1. The Mizzou secondary is only as good as its defensive line. When the Tigers are getting pressure on the quarterback (as they have in droves so far this season), the secondary is crafty enough to step in front of the ball and make a play. But if they have to cover for an extended period of time, then like most teams, they struggle to do so. That was an underrated aspect of last year's defensive troubles -- Aldon Smith was a revelation, but if he wasn't making a play, nobody was. It put far too much pressure on the secondary. With the emergence of Michael Sam and Brad Madison at end, there is hope that Mizzou's pass rush will still be much better this season, even when they've moved on from the McNeese State's of the world.
One thing I find interesting about SDSU's passing attack is that it seems a bit old school -- vertical instead of horizontal. Lower completion percentage, higher yards per completion. Higher risk, higher reward. If they don't go horizontal or attempt a lot of quicker throws, this plays somewhat into Mizzou's hands. The Tigers have four strong defensive ends, and if Lindley is waiting for his guys to get downfield, then it will give the ends an extra second to get to him.
2. Is Henry Josey going to be the featured back and can he handle a full game worth of carries, because last week he had only seven attempts.
2. There is no featured back for Mizzou, at least not yet. I don't think Gary Pinkel is ready to hand the keys to Henry Josey after just a couple of career games. De'Vion Moore is seen as the starter -- he has been relatively effective over the years, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy. I could see Josey, Moore and either Kendial Lawrence or Marcus Murphy each getting at least five carries, with probably no single rusher getting more than 10-12.
3. The Aztecs for the first time look to have a running game in true freshman Ronnie Hillman, how will Missouri balance their focus on defense between the run and pass?
3. If SDSU is smart, they attempt some screens to Hillman or Kazee. Mizzou has been bringing in four defensive ends on passing downs and swarming to the quarterback; they could be vulnerable to some jailbreak screens, and it certainly appears that Hillman is quick/fast enough to do some damage if they catch Mizzou flat-footed. As far as balancing their defense of the run versus the pass, most Big 12 teams are pretty competent at both, so I don't think Mizzou will look at SDSU any different -- they will just run their base defense until it's proven that it doesn't work.
4. For those who do not know, tell them how good QB Blaine Babbert is?
4. For better and for worse, Blaine Gabbert is everything Chase Daniel wasn't. His strengths were Daniel's weaknesses, and vice versa. He is a big, cannon-armed QB who is being projected very high on draft boards. He can make all the throws and has shown tremendous accuracy to date. Where he doesn't have the edge on Daniel is in awareness and pocket presence. Daniel was an absolute computer behind center. He made great reads, knew where he was throwing before the ball was snapped, and knew how to maneuver to buy himself a little more time. Gabbert seems to panic a bit if his first couple of reads are covered. It's basically 1, 2, oh god, I need to tuck and run. That said, when healthy (Ndamukong Suh crumpled him up like a piece of paper, and he fought through a sprained ankle for the middle portion of the 2009 season), he has been tremendously effective so far, and you'll be hearing his name quite early in, hopefully, the 2012 NFL Draft (as opposed to the 2011 draft).
5. For reasons unbeknown to me I think San Diego State can win this game even though they have done nothing over the past decade. So, what will it take for San Diego State to win this game?
5. The Aztecs will have to effectively counter Mizzou's defensive aggressiveness (which means either doing a great job of protecting the passer or screening Mizzou to death), and they will have to tackle very, very well. Mizzou is going to throw quick sideline pass after quick sideline pass until SDSU proves they can stop it, and if they don't hold those quick passes to 3-5 yards, or if Mizzou is able to break one for big gains, then Mizzou will have SDSU's defense on a string. If you can stop Mizzou's base plays and leverage them into passing downs, making Gabbert go through his reads and maybe freeze up a bit, then you might be in a good situation. If not, then you'll have to beat Mizzou by scoring 40 points. I fully expect SDSU to put some points on the board, but I haven't seen enough from them to believe they can win a track meet just yet.