1. Last year, the Tigers came into Bloomington and won handily, 45-28. What went right for the Tigers in that game, and what will be the keys to winning the rematch?
Adam: Mizzou's offense began to click during the Indiana game last season and never looked back. The receivers started to show their ability and Franklin became the QB he was to be for the rest of his senior season. I think that game was when we found out what kind of running game we REALLY had, which has kind of altered our view of our offense even through this season as we saw ourselves as a "pass-first spread" previous to last year. (A lot of that has to do with Josh Henson taking over as OC, but a lot of it also has to do with our stable of RBs we've had the past couple of years.) This season doesn't look to be too much different. On the defensive line last season, Kony Ealy stepped up and made the big play before halftime that really set the tone for the rest of the game, and this season we have just as many quality options. With Shane Ray, Markus Golden, a group of solid DTs and some athletic backup DEs there's no doubt we are capable of doing the same thing again. Mizzou just needs to establish the run early, play solid on the defensive line, and hit a couple of big plays in the passing game and I think we'll probably see the same sort of outcome.
2. Mizzou defeated UCF by 28 after leading by only four at halftime last Saturday. This should be a concern for an IU team whose defense fell apart in the second half of our loss against Bowling Green last week. What did Mizzou during the second half of last Saturday’s game to pick apart the Knights?
Adam: This season's UCF game is kind of like last season's game against you guys. Things just kind of came together for us in the second half of that game across the board. Mauk continued doing what he does best by throwing TDs, but the defensive line COMPLETELY took over. Sacks, fumble recoveries, and even an interception by Josh "Big Bear" Augusta sparked our defense and from there on out they seemed to smother the Knights. The offense continued to impress, especially the receivers (which is great because most people were worried about that position group being the hardest to replace this season). The Knights couldn't establish a running game, our pass rush kept them from getting any kind of rhythm in their passing game, and our offense just picked apart a pretty overmatched defense.
3. Starting QB Maty Mauk has been impressive during his first three games this season, having already thrown for 647 yards and 12 touchdowns in just three games. How has he improved since last season - when he had to start in relief of injured starter James Franklin - and what can he do to get better? And has anyone else called this season Mauktoberfest or can I be the first to do so?
Adam: Mauktoberfest has been a thing for quite a while at Mizzou, but props for being an outsider and using it. Mauk has improved in the sense that he feels pressure better and does a better job of keeping his eyes downfield, He has much better command of the offense in that his decision-making has led to a slightly improved completion percentage, making the offense more efficient than when he was on the field last season. He has a lot of room to improve there still as he sometimes tries to push the ball downfield (which will happen when you have a young QB that has a gorgeous deep ball), but he's aware of that and has even stated in interviews that his focus is his decision-making and short passing game.
4. Like IU, Mizzou has a fast, up-tempo offense that can score points at will. Other than Mauk, who are the key contributors to this offense? And who should we watch out for on defense?
Adam: The key playmakers in this offense are in no particular order; RB Russell Hansbrough, RB/WR Marcus Murphy, WR Jimmie Hunt, WR Bud Sasser, and WR Darius White. Bud Sasser garners slightly more attention from Mauk than the other receivers, but the ball is pretty evenly distributed between those three. The offensive line has a lot to do with that in the running game, but those are the guys you'll be hearing from a lot this season. Marcus Murphy is a jack of all trades and has kind of begun to take the "offensive weapon" role like Dexter McCluster when he was at Ole Miss.
As far as the defense goes, the guy that has had the biggest impact all season is Shane Ray. We all expected Markus Golden to light the world up this year (and he's been playing really well with 4 sacks of his own), but Shane Ray has been an absolute dominant force so far, posting 5 sacks and numerous tackles for loss. Having guys that can wreak havoc in the backfield like that makes it much easier on the rest of the defense to do their jobs. The DTs Lucas Vincent, Matt Hoch, and Josh Augusta are the other names to watch for.
5. Mizzou is now in Year 3 of the SEC experiment. Last year, the Tigers stunned prognosticators and won the SEC East. Since South Carolina and UGA both already have conference losses, the division looks there for the taking again. How has the SEC transition gone for the Tigers, and do you think Mizzou can repeat as SEC East champs?
Adam: I'd say the SEC transition has gone great. We've upgraded our facilities, are a part of the biggest conference network in the country, are making a BOATLOAD of money in revenue, played in a high profile bowl game and earned a little national respect. It's helped us land some big time recruits (Nate Strong, Drew Lock, possibly Terry Beckner) and has put Mizzou in households throughout the country. Last season was pretty unexpected for everyone because we didn't really know the extent of the talent we had on that team. This season is very much different as we know what we have, and many of us are confident that it is enough to compete for another East title. UGA and SC both look beatable, Florida is still not where they should be, and though Kentucky and Tennessee are improving, I don't think they're a real threat to win the division yet. Vanderbilt is... well, Vanderbilt. If Mizzou can continue to improve week to week like they have in non-conference play, there's no reason to think we won't be right in the thick of things at the end of the year.
