While LSU’s offense was putting together its latest strugglefest in an 18-13 loss to Auburn that ended The Les Miles Show’s 12-year run in Baton Rouge, Missouri was in the process of racking up 79 points in a beatdown of badly overmatched FCS foe Delaware State. (As we said when LSU was preparing for defending national runner-up Jacksonville State, not all FCS games are created equal.)
So while they share the same nickname and same 2-2 records, these two Tigers couldn’t be structured any more differently. Mizzou slings the ball around to the tune of 391 yards per game. I won’t tell you LSU’s numbers because I need you to be able to finish this story without tears in your eyes.
Anyway, this week we talked to Gabe DeArmond, who covers Mizzou for its Rivals.com site, PowerMizzou.com. Given how little anyone has paid to LSU’s opponent this week, you’ll probably want to see what he has to say.
Q: We’ve been a bit distracted down here this week, so this is a case where no LSU fan cares about who they are playing. At all. But how are Missouri fans treating their first trip to Tiger Stadium? Is this one of the most anticipated games on the schedule?
GA: Missouri fans are fired up. This is the last team Mizzou hasn’t played since joining the league and obviously the first time they’ve ever been to Death Valley. I think they’re as excited for the experience as they are the game itself. This is no doubt the road trip most Mizzou fans have had circled for a couple of years which is backed up by the fact that Missouri sold out its 6,000-ticket allotment.
Q: Speaking of chaos, there was a lot of it surrounding the program and campus last fall. Have things settled down on the football front under first-year coach Barry Odom?
GA: Definitely. There are still questions about it and there will be coming up on the one-year anniversary, but there hasn’t been any “controversy” or any involvement in the social issues going on lately.
Q: Mizzou scored 11 points on West Virginia and 79 in a shortened game against Delaware State. That’s a long range for a happy medium, so what is it for this offense?
GA: We’re going to find out over the next two games. I know this offense is better than it was last year (it would be tough to be worse) but I don’t yet know if it’s good. If they can put together some yards and get in the 20s against LSU and Florida, then I’m fully on board that Josh Heupel has worked miracles. But I’m not there yet because I put little stock in games against Eastern Michigan and Delaware State where Mizzou has scored 140 of its 178 points. Against major conference teams, they’re still only averaging 19 points per game and have shown a tendency to turn it over.
Q: QB Drew Lock’s numbers make him an obvious choice, but who are some other players on both sides of the ball that LSU fans should look out for Saturday?
GA: J’Mon Moore is the leading receiver in the SEC and is Missouri’s no-doubt go to guy. I think the key offensively is actually an offensive line that has drawn a lot of praise and exceeded expectations, but hasn’t done it against a team with a defensive front like LSU’s. On defense, up front Terry Beckner and Charles Harris are going to be the key to containing the ground game (with or without Leonard Fournette). They did it against UGA, but Jacob Eason beat them. If they can slow down LSU’s ground game, is the passing game good enough to make them pay?
Q: If throwing the ball is Missouri’s greatest strength, then what is this team’s most glaring weakness?
GA: Running it. They’re short on bodies due to injury and just don’t have a home run hitter at running back. Damarea Crockett has a lot of promise, but has a lot to learn and over half his yards came against Delaware State. Missouri doesn’t have to be a great running team, but to win more than six, it has to be better than it’s been so far.
I think it’s a close game because I think most LSU games are close. But I just don’t know if this young team is ready to win a game like this in a place like this. I can see turnovers being the reason Missouri looks back at a loss on Sunday morning. I’m picking LSU 22-14.