Columbia, MO (KMOV) -- Ok, so SEMO didn't exactly stun the Tigers at home last week. In fact, they didn't do much more than mess up the grass on Faurot Field. What they did do was give Mizzou football players a chance to showcase their speed, strength and focus as the gold and black rolled to a 52-3 win. It was comforting to see the No. 6 Tigers staying locked in on their weekly match up and not looking past any opponent- no matter how small. Of course, who would they be looking to? Nevada? Buffalo? Even the once-mighty Nebraska program doesn't provide much excitement for a team that was one win away from a national title shot a year ago.
While it's tough to get worried about the Wolf Pack this Saturday, there are a few concerns that warrant mentioning. They are running well, using a two-pronged attack comprised of Via Taua at tailback and Colin Kaepernick as a running QB, they have put up 5 combined TD's and 309 yards. In the opener, Nevada churned through 629 yards of offense on their way to 49 points.
However, against the Red Raiders, their fortunes turned south in a hurry. Limited to four field goals in 3 quarters, the Pack was unable to take advantage of a shaky Graham Harrell. Despite tossing two interceptions, Harrell still managed 297 yards through the air. With Chase Daniel already boasting 568 yards and six TD's in only three quarters worth of work, and a run defense that looks to be in full swing, I think the Tigers are safe from worrying about a third week loss.
What is a source for concern for Mizzou fans is the ever-present risk of injury. As the events the NFL's first week showed us, any given play can take out a team's best player (Did you know Tom Brady got hurt?). While the world will keep turning (at least outside of New England), it does force fans to contemplate: Could one injury cripple the Tigers?
The first instinct is utter "Chase Daniel," and it wouldn't be unreasonable to consider it. However, Daniel's absence wouldn't be as devastating as you think. Perennial backup Chase Patton is more than familiar with this offense and has gotten playing time each year, running the offense with efficiency. Freshman Blaine Gabbert, the number 3 national QB prospect last year and a legitimate threat on the ground can spell him, providing the Tigers with a dual threat at the QB position- albeit a relatively inexperienced one. Also, the Missouri offense is set up to protect Daniel. He is still at risk when he scrambles, but at this point in his career he knows to get down or out of bounds when exposed.
With a stable of running backs and a spread offense based on multiple looks, a loss of a running back wouldn't do much but slow down the tigers for a week or two. Jimmy Jackson would me more than suitable as a replacement with 110 yards on 15 carries already this season.
This one would be pretty tough to take, but still non-fatal. While the 6-6, 245-pound Missouri native is essential to the offensive line and even more necessary to causing defenses coverage fits, the Tigers could struggle through it. Freshmen Michael Egnew and Andrew Jones both fit the size requirements as well as show promising hands and speed. Both looked sharp against SEMO -yes it was garbage time, but still- and appeared to be the next generation's Coffman or Rucker. Plus, have you seen Coffman up close? The man could be the Titanic's stunt double.
Bingo. There's a reason that Tiger Nation holds its breath every time there's a pile on top of Maclin. The sophomore all-around is absolutely essential to Missouri's offense and their run at the Big 12. There is no other player on their roster, or any team's roster, that can do the things Maclin does. As a run and receive threat, he flummoxes defensive coordinators and tacklers alike. As a kick returner, he presents even more of a threat. Like Hester and Bush before him, Maclin can erase an opposing team's touchdown within seconds of them scoring it. Ask Illinois how long their celebration lasted after they scored in the second quarter at the Edward Jones Dome. To lose such a player takes away the X-Factor (forgive me) in the Tiger offense and puts them back to battling man-to-man with powerhouses such as Texas and Oklahoma, something that this program won't survive.
So for those looking for something to worry about, there you have it. While even I will admit I feel safe against Nevada this weekend, all this talk about injury will have me watching the tackles awful closely. As for the win, the major concern will be whether the Tigers can cover the 26.5 point spread, not whether they can hold off Nevada.
Now if you'll excuse me, Barack Obama and John McCain are going to discuss the effect of Tom Brady's injury on America.
JJ Bailey is a Mizzou Journalism student