SOC - Minnesota
Suddenly I have all these posts to write. Tonight's SOC. A write-up of the basketball exhibition I attended this evening. The first LLOUI post in four months. The last two I will get to in the morning. For tonight, because I have to, let's knock out the Stream Of Consciousness.
This feels like a really important game. Honestly, it's probably our only chance for another win. We're not winning at Nebraska, and we're not beating Iowa, and honestly, even though Northwestern plays to the level of every opponent they face, we're not beating Northwestern. So it's really just this game if we're going to get to 4-8 on the season (my prediction).
If I just go by the "feel" of this game, it "feels" like the Coordinator Was Fired Now Everyone Is Fired Up game. Oklahoma's defense has looked much better since they fired their coordinator. Partly, I'm sure, because the playcalling got better but partly because the players' heads snapped around. A coordinator getting let go midseason is sometimes a wake-up call.
Will it be that for us? I guess I really can't see it. The issues with this defense seem really extreme. Maryland put up 10.3 yards PER PLAY, and that's beyond any kind of "maybe the players will be focused and ready now that their coordinator lost his job" we'd be hoping for. There are massive defensive issues, and I don't think Hardy Nickerson leaving will change much.
Now, if there was an offense to do it against in these next four games, it would be Minnesota. Going by the S&P+ statistics, they're not very explosive (78th nationally), which is the very thing we struggle with (98th nationally on defense). They're not very good in the red zone, they're not good on third-and-short - their offense stats are very pedestrian.
Unfortunately, our defensive stats are horrific. I probably said this last week too, but if we only had a poor defense, things would look so much better. Just, like, the 84th best defense in the country. If we had that, honestly, I'd start talking about winning one or two more games. The run game continues to come along, so it feels like the offense will do its part, so if we just had a poor defense things would be OK.
But we don't. We have the worst defense you or I have ever seen in Memorial Stadium. Let's go through those stats I put together on Saturday one more time. In the last three games, the defense is allowing...
623 yards per game
8.3 yards per play
22 of 38 third down conversions
16.4 yards per pass completion
7.0 yards per carry
Points per game in Big Ten play: 46.7
With a defense like that, writing a Stream Of Consciousness post is impossible. Everything comes back to it. If you're giving up 8.3 yards per play over three full games, season's over. That's a stat that more or less means "no team is going to punt against you because there's no way you can keep them from a first down if they get four full plays to try to accomplish it. At that point, you're at "we have to force this team into a holding call because the only way we stop them is if they have 2nd and 20. I mean, Maryland's second string offense had 2nd and 33 last week and they scored.
So that's the story of this season. Everything we try to think about comes back to the defense. There's just no way to think anything positive when most every opponent won't have to punt. At this point, the only way we can win is a turnover game. I just can't see us not giving up yard after yard, first down after first down. Can you?
I was thinking the other day about high school football games. I just looked up some Missouri high school playoff scores. 69-8. 56-10. 70-6. And those are second round playoff games, meaning the teams on the losing end had actually won their first round matchups last week. Why did they lose in such embarrassing fashion this week? Because when a powerhouse offense plays a poor defense, the game is over. Your offense won't be able to keep up even if they have a bad defense. If your defense is helpless to stop the opponent, game's over.
That's what these last four games feel like. I'd love to think we have a chance tomorrow, and we're playing a team without an explosive offense, but as hard as I try, I just can't see it. Until our defense can stop someone (anyone), I think we have to expect to be run over like a freight train. I think we can score some points tomorrow, but I just can't see us stopping Minnesota (or anyone).
Minnesota 44, Illinois 27