Missouri vs. Illinois: Which team would have won Arch Rivalry game in 2011?

The Illinois Fighting Illini decided to end their rivalry with the Missouri Tigers in football this season, meaning the Arch Rivalry game wasn’t held for the first time since 2006.

In the long history of the rivalry, dating back to 1896, the two teams have played intermittently every few years. There have been a total of 24 matchups and Mizzou holds the series lead, 17-7.

The Tigers are currently on a six game winning streak against the Illini, and have won every game since the series moved to St. Louis in 2007.

However, the teams did not play in 2011, each opting for an extra home game instead of the neutral site game in St. Louis.

Just for fun though, let’s take a look at which team would have won had the teams played in Week 1.

Offense:

The Illinois offense got off to a hot start in 2011, averaging 35 points per game through six games, albeit against weaker opponents like South Dakota State and Indiana. Since the first six games (all victories), the Illini are 0-6 and averaging only 11 points per game.

Meanwhile, Mizzou’s offense has stayed pretty consistent all year, averaging 33.1 points per game. They’ve been getting mixed results, frequently alternating between wins and losses en route to a 7-5 record.

Both teams rely heavily on rushing the football. Illinois averages 182 rushing yards per game (38th in the country) behind QB Nate Scheelhaase and RB Jason Ford.

Missouri is even better on the ground though, averaging 235 rushing yards per game (12th in the country) with QB James Franklin and RB Henry Josey leading the way. Josey was injured in Mizzou’s 17-5 win over Texas on Nov. 12, but backup Kendial Lawrence should step in and pick up most of the yards left by Josey’s absence.

The Tigers also have the edge in the passing game with WR T.J. Moe and TE Michael Egnew leading the way. Mizzou is currently 46th in the nation in passing yards, with 248 per game. Illinois, despite dynamic WR A.J. Jenkins and his 1,133 receiving yards, average just 201 passing yards per game, good for 82nd in the country.

Overall, the Tigers have the better and more consistent offense. Opposing defenses have to stop the run and several good wide receivers. With the Illini, if defenses stop Jenkins, they stop the only weapon on the Illinois offense.

Defense:

Both Illinois and Missouri have solid defenses. Illinois ranks 21st in the country in points allowed, allowing 20.1 points per game. Defensive end Whitney Mercilus earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after leading the nation in sacks, with 14.5.

Meanwhile, Missouri ranks 46th in points allowed, giving up 23.5 points per game to its opponents. The Tiger defense features cornerback E.J. Gaines, who led the Big 12 in passes defensed this year.

So, while Illinois has a slight edge in defense, there’s not as big of a difference between the two defenses as there is between the two offenses.

Who would win?

The Illinois defense is stout, but the Missouri Tigers have too many offensive weapons. Franklin, Lawrence, Moe and Egnew would prove to be too much for the Illini.

And when Illinois is on offense, Jenkins would have Gaines covering him for most of the game, limiting his effectiveness. Then, with the way Mizzou defends the run, another seven point outing for the Illini wouldn’t be surprising.

Prediction: Missouri 24, Illinois 7

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