No time to relax for Mizzou

BY foxsports • September 14, 2012

The week after: A time to catch your breath, kick back the cleats and take it easy against a big, soft cupca …

Wait, Arizona State comes to CoMo? Seven days after Georgia, those silver foxes, left swinging their canes and swatting Sheldon Richardson's pride after The Biggest Game in Mizzou History? The same Sun Devils that topped the Tigers in overtime last year after Grant Ressel duffed a 48-yard field goal try with 17 seconds left that would have given Missouri a 2-0 start to the fall?

Wait, Arizona State comes to CoMo? What in the name of Vontaze Burfict is going on?

A fastball, that's what. A heater from the land of plenty of it flies straight at the Tigers on Saturday night, and coach Gary Pinkel better have the right uniform combination ready.

Here's why: Arizona State smacked one Big Sky opponent (Northern Arizona) by 57 points and routed a Big Cry foe (Illinois) by 31. New coach Todd Graham has the Sun Devils playing so well that pitchfork-flashing fans have forgot about Dennis Erickson's hair … almost.

Sure, last week was fun: The buzz, the tailgates, the sundresses and the sundresses. Did I mention the sundresses?

The Sun Devils promise to be less pleasing to the eye for Pinkel's guys.

More bitter than a cupcake, too.
 
How will Missouri recover?
 
Emotion is a beast. One minute, you're in the clouds. The next, you're falling from nine. It's like meeting Jarvis Jones – you never know when your head will snap the other way.

You might remember a rather, um, sloppy entrance for Mizzou to the Southeastern Conference stage. The opening minutes broke a few ankles on the Tigers' climb into the klieg lights: Botched snaps, stuffed runs, utter confusion, Steven Spielberg himself yelling, “Take two!”

So Missouri has some history trying to harness its heart rate. The good news: Quarterback James Franklin looked like a veteran at times against dem Dawgs, throwing for 269 yards with two touchdowns. The bad news: He looked like Benjamin Franklin in the pocket when Jones sacked and intercepted him during a one-minute campaign for the Butkus Award in the fourth quarter. Yes, Jones approved that message.

Which Missouri team will show against Arizona State? A group primed – minus the mustard jerseys, please – to pick themselves from the rubber tire pellets? Or a group that plays as slow as a Sunday morning at Harpo's?

The mind is a strange thing.
 
How will Elvis Fisher's injury affect the offense?
 
Not again. Not another knee. Not another reason to worry that Fisher's Twitter bio (@ElvisFisher72) will soon say, "#7thYearProblems" after learning he has life-long residence on Providence Road.

But the Tigers dodged a 6-foot-5, 300-pound bullet when they discovered a right MCL injury sustained in the second quarter against Georgia could keep the timeless tackle out only a month. Still, consider this: After Fisher was carted away Missouri played five linemen at spots who opened preseason camp as projected starters at different positions. Word around the Columns is that "M*A*S*H" will make a comeback with offensive line coaches Bruce Walker and Josh Henson casted in leading roles.

Sure, injuries are a pain, but more than Kendial Lawrence-sized rushing lanes would be nice. Missouri was held to 102 yards on 39 attempts against UGA – that's 2.6 yards per squeeze. Illinois racked up 231 yards on the ground against Arizona State, so there could be chances to pound a swinging door. (Illini running back Josh Ferguson managed 101 yards on 14 carries.)

Fisher out: Not good. Arizona State's rushing defense: Ditto.

Something's gotta give.
 
What will happen?
 
New year, new coach, new conference logo … new result?

Arizona State won the desert dance between these two teams last year, but Missouri had its share of hot moments. The Tigers held an edge in total offense by earning 501 yards to the Sun Devils' 492 – although Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel probably wanted to stick a cactus needle in his eye. Franklin also threw for 319 yards with two touchdowns and bolted for 84 yards on the ground during the semi-sweet night.

All in all, it was a decent effort. All in all, it was a game the Tigers should have won.

So here's saying Mizzou won't whiff on a chance to chase the cobwebs from its SEC coming-out party. This is no cupcake – where's Syracuse when you need it? – but the Tigers will find a way to swallow the Sun Devils all the same.
 
Pick: Missouri 31, Arizona State 28
 
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.


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