The School: The University of Missouri
Record: 5-2 (2-1 SEC) (12-2 in 2013). Oh good, a win over Vandy means bowl eligibility. I'm sure that won't be a motivating factor for anyone.
Ranking: 28th in the AP poll, 29th in the Coaches' poll. Missouri is ranked 30th in the Real Time RPI (68 spots ahead of Vandy, who cracks the top 100 at 98th) and are ranked 14th in Warren Nolan's rankings (Vanderbilt is 109th).
Mascot: Tigers. This is not a reflection of Missouri's native tiger population (thriving), but a nod to the armed soldiers who protected Columbia during the Civil War. Have you ever dug in to Missouri's history of conflict during the Civil War? Hooooo boy, it is complex. Discussing it with native Missourians is like a YouTube comments section come to live.
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Conference: SEC East (you knew this). Formerly the Big 12.
All-Time vs. Vanderbilt: 3-2-1. 33 percent of these games took place before 1897, on a field I can only assume was a haunted Civil War burial ground due to UM's 42-6 aggregate score in two wins.
In the past 10 years vs. Vanderbilt: 1-1. Jordan Rodgers led Vandy to a comeback win in Mizzou's first season as a member of the SEC. Then, last year...
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Abject misery and destruction. The Tigers took a 20-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and Vandy coach James Franklin was forced to watch Mizzou quarterback James Franklin carve his defense up to the tune of 278 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Michael Sam sacked Austyn Carta-Samuels three times, thereby immortalizing the Vandy QB on draft day highlight reels despite not being selected in the NFL Draft. Pavlovian conditioning suggests that when I hear about the next NCAA football player to come out, I will immediately flash back to Carta-Samuels getting dragged down in the Commodore backfield.
Is Vanderbilt Favored?: hahahaha no. (+20.5)
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Maty Mauk. The Tiger quarterback threw for 20 whole yards last week in a 42-13 rout of Florida. Expect that number to double - nay, triple! - against a Vanderbilt team who just lost a starting cornerback to "philosophical differences" with his coach.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: Braylon Webb. Webb has three interceptions for the season and has returned those picks for an average of 29.7 yards per turnover. Vandy quarterbacks not named Patton Robinette have combined to average nearly two INTs per game. Webb will have the opportunity to rip off another big play this Saturday.
Matchup to Watch: Shane Ray versus Andrew Jelks. Ray has been a force of nature in his first season as a starting defensive end for the Tigers. He's chalked up 14.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks - good for third in the NCAA - in seven Missouri games so far. Ray is an extremely quick and versatile rusher who will either test Johnny McCrary's mobility or Wade Freebeck's ability to deliver passes under pressure. Jelks will have his hands full at left tackle on Saturday.
Interesting Fact: The Missouri mascot, Truman the Tiger, is named after U.S. President Harry Truman.
Truman did not earn a college degree, and at no point attended the Missouri campus at Columbia.
Bonus Fact!: The Missouri School of Journalism is responsible for luminaries like Pat Forde and Brad Pitt, but they are most proud of having never granted a degree to Skip Bayless.
If Mizzou wins, we: Keep waiting for Florida. The silver lining on this season is that Vanderbilt can force the Gators to leave Will Muschamp on the tarmac at BNA while their chartered flight takes off for Gainesville. I think that's an appropriate goal for 2014.