As with most Thursdays during the football season, it is time for our weekly Q&A with an opponent blogger. This week we have Josh Matejka from SB Nation’s Rock M Nation. Josh is here to talk about all things Missouri, including a little basketball:
T-Mill: Let's break the ice with a little basketball! You guys have Purdue alum Cuonzo Martin on the sidelines and he is tearing up in recruiting. How happy are you with him?
Josh: Starting with basketball is probably the best thing you could've had a Mizzou fan do, so thank you. I don't think there are sufficient words to capture how happy I - and Mizzou fans as a whole - are with Cuonzo at this point. The biggest issue with Mizzou's program was deeply set apathy, and Martin has supercharged excitement back into things with a Top 5 recruiting class, promise of improved local recruiting and the type of workmanship Midwesterners love so much. He has yet to coach a game, but he's almost converted all doubters at this point.
T-Mill: The biggest football news is the firing of your defensive coordiantor. What does that mean for Saturday and how does the defense stack up against Jeff Brohm?
Josh: I honestly don't think it means a whole lot. Demontie Cross was the defensive coordinator in name and salary only. He hasn't called plays since mid-2016, with Barry Odom taking things over. There were rumors Cross didn't get along with other coaches and maybe even players/recruits, so if anything there might be a morale boost, but I would hesitate to say that with any measure of confidence.
The defense improved vastly against a much better South Carolina offense last week, but there are still some big question marks. Mizzou's #1 cornerback has struggled mightily with penalties and coverage, the defensive line has been inconsistent thus far, and there are still some tackling concerns. The talent in place + Odom's defensive expertise should = a formidable unit, but we've yet to see it all come together. The numbers say Purdue's biggest offensive strength is finishing drives, something Mizzou's defense is woefully bad at. So while things could get better as each week passes, it's hard to say how well-equipped the Tigers are to face an offense like Purdue at this point.
T-Mill: Drew Lock was fantastic in game 1 and struggled in game 2. Was that due to vast differences in talent defensively or what?
Josh: I'm going to sound like a homer here, but I believe Drew Lock is as talented as almost any QB in the country. The problem is his inconsistency. He definitely shows up against worse defenses, picking them apart like a scavenger in the wild (Ed Note: CURTIS PAINTER ALERT!). And he's shown flashes of brilliance against better teams. But he still tends to make beginner's mistakes at times: forcing bad throws, staring down receivers, etc. He's also been hurt by wideouts that forget how to catch a football every once in a while. He wasn't dreadful against South Carolina, but definitely needs to start avoiding costly mistakes in games with less margin for error.
T-Mill: What was the biggest concern against South Carolina and how do the Tigers go about fixing it?
Josh: A lot of Mizzou folk are very concerned about the special teams, and well they should be. South Carolina won last week's game when Deebo Samuel returned a kickoff after going down 10-0. The game changed after that. On top of that momentum shifting play, Mizzou got next to nothing from its return game and had a kicker that - while improved from last year's 50% on FGs - still had a chip shot blocked because he kicked it too low. The defense and offense have questions, but have also shown they're capable of playing very well. The special teams hasn't shown us anything at this point.
T-Mill: Purdue has not been great for years, but appears to be finally turning things around. What scares you about Saturday?
Josh: Purdue's advanced profile doesn't scare me too much, but all you have to do is show me the final score of the Louisville game and I'm shook. I can't imagine Mizzou would be able to play Louisville anywhere within 3 touchdowns, and the fact that Purdue lost a one possession game tells me something about the Boilermakers. The offense looks like it'll be a threat, especially against Mizzou's questionable D. Purdue looks like an efficient team that capitalizes on scoring opportunities. So if Mizzou is going to win, they'll have to win with offense. In theory that should make me all the more confident, but after last week's disappearing act, I'm skeptical.
T-Mill: Any tips for Purdue fans coming to Columbia?
Josh: Oh boy. I'm known for some controversial Columbia opinions, so I'll give you my opinion and general thoughts. First, everyone will tell you the can't miss restaurants in town are Booches (burgers) and Shakespeares (pizza). I'm OK with the latter, but - again, in my opinion - Billiards and Pizza Tree have the first two beat, especially when it comes to Billiards v. Booches. Price, taste and beer selection are all better at Billiards. I'm partial to McNally's, Craft Beer Cellar and iTap for downtown bars, but a lot of Columbia folk love Harpos. If you're a beer-lover, be sure to check out Logboat and Flat Branch, two of the city's local breweries. One more general tip: prepare for all types of weather. Columbia can be unpredictable.