6. Coach Gary Pinkel was on the hot seat two years ago after a 5-7 season. How has Pinkel been able to turn this team around and turn Mizzou into a national contender again?
Adam: 2012 was kind of a unique situation for Mizzou, in that expectations were high and there was a lot of buzz around the switch to the SEC. People were ready to make their assessments about Mizzou in that season, and Mizzou let a lot of people down by missing a bowl game. To the casual fan, it's easy to say "Oh well Mizzou wasn't ready for the SEC" or whatever, but what really happened was a devastating amount of injuries on both sides of the ball made us lose some games we could have won. There were 3 games that Mizzou lost that one could argue that would have won if they were healthy against Syracuse, Florida, and Vanderbilt. Now, that said I understand the criticism of depth and that it's required to win in a league like the SEC. The annoying part is that last season when Mizzou beat down some pretty darn good teams that had some injury problems of their own, that criticism was spread to the teams that Mizzou beat, but instead Mizzou was touted as "lucky" and wouldn't have been as good if those teams had been healthy. To them I ask, "Where's your depth?" just like they asked us in 2012.
Having said all of that, Mizzou has been a pretty darn good football program for the last decade. I don't think Coach Pinkel necessarily turned anything around, I think he dealt with the adversity of 2012 and got things back on track. Him being on the hot seat was a result of high tensions because fans wanted to prove to the SEC that we DO belong, and now that we've done that nobody (except the occasional idiot you'll see at the stadium) is calling for his head anymore.
7.For the Hoosier fans who are making the trip out to Columbia this weekend, can you recommend any good restaurants or bars to hit up near Faurot Field before or after the game?
Adam: I no longer live in Columbia, so this question makes me feel extremely homesick. You HAVE to get Shakespeare's Pizza as it's kind of the staple of Columbia. It won ABC's "Best College Hangout" award a couple of years ago, and it's still a top 3 pizza I've ever had. Booche's Burgers has a little national recognition as well as their little sliders have a very unique and delicious taste, just don't expect great service and don't go if you're in a time crunch. CJ's Wings on Broadway are my favorite wings of all time, so if you're looking for something a little spicier you gotta hit that up. There are dozens of other great places to eat in town (mostly downtown), so feel free to stop over at Rock M Nation and ask our community where they should go, we love talking about the city and Mizzou fans are generally very hospitable (unless you're from kansas).
As far as bars go, it really depends on what you're looking for. If you want a somewhat younger crowd, go to Campus Bar & Grill (AKA Big 12), if you want a more Greek scene go to Harpo's, if you want a nice patio check out Bengal's, if you want something a little more lounge-y and laid back check out Room 38, if you want a country scene hit up Nash Vegas, and if you want a really, really fun/loud end to your night, you have to check out Penguin Piano Bar. I'm sure there are other great places I've left out, so again feel free to ask the folks at Rock M Nation, they'll be more than happy to help!
8. Mizzou basketball had a tumultuous offseason, as the much-maligned Frank Haith skipped town for Tulsa. In his place comes Kim Anderson, who won the D-2 national title last season with Central Missouri. How are Tigers fans feeling about Anderson and the state of the Missouri program?
Adam: Mizzou fans are generally excited about Kim Anderson coming to town now that he's kept a very strong coaching staff and been able to hang onto big time recruits JaKeenan Gant and Namon Wright while adding Montaque Gill Caesar to next year's team. There's no doubt among the fanbase the guy can coach, we were mainly concerned about his ability to bring in good talent, and with those guys coming on board and a bunch of other high-profile recruits coming to visit, there's plenty of excitement around the basketball program.
9. Now that you guys are in different conferences, is the hate for Kansas still there? Also, do you think you’ll ever resume the Border War in football and/or hoops?
Adam: Yes, I think the hate for kU is still there among many Mizzou fans, despite what we say. We want to act like we don't care, but anywhere you look you'll find a Mizzou fan bashing kU football and mocking them for some reason or another. I personally still despise that place, but don't direct much attention their way these days. If we were to resume a sport, I'd prefer to play them in basketball once a year at the Sprint Center in KC like we do Illinois at the Scottrade Center in STL, but it's hard to say if that'll happen anytime soon. Mizzou has extended the offer to continue playing them in all sports, but they continue to refuse because we left the Big 12. I think that's an extremely childish approach if that is their real reason as there are MANY great out-of-conference rivalries across the country. I do think it will resume eventually (once they decide to quit being crybabies about it) and it'll be a blast.
10. Prediction time: Who wins between Mizzou and IU on Saturday, and what’s the final score?
Adam: I always hate picking Mizzou in Q&As with other blogs because it kind of makes me sound like a cocky douche, but I truly think Mizzou wins this one pretty handily with a score of something like 49-28, though I wouldn't be surprised if IU's passing game takes advantage of our young secondary and adds another score.
Thanks for your answers, Adam! The Hoosiers take on the Tigers on Saturday at 4pm. The game can be seen on the SEC Network, PAWWWWL.