Campus Corner

Mizzou Mailbag: Talking BCS, Gaines’ injury, Florida’s run defense

Updated: 2013-10-18T21:16:42Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

Missouri moved up to No. 14 in virtually every poll of consequence this week and seems poised to crack the top 10 in the inaugural Bowl Championship Series standings for 2013, which will be released Sunday.

Of course, that assumes the Tigers beat No. 22 Florida on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. Honestly, it’s a winnable game against even against one of the nation’s best defenses and with a redshirt freshman making his starting debut.

The next two games will go a long way in determining how far Missouri takes its run. Win both, and fans can start booking flights to Atlanta Dec. 7 for the Southeastern Conference championship game. Split, and the Tigers probably are still playing in Florida during bowl season. Lose both games, and the goal becomes rallying for a 10-win season.

Personally, Missouri matches up better with Florida than South Carolina, but the toughest game among all three was at Georgia and the Tigers already bagged that win. The sky’s the limit. It’s up to the offense to score enough to win this week, while the defense has to keep the Gamecocks in check to give the Tigers a chance to win.

As far as BCS possibilities, it’s imperative Missouri wins both games to keep those hopes alive. Coupled with a win against Texas A&M on Nov. 30, that’s probably enough for a Sugar Bowl appearance even with a loss in the SEC title game (unless both LSU and Alabama are one-loss teams, in which case the BCS berths probably go to those teams). Still, the Capital One bowl wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

By the way, Mizzou fans, participation was a little down. If that doesn’t change, the weekly mailbag is going to be a lot of this going forward:

I love you, D-Rock, you know that. You remain my all-time favorite intern, a status likely to go forever unchallenged. But clearly you’ve paid no attention to football season. Do you even realize it still is football season? Moving along …

From our inbox, Morrie Beitch asks, “Is there an update available regarding Gaines availability for this Saturday’s game?”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel doesn’t discuss injuries after Monday, so there isn’t anything new about senior cornerback E.J. Gaines’ status to report. Pinkel said he was questionable with a right quad strain. Officially, that’s all we know.

Gaines, a Fort Osage graduate, also didn’t attend the weekly media day, so nobody got the chance to ask him how he was feeling. Outside the training center, I bumped into Gaines after Monday’s interviews. He seemed to walking OK, but meandering along a sidewalk isn’t the same thing as playing against Florida.

Plus, there was this:

Doesn’t sound promising for Gaines, but it’s still possible he’ll be available in a limited capacity.

Florida leads the SEC in run defense, allowing only 83.3 yards per game. Nationally, the Gators rank fourth behind only Michigan State, Louisville and East Carolina. But Florida’s run defense isn’t nearly as stout without senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley, whose season ended Sept. 24 when he the ACL in his right knee Sept. 24 during a defensive drill. In a 17-6 last week, LSU gashed the Gators for 175 yards on 39 carries. While LSU’s 4.49-yard average per carry isn’t exactly impressive, it shows that teams can be effective running against Florida.

Certainly, I could think any contribution the run game can muster helps redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk. But with the weapons he has to throw to — seniors L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas along with sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham — Mauk should have some opportunities to make and he’ll have to take advantage of those chances. The Gators are disciplined and sound, so Missouri can’t afford to waste opportunities.

Considering that Colorado and Nebraska bailed on the Big 12 and, well, Texas, I doubt there’s any animus there. I don’t why a rivalry couldn’t be renewed at some point with any of those schools. In fact, the only school that I don’t think would at least consider playing Missouri again would be Kansas. Now, perhaps there’s a gentleman’s agreement in place to blow off any overtures from the Tigers or Texas A&M that would prevent that. But if Bob Stoops wants to prove that Big 12 football is every bit as good as the Southeastern Conference, as he seems inclined to spout off about a few times each year, taking down an SEC team would seem to be the way to make that point. The Kansas thing? Well, time heals all wounds, right?

At this point, Keanau Post would appear to be the man in the middle. He’s a 6-foot-11 junior transfer from Southwestern Illinois Community College and a native of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. One more than one occasion, Tigers coach Frank Haith has mentioned the possibility that freshman Johnathan Williams III, a 6-foot-9 forward from Memphis, could crack the starting lineup. Senior Tony Criswell remains an option as one of two seniors for the Tigers, while Ryan Rosburg is pushing hard for playing time after a strong summer and preseason. He won’t start, but he’s in line for significant minutes, while 6-foot-11 sophomore Stefan Jankovic remains an intriguing frontcourt option of the bench. Dude, can shoot the rock.

Obviously, Jordan Clarkson is going to start. The junior guard, who sat out last season after transferring from Tulsa, is expected to be Missouri’s leader and he’s going to get the bulk of the minutes at point guard — at least early in the season. I don’t think it’s a lock guards Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross start all season. At some point, freshman point guard Wes Clark will push for starting minutes. Haith continues to say that he doesn’t put a lot of stock in the notion of a “starting five,” and with Missouri’s depth it wouldn’t be surprising to see him mix and match on occasion depending on opponents and game plans.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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