Mizzou Football Season Preview

Peter Alexis, 23 Sports Reporter

 

On the eve of the 2017 College Football season, hope is in the air and electricity is buzzing around the Mizzou Tigers. After a disastrous first year with Coach Barry Odom at the helm, the goals are set much higher this time around. With Junior Drew Lock returning under center to command, the Tigers could have the most explosive offense in the SEC. The Tigers will look to put 2016 behind them for good when they host Missouri State Saturday morning at Faurot Field.

Finishing at a disappointing 4-8 in the first year without legendary coach Gary Pinkel, Mizzou is in need of a new identity. Following bowl appearances in 9 out of 10 seasons since 2005, The Tigers have fallen flat in the last two years with consecutive losing records. NFL draft hopeful QB Drew Lock is back to lead the only team in the conference to eclipse 500 yards of total offense per game a season, a major improvement from 2015. He will have star RB Demarea Crockett and WR talent J’Mon Moore at his disposal, along with a full returning offensive line, so look for Mizzou to light it up in their fast tempo set that opponents will struggle to defend.

The major concern leading up to the season for the team from the show me state continues to be on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary was torched for over 500 yards per game on average last year, ranking dead last in the SEC and bottom five of the entire country. While the offense will keep Mizzou in essentially every game this year, the defense is going to have to step up and make some adjustments. Things are not off to the best start with the dismissal of an experienced defensive end just two weeks before the first game due to past issues off the field. That is yet another hole on the D line that must be filled by a younger player if the team is going to stop a talented crop of opponents this year.

As far as the schedule goes, the team will open with four straight home games. If there is such thing as an ideal way to bounce back, this is quite close. Taking on an FCS opponent in the first game at home is always a terrific opportunity to make a statement. After getting experience in this de facto exhibition game, the Tigers will host South Carolina in the battle for Columbia in their first test of the season. The matchup is composed of two teams looking to rebound from uncharacteristic slumps who will fight it out under the lights. The following week gets easier on family weekend when the typically weak Purdue Boilermakers come to town, a non-conference opponent that Mizzou should defeat handedly by double digits.

The early tests stop immediately after Purdue when the team will plunge into the bulk of the SEC season. Columbia will be hosting the battle of the Tigers on September 23 against a menacing Auburn squad. The visitors from the SEC West pose a dangerous threat with their two star running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, something an inexperienced Mizzou defensive line will struggle with. Mizzou will take to the road after the four game opening home stand and bye week with visits to Kentucky and Georgia. These two games look to be competitive tests for the black and gold, but if the offense delivers the way they are anticipated to, Mizzou can come away with at least one win in this span.

Homecoming lands on October 21st when the Tigers will look to avoid an upset to an Idaho team in its farewell season in the FBS. The vandals will play with nothing to lose and a talented offense with Mizzou alumni in the stands. Following the festivities is a road trip to the northeast to take on the UConn Huskies, a team debuting yet another head coach and has struggled often, likely not strong enough to upset an SEC opponent.

Finally, Mizzou enters the final four game homestretch packed with strong conference action. Florida visits Memorial stadium on the first weekend of November for blackout night. The Gators are a notorious powerhouse in the SEC that currently have several issues to begin the year but ones that will likely be figured out prior to this matchup. Senior day comes next in the final home game at Faurot against the Vols of Tennessee, who enter this year with a new QB and drastically lowered expectations from a year ago. The Tigers will look to avenge defeats to both teams this year in consecutive weeks. The squad will complete the season on the road and relive two of the few stellar moments from a year ago, including the upset of the Vanderbilt Commodores and the comeback win against Arkansas. The ZOU faithful hope these results can be replicated over Thanksgiving break, as these two matchups may be the difference between a holiday bowl game and watching at home.

The majority of pundits are commenting on the volatility of the Tigers over the past decade, and questioning whether this is a year where the team from Columbia returns to its previous glory. Newly minted captain Drew Lock certainly thinks so, and he boldly forecasted an SEC championship appearance if the team can keep it under 15 turnovers for the entire season. This potential has yet to be seen but would be a very pleasant surprise for the Mizzou fanbase. If Lock’s offense can put up big numbers regardless, you can expect to see the black and gold back in a postseason bowl game for the first time since 2014, with a winning record of 6 or 7 victories.