ground. Gabbert has felt a decent amount of heat. Whether it's due to losing Dan Hoch for two weeks in the fall or simply a need to play together longer remains to be seen, but with Ndamakong Suh and Nebraska's impressive front four coming to town, the Tigers have about ten days to get things fixed up front.

They are what we thought they Were

The Smiths: For six months, we've sung the praises of Aldon Smith. He has not disappointed, leading the team in tackles for a loss and sacks. Nearly as good has been Jacquies Smith, who has been a disruptive force and ran an interception back for a touchdown against Furman. Throw in Brian Coulter and the Tigers have exactly what we thought they did two months ago: The best defensive end rotation in Pinkel's career.

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