COLUMBIA, Mo. (Missouri Football App) -- The Missouri Tigers are currently unranked and have a respectable 4-5 record for the 2012 season. Many fans expected more from the squad after entering the Southeastern Conference over the summer. Despite poor offensive showings by the Tigers so far in 2012, the defensive side of the team is making the headlines.
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Statistically speaking, the Tigers are ranked 22nd overall in terms of total defense out of a possible 120 college football teams. The team’s only allowing 327.56 average yards per game, which sounds like a tremendous amount of yards, but is surprisingly pretty good.
To put that in perspective, Missouri is playing Tennessee on Saturday who is giving up 483.11 average yards per game, which puts them ranked 112th. The Volunteers also have a 4-5 record but see most of their production on the offensive side of the ball.
Mizzou is ranked 42nd overall in rushing defense, only surrendering 142 average rushing yards a game in a conference with many talented running backs.
A lot of the run defense success can be attributed to personnel playing during the game. The emergence of junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has helped solidify a solid run-stopping defense. So far in 2012, Richardson has started all 9 games, is tied for first on the team in total tackles with 63, has 9 tackles for loss-of-yards, 4 quarterback sacks and 3 forced-fumbles. Richardson has brought a new level of intensity and athleticism to a defense that needed to be average, if not better than average, due to weak offensive play.
Richardson is not a kept secret amongst the nation. He received the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week award on October 29th for his play against Kentucky. Missouri football head coach Gary Pinkel relishes just how special of a player Richardson is.
“His motor is just so great,” said Pinkel. “You never see a player of his size have the kind of quickness of athleticism he has. He’s almost 300 pounds and runs the way he does is pretty amazing.”
Another mind-busting statistic for the Missouri defense is fumbles recovered. Missouri is tied with Louisiana Tech for the most fumbles recovered in all of college football. Missouri’s defense has recovered an astounding 15 fumbles so far in 2012. Pinkel can’t praise his defense enough.
“This might be one of the best defenses we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Pinkel.
That’s quite the claim coming for coach since he started as Missouri’s head coach in 2001. There’s no denying that this defense is special.
The rushing defense isn’t the only piece of the defense making a difference. Missouri is actually statistically better at pass defense than rush defense in 2012. The Tigers are ranked 15th overall in passing defense and only giving up 185.56 average passing yards allowed per game. The team’s only allowed 10 passing touchdowns all season.
Despite the numbers, Missouri is still near the bottom of the standings in the SEC. With only one win against an SEC team to go along with 5 losses is not really a good measure of how the Tigers are doing in comparison to the rest of the conference.
Historically, the SEC is known for dominant defenses and full of NFL-ready defensive prospects. Mizzou’s defense is having a great season thus far but is surprisingly the 6th best total defense in the SEC. With defenses like Alabama, LSU and Florida not only at the top of the SEC, but in all of college football, Missouri is still putting up SEC-type statistics so far in 2012.
Mizzou heads to Knoxville to take on the Volunteers of Tennessee. This game is vital for both teams with 4-5 records and trying to win 2 out of the next 3 games to get 6 total wins and become bowl eligible. The Tigers and Volunteers kick off at 11:21 a.m.