Garrett Bridges, 23 Sports

For the 107th time, the university that invented homecoming is celebrating it. As part of the celebration, the University of Missouri is welcoming the University of Memphis Tigers football team to Faurot Field. Missouri’s Tigers look to end their three-game losing streak against the Tigers from the AAC. As Mizzou welcomes Memphis, they know that despite the Tennessee team not being in a Power Five conference, they’re not a team to overlook.

The Memphis Tigers just came off an upsetting loss to UCF, who was ranked number ten in the nation. UCF head coach Josh Heupel was Drew Lock’s offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017. Current Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has used some elements of Heupel’s offense this year, so expect Memphis to be prepared on that side of the ball.

However, Memphis, like Mizzou, is known for their offense. Running back Darrell Henderson averages a first down every carry (10.3 yards per carry). Mizzou better be ready to show off their so-far improved run defense. That run defense might be the key to getting Missouri back over .500. The passing game is no slouch either. Brady White, the Arizona State transfer, has thrown 15 touchdowns to one interception. While Memphis leans on the run, it might be smart to lean on the pass against a pass defense in Missouri that has been gashed in every game except the first two games, games against an FCS opponent in Tennessee-Martin and a 2-5 Mountain West Conference Wyoming team.

While I noted Mizzou is known for the offense, you couldn’t tell the way they’ve been playing lately. Drew Lock, the quarterback who had Heisman hopes, hasn’t had a 300-yard passing game in five weeks, and hasn’t even thrown for 250 yards against any of the three SEC teams he has faced so far. In fairness to Lock, the three SEC defenses he’s faced have been the best he has faced all season. Furthermore, Lock hasn’t played with his two outside receivers, Nate Brown(groin) and Emmanuel Hall (groin, death of father) healthy since the Purdue game, the week before SEC play started. Johnathon Johnson, the one starting receiver at the start of the year to stay healthy for Mizzou, has struggled lately as well, only catching twenty-two of his thirty-eight targets this year. Mizzou will need a big day from the passing offense to set up their potent running attack.

Mizzou will also need to get a pass rush they have lacked all year. If Mizzou allows Brady White all day to throw, the Missouri pass defense will get shredded, and that opens up holes in the front seven to allow Darrell Henderson to run wild, which he is already doing without open holes. If Drew Lock can’t throw the ball effectively on Saturday, look for a bunch of disappointed Missouri Tiger fans after the game.