Missouri entered 2015 as a back-to-back SEC East champion with high hopes, but the season has been more about missed opportunities than challenging for a three-peat. This might naturally prompt some to look towards the future. The SEC schedule was released on Thursday evening and it offers one of the more challenging slates Mizzou has seen since joining the SEC.
Best matchup: UGA (Sep. 17)
These two have combined to win the last four SEC East titles, and if UGA upsets No. 11 Florida on Saturday, that streak could continue. Next year’s Dawgs have the potential to be a scary bunch because of the way coach Mark Richt has recruited, bringing in 49 ESPN300 recruits since 2013 and that number is still growing with the Class of 2016. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb form the best one-two punch in the nation and UGA’s front seven has a few guys that will play on Sundays. This year these two combined to score just 15 points in a 9-6 UGA win. Mizzou’s nationally-ranked defense won’t go anywhere with eight starters set to return, and it’s nearly impossible to think the offense won’t be better in 2016. The Tigers have been tough to beat in Columbia and neither team will want to start SEC play 0-1, especially with Mizzou playing LSU and Florida on the road in its next two conference games.
Toughest matchup: at LSU (Oct. 1)
In Mizzou’s defense, this will be a tough matchup for everyone. LSU is a threat to win a national championship this year and that figures to remain the same next year with the return of Heisman Trophy favorite Leonard Fournette, quarterback Brandon Harris and big-play threat Malachi Dupre. Mizzou has never been to Death Valley and the Tigers are just 1-3 on the road this year. The two teams’ lone meeting came in the 1978 Liberty Bowl (Mizzou won 20-15), but Mizzou will have its hands full trying to keep that perfect record intact.
Toughest stretch: Oct.1 – Oct. 15
This is the stretch that will define Mizzou’s season, with trips to LSU and Florida separated by a bye week. Assuming both squads will be as good as they appear to be on paper, the Tigers will be huge underdogs, and losses in both games would mean they would have to run the table in their other six SEC games to have a shot at the SEC East crown. Having the bye week between the two helps, as does hosting Delaware State leading up to the LSU game. But that is still a brutal pair of road games.
Biggest trap game: Sept. 3 at West Virginia
West Virginia has struggled this year and is just 3-4, with all four losses coming on a current four-game skid. But don’t be fooled, those four losses have all come against ranked teams (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor), and three of those games were on the road. Dana Holgorsen has built several offensive machines in Morgantown. Bringing back his quarterback, running back and leading receivers will make that an extremely potent bunch in 2016 and a tough draw to open the season.