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October 23, 2013

The Breakdown: 2007 vs. 2013

Missouri is 7-0 for the first time since 2010, but at fifth in the BCS, the Tigers have reached their highest rating since Nov. 11, 2007.

At that point, a 9-1 Missouri team reached fifth in the BCS poll. In 2010, Missouri jumped as high as sixth in the BCS poll after a 7-0 start, but consecutive losses knocked the Tigers out of the national discussion.

The 2013 Missouri team is drawing plenty of comparisons to that 2007 squad, mainly because of an impressive offense and an opportunistic defense. So now the question remains -- how similar is the 2013 team to that 2007 team?

In this week's statistical breakdown, we're taking a look at just that by breaking down different stats over the first seven weeks of each season.

The first area we'll break down is opponents. We're only looking at FBS opponents, and we're not factoring in those teams' games against Missouri. So, while Georgia is really 4-3, for instance, in this exercise it's only 4-2.

In 2007, Missouri's first six FBS opponents were a combined 26-16 . This year, Missouri's first six FBS opponents are a combined 22-14. The discrepancy in total games played can be attributed to the fact that the 2013 season has two bye weeks, which spreads out the schedule.

If you factor in the seventh FBS opponent in both seasons (Iowa State in 2007, South Carolina this year), the 2007 team faced opponents with a 27-23 cumulative record among its first seven FBS foes. The 2013 team will face opponents with a cumulative 27-16.

This season, Missouri hasn't played any elite-team (at least based on record), but it hasn't played any awful team, either. All of Missouri's previous six FBS opponents are at least .500 in games not played against the Tigers, entering this week of the season.

That wasn't so much the case in 2007. Missouri played two teams with "elite"-type records, with 6-1 Oklahoma and 6-1 Texas Tech. Missouri also played Illinois to start the season, a team that would win five of its next seven after losing to Missouri. Again, remember, these records do not factor in the result of these teams against the Tigers.

But those records were offset with some pretty bad teams. Ole Miss went 2-5 in in first seven games not against Missouri. Western Michigan was 3-4. Nebraska was mediocre at 4-3, and Iowa State -- the team Missouri played in its eighth game -- was abysmal at 1-6.

What this season's opponents lack in elitism, they make up for in consistency. What the 2007 opponents lacked in consistency, in made up for in a few upper-echelon teams.

This brings us to the statistics. Comparing the two offenses side-by-side with just basic numbers -- passing yards, rushing yards, total yards, etc., -- doesn't show much separation. The 2007 team, through six FBS games, has a big edge in passing yards, a slight edge in total yards and a slight edge in passing touchdowns.

However, the 2013 team is more efficient. This year's Tiger average more yards per pass, more yards per rush and more yards per play, while also running for eight more touchdowns than the 2007 team and turning the ball over three times less. However, the 2013 offensive line has surrendered three more sacks at this stage than the 2007 team.

On defense, the numbers are remarkably similar. The 2007 team gave up 70 yards through the air more than the 2013 team at this stage, but held opponents to 30 fewer yards on the ground. While total yards-per-play is even between the two teams, that's because of a rounding. Without rounding, the 2013 team is slightly worse in yards per play. The difference between offensive touchdowns allowed between the two teams is one, and the 2007 team forced two more turnovers at this stage. The biggest difference here is in sacks, with this year's team totaling 23 sacks, ten more than the 2007 squad.

Obviously, this isn't a perfect exercise. Missouri has a different defensive coordinator and is two OCs removed from Dave Christensen. Factor in the change of league, and it isn't an easy comparison. But the 2013 season is shooting for its best finish since the 2007 season, and that team was in the national title hunt until the first weekend in December. On paper, the defenses are basically the same. The 2013 offense, interestingly, is what separates the 2013 squad from 2007, as it has scored more touchdowns and been more efficient at this stage in the season.

Ultimately, the only comparison that will matter between the two teams is wins. With five regular season games left to play, that's still up in the air.

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