Missouri set for opener against South Dakota State

Missouri set for opener against South Dakota State

Credit: Getty Images

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Maty Mauk #7 of the Missouri Tigers runs the ball against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second quarter during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 3, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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by JAKE KREINBERG

AP

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 8:45 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 29 at 8:45 PM

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Braylon Webb has made 30 starts for Missouri, the most by any current Southeastern Conference safety. He still expects to have the "jitters" in the Tigers' opener against an overmatched Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

The 24th-ranked Tigers host South Dakota State on Saturday. The Jackrabbits play in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and are 0-6 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents since moving to Division I in 2004.

"A little bit of jitters," Webb said. "I'm ready to get back out there. I'm excited."

South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said the matchup might be the toughest in school history.

"I don't care where we go play," Stiegelmeier said. "And surely our assistants and our players don't work all those hours a week to go act like tourists. You want to do your best job."

Defending SEC East champion Missouri is 13-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams. Missouri was picked to finish fourth in the division during the conference's media days in July, providing a bit of extra motivation entering the season.

"It's not about who we play or where we play," Webb said. "It's about how we play."

South Dakota State is ranked 10th in the FCS coaches' poll after reaching the playoffs last year and winning a school-record nine games. A league preseason poll predicted the Jackrabbits to finish second behind three-time defending national champion North Dakota State.

Here are key things to know about the first meeting between the schools.

TURNOVERS: Both teams thrived last season on the ability to halt their opponents' momentum. Missouri has forced at least one turnover in 44 straight games dating to Oct. 30, 2010, the longest active streak in the country. A year ago, the Tigers ranked fifth nationally and first in the SEC both in turnover margin per game (plus-1.14) and total interceptions (20). South Dakota State led the Missouri Valley with a plus-1.07 turnover margin and 22 interceptions.

ZACH ZENNER: The Jackrabbits' running back is one of two FCS players ever to have two 2,000-yards rushing seasons and needs only 218 more yards to tie Western Illinois' Herb Donaldson for the conference's career rushing mark at 4,746. Zenner will have to contend Saturday, though, with a Missouri defensive line that led the SEC with 41 sacks and 108 tackles for loss last season.

MISSOURI'S OFFENSE: Maty Mauk takes over at quarterback with four career starts and a 51.1 career completion percentage, and he won't have the Tigers' top three receivers and top running back from last season to turn to for help. He will, however, have five upperclassmen protecting him on the offensive line. How the offense gels as a unit is one of the team's biggest question marks entering the season.

AUSTIN SUMNER: South Dakota State's quarterback already holds school records in completions (631), attempts (1,085) and passing yards (7,824). His favorite target will be first-team all-MVFC receiver Jason Schneider, who had a school-record 78 catches for 1,088 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago. But the Jackrabbits need other receivers to emerge after the graduations of Trevor Tiefenthaler (45 catches, 547 yards) and Brandon Hubert (36 catches, 423 yards, four touchdowns).

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