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Opponent Preview: Missouri Tigers

Week 4 in CoMo - It’s Tricky Tricky Tricky

Purdue v Missouri
Farout...I mean, Faurot Field

The Particulars

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Conference: The Big 8* DUH!

2017 record: 7-6

Head Coach: Barry Odom (3rd year, 11-14)

Dawg Sports Exclusive! Barry Odom’s Butch Jones Scoville Units HotSeat Index (1-10): A solid 7

7 “Scoville Jones” Units. Medium Hot to Hot. An 8 would kill a giraffe.
DtD Industries, LLC

Biggest Off-season News Derek Dooley returns to the college game after several years with the Dallas Cowboys as receivers coach. As offensive coordinator, he plans to slow down the offense. More on this in a bit...

Why this game matters Because Mizzou is actually a critical SEC East* match-up in the farthest geographic site on our Conference map this season, it could be tricky. Just getting there and prepping after lengthy travel and the possibility of an early kickoff is concerning. Only a future trip out to College Station, TX would incur more air miles. It is a road game against an offense that has the potential to score a bunch of points if we don’t treat this as a serious business trip. Will Georgia be cruising into this game at 3-0, or will we be behind the East Division 8-ball in the unlikely event we lose in week 2 at the other Columbia? Of course, it’s a huge game on the road that the Dawgs simply must win.

Barry Odom’s 2017 campaign began about as bad as it could and there was real talk about Odom losing his gig as Mizzou lost 5 of their first 6 games. To their credit, they rallied with a 6-game win streak prior to getting smoked by Texas in the Texas Bowl. At the end of the year, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel left for greener and more humid pastures in Orlando to become UCF’s head coach, thus setting the stage for Derek Dooley’s return.

Old school cool cause I’m old school cool.

Why is this game “tricky?” Simple. Mizzou has an experienced QB, very capable line and skill players on offense. They will score points. Their special teams is solid, but took a major hit just a few days ago (see: Special Teams below).

Alpha Tigers on Offense The conversation begins with Drew Lock, whose 2017 numbers were incredible: 3964 yards, 44 touchdowns (13 interceptions) and a passer rating of 165.67. His road numbers were actually slightly better than home and he is probably the first quarterback off the board in the upcoming NFL draft, according to Mel Kiper.

Missouri v Arkansas
Drew Lock. He’s got a big arm and hair to die for.

Lock’s favorite 2017 target, J’Mon Moore, has exhausted eligibility, so the new #1 receiver will be the very capable Emanuel Hall, who hauled in over 800 yards, and 8 TD’s despite not being completely healthy. Dangerous Damarea Crockett will be the feature back (1062 yards in ‘17) along with Larry Roundtree. Mizzou always seem to have bowling ball running backs that are hard to tackle. This year is no exception.

Mizzou’s offensive line (60+ collective returning starts) will be very experienced and very good, led by seniors OT Paul Adams and G Kevin Pendleton.

Mizzou could have the best tight end in the country:

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was another reason for Mizzou’s surge. He began as a third-string redshirt freshman and finished with 11 touchdowns, most in FBS for a TE. He was the only P5 tight end to combine a marginal efficiency of at least plus-23 percent with a marginal explosiveness of at least plus-0.1 points per successful play, and he might be the best returning tight end in the country. - Bill Connelly

Bill Connelly loves to crunch numbers and his analysis is often on the esoteric side. For those of you who are good at the maths, statistics and probably a Rubik’s Cube, you’re hip to be square with what the good Rev. Connelly is preaching. All I know is we’d better account for this dude.

In 2016, Mizzou gave us fits with their speed huddle and, at times, hurry-up-no-huddle. Last year, led by Lock and Co., the Tigers made for a most uncomfortable first half of football Between the Hedges - again with an emphasis on speed and quantity of offensive plays. Lock was bombing us early and often with great success until we adjusted.

Now, Derek Dooley wants to slow things down with a more pro-style approach. Really? Well, Okay then. This is why Odom is on the (DtD industries, LLC) first inaugural Butch Jones Scoville Units HotSeat Index™ at a 7. If Dooley screws up this offense, Odom deserves to be shown the door. This reminds me of New Coke, for those of you who were around in 1982. Why mess with a good thing, or the real thing?

Mizzou’s Defense - a work in progress, or progress in the works?

Terry Beckner, Jr. returns to head up with what should be the strength of Coordinator Ryan Walter’s Mizzou’s defense: Their interior line. They are stout and includes Texas Longhorn’s transfer Jordan Elliott. Cale Garrett leads a very capable linebacking corps as well. Mizzou is a bit inexperienced at safety and especially defensive end where they could be a bit thin.

Florida v Missouri
Terry Beckner, Jr tackling a Gator. He can’t be all bad, amirite?

The area where Mizzou suffered the most in 2017 was defending the pass and this still could be the Achilles Heel heading into September. Junior DeMarkus Acy and sophomore Adam Sparks are corners with experience, but did have issues at times last year.

Special Teams

Mizzou has a very capable punter in Corey Fatony (44 yards/punt) and place kicker Tucker McCann. Kicker returner/wide receiver Richaud Floyd broke his leg just this past Wednesday and could miss the Georgia game altogether. He averaged nearly 20 yards per return in 2017. This is a big loss.

Season Outlook

The September 15 game at Purdue will be a very good litmus test to see if the Tiger’s strong finish to 2017 was real progress or a reflection on some pretty weak teams on the back-half of their schedule. Mizzou has to travel to Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee this season. Seven wins is probably their ceiling with that tough road schedule.

What will happen on September 22?

There still is no confirmed kickoff time set, so this could be an 12-noon brunch & beer game, a late afternoon tilt, or a really late game (attention ESPN: my bed time is 9 PM). Who knows? Time of day could be important because it has been hot as blazes in the midwest this summer and that turf could still be scorching in late September up in CoMo. How’s that for channeling one’s inner-Munson?

Georgia should be coming into this game at 3-0 and, barring anything significant on the injury front, could really be clicking in all phases on offense. The fact that Son of Dooley wants to slow things down has me shaking my head a bit. Lock will take several shots deep and there is the potential for a ton of points to be scored on both sides. Still, I think Mizzou has too many question marks on defense to consistently stop us. We’ve got a better roster and should prevail, but we must protect the ball. It’ll be uncomfortable for a while, but in the end, Dawgs on Top!

Georgia 48 Mizzou 24