Sunday September 21st, 2014

While Georgia and South Carolina suffered losses in the first three weeks of the season, defending SEC East champion Missouri looked like it might be primed for another under-the-radar run. Any such talk will be tabled, however, after Indiana stunned the No. 18 Tigers 31-27. Here are three thoughts on the upset:

1. Indiana boasts a dangerous offense

The Hoosiers are easy to overlook given their recent track record. Yet despite coordinator Seth Littrell’s departure to North Carolina this offseason, they appear to be lethal on offense. Tevin Coleman leads the Big Ten in rushing, an impressive feat given the production of Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Coleman came through again on Saturday, carrying 19 times for 132 yards with a touchdown and making three receptions for 57 yards. D’Angelo Roberts also ran for two scores, including the game-winner with 22 seconds left.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is hardly a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he was smart with the ball in this one, avoiding any turnovers while going 18-of-33 for 252 yards with a touchdown. His 44-yard completion to Coleman late in the fourth quarter set up Roberts’ winning score.

Given Indiana’s defensive woes, excitement about the team should be tempered. This is the same squad that lost to Bowling Green 45-42 a week earlier. But behind a prodigious attack, Indiana has a puncher’s chance in every game it plays.

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2. Big plays aren’t everything

Missouri’s final stats look impressive: Maty Mauk threw for 334 yards and the Tigers gained 172 yards on the ground, led by 119 from Russell Hansbrough. But hidden in those eye-catching numbers is Mizzou’s dependence on explosive plays.

Just one of the Tigers’ three touchdowns came via a sustained drive. The other two scores came on plays of more than 40 yards: a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt in the first quarter and a 68-yard dash by Hansbrough in the second.

Big scoring plays are great, and it’s hard to manufacture consistent offense without them. However, it’s also hard to rack up points if a team can’t move the chains and methodically march down the field. Mizzou couldn’t do that with any regularity on Saturday -- it had five drives that gained 11 yards of fewer -- and it cost the Tigers.

3. The SEC East gets even messier

Missouri is fortunate that, unlike South Carolina and Georgia, its loss came to a nonconference foe. However, the vulnerabilities Missouri displayed here have to shake its confidence as it prepares to face the Gamecocks next Saturday. High-powered offenses like Indiana’s abound in the SEC. If Missouri can’t stop Tevin Coleman, can it slow the Gamecocks’ Mike Davis or Georgia’s Todd Gurley? If the Tigers can’t find success against one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten, what chance do they have against superior units?

There is still plenty of time for coach Gary Pinkel to find solutions. But the fact that the questions exist indicates a major shift in the Tigers’ perception.

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