UCF and Missouri meet for the second time on Saturday. In 2012, The Knights led for the majority of the game before Missouri's physicality managed to pull the tigers in front and win the game 21-16. This year both teams field so,e of the most talented rosters in the country. It makes for one of the more intriguing matchups in the season. Adam Cribbs from Rock M Nation was kind enough to sit down with me and preview the game.
Q: What are the strengths and weakness of this year's Missouri team?
Adam Cribbs: The biggest strength is the pass rush. Markus Golden and Shane Ray are in the backfield seemingly every play (even though Ray needs to do a better job of staying at home sometimes) and they have a clear effect on the opponent's passing game. The offensive line is a strong anchor for what looks to be another great Mizzou offense as well. This team's biggest weakness position-wise is probably the secondary as a whole, they seem to struggle with preventing separation and don't do a good job at taking good angles on the ball carrier.
Q:Maty Mauk and the Missouri offense have not lost a step in explosiveness and efficiency despite losing Dorial Green Beckham and Henry Josey. How is this offense so efficient?
Cribbs: I agree that the explosiveness is still strong in this offense (maybe stronger than last year), but this team is far less efficient than last season. Drives can stall because the short passing game is not where it needs to be yet. Mauk is an electrifying player as he can put six on the scoreboard seemingly any given play, but that sometimes comes with his inability to keep drives alive in standard down situations. If the running game is struggling at all, the offense is very boom or bust. There is still a ton of talent at receiver and running back, so even with the losses of DGB and Josey, Mauk has a lot at his disposal.
Q:Markus Golden and Lucas Vincent terrify me. Is this defense better than last season's defense?
Cribbs: It's too early to tell, mainly because of the youth in the back seven. The linebackers still have a lot learning to do (even if there is a ton of athleticism at that position) and the corners are both first year starters. The defensive line should be every bit as good as last season, if not better. The success of the defense overall depends on how quickly Penton, Gibson, and the linebackers are able to mature.
Q: In 2012 UCF and Missouri played in a grind it out game which Missouri ended up winning 21-16. Will the Tigers implement the same strategy or will they go up tempo with Mauk?
Cribbs: These Tigers are far from a "grind-it-out" type of team. They rely on big plays and moving the offense at a pretty high pace. The 2012 team had a lot of problems of its own to deal with, so I don't think you'll see many similarities from this year's team.
Q:What matchups are you most interested in seeing?
Cribbs: I'm excited to see how Mizzou's run defense fares in this game after getting gashed by Toledo's Kareem Hunt. If the linebackers can take last week's game as a learning opportunity and apply it to this week's game, I think we'll see better results. I'm also excited to see if UCF is capable of cutting down on Mizzou's big plays, because if the Tigers can't rely on their explosiveness they might struggle quite a bit.
Q:What is your prediction for the game?
Cribbs: UCF is a strong team, but I think Mizzou wins this one in the range of 34-20. Things are beginning to click for the Tigers, and I don't think that changes now.
Thank you Adam for taking the time and answering my questions. Good luck to you on Saturday.