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Better Know a SEC Opponent: the Missouri Tigers

Vanderbilt will host Missouri for the first time as SEC foes on Saturday. Will their 2013 matchup turn out to be more exciting than the slopfest these two teams ground out last year?

Big man touchdowns are the best touchdowns.
Big man touchdowns are the best touchdowns.

The School: The University of Missouri

Record: 4-0 (5-7 in 2012)

Ranking: 30th in the AP poll and 31st in the Coaches'. The formulas have them rated 24th in the Real Time RPI and 11th (!) in Warren Nolan's rankings.

Mascot: Tigers. The Show Me State is pretty much ground zero for uninspired football team names. You've got two "Tigers", two "Bears", two "Eagles", two "Lions", and even a "Wildcats" amongst the college ranks. The only notable exception? The Central Missouri Mules. Get on Central Missouri's level, everyone.

Location: Columbia, Missouri.

Conference: The ESS-EEE-CEE. Formerly the Big 12.

All-time vs. Vanderbilt: The Commodore/Tiger rivalry dates all the way back to 1895, when the teams met in consecutive years that saw Missouri win a pair of blowouts by a combined score of 42-6. That converts to a 313-20 advantage when adjusted to modern scoring standards (citation needed). Needless to say, Vanderbilt avoided facing Mizzou after that, not playing them again until a 1957 season opener ended in a 7-7 tie. The 'Dores have won the two meetings since then to even up the all-time ledger at 2-2-1.

The Last Time We Saw These Guys: It was...not great. Vanderbilt and Missouri got off to an ugly start that ended the third quarter in a rare 9-9 tie. For Mizzou, an injury to quarterback James Franklin left the team's offense punchless in the red zone and settling for field goals. Vandy was equally as bad, relying on an early safety to keep them in the game. Eventually Zac Stacy decided that he'd had enough of that crap and carried this team to the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter before single-handedly running out the clock on the Tigers in Columbia.

Most Potent Offensive Threat: James Franklin. The SEC's other JF has been stellar for the Tigers in 2013, but his big performances have come against a lackluster lineup of opponents. The mobile quarterback has passed for 282 yards per game during Mizzou's 4-0 start while maintaining a 3:1 TD:INT ratio. On top of that, he's also added 215 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. Franklin has looked as good as he ever has this year with Missouri, and Vanderbilt will have their hands full gameplanning around him - especially with how poorly they've dealt with mobile quarterbacks in the past.

Most Potent Defensive Threat: Kony Ealy. He can do this:

And that concerns me.

Matchup to WatchDorial Green-Beckham versus the Vanderbilt secondary. Green-Beckham was one of the biggest recruits of 2012, but he didn't make an impact against the Commodores in their meeting last fall. He's been much better in '13, leading the Tigers with 334 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

He'll be going up against Vandy's biggest strength on the defensive side of the ball this weekend. All-SEC cornerback Andre Hal will likely pull most of the DGB duties, but expect safeties Kenny Ladler and Javon Marshall to chip in as well. The 'Dores have the ability and experience to stop the young receiver, but if Green-Beckham can hang some big receptions on Vanderbilt then we'll know he's for real.

Interesting Fact: As a border state, Missouri was split during the Civil War, having its star flown on both the Union and Confederate flags. As a result, more than 1,200 distinct violent conflicts took place within state limits. Thank you, Lauren D'Andrea of the Missouri History Museum, for driving this fact into my brain every time I visit for Christmas.

Bonus Fact!: Missouri, despite being in the midwest, is one of the 29 states that the FBI notes as not having any significant Juggalo presence or criminal activity. Good job, Missouri!

If Missouri wins, we: scout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Wake Forest really, really hard. A loss to Missouri would make bowl eligibility a tough task, but a manageable one. Vanderbilt currently has four games on their schedule that are easier than the murderer's row lineup of Georgia/Texas A&M/Florida that they'll have to deal with after facing the Tigers. They need to win three of those, and Mizzou would be a good start. However, a loss makes games against Kentucky, Tennessee, and Wake Forest more "must-win" than ever before. Barring a big upset win (which is not unreasonable), the 'Dores will need to win those three games to make a bowl appearance in 2013.