The offseason is about speculation, but the time is now for definitive predictions. With fall camps open across the SEC, teams are starting to take shape.
Our third installment takes us to Missouri, one of the most tumultuous programs in college football last season. The Tigers had one of the worst offenses in the country last season and averaged 13.6 points per game. There is a fresh start with new coach Barry Odom, but it still remains to be seen whether that will bring the program forward.
Here’s our take on how Missouri will fare in each game next season.
2015 record: 5-7, 1-7 SEC; Sixth place SEC East
West Virginia – Sept. 3 in Morgantown, W.Va.
This matchup puts together a pair of teams that might as well be polar opposites. West Virginia has been electric offensively under Dana Holgorsen, while Missouri is well known for its elite defenses. Something has to give. At this point, it’s easier to have faith in a WVU defense led by electric defensive end Noble Nwachukwu than it is to find bright spots on the Mizzou offense.
Prediction: Missouri loss (0-1, 0-0 SEC)
Eastern Michigan – Sept. 10 in Columbia, Mo.
How bad is Eastern Michigan? The Eagles have gone a combined 3-21 over the past two seasons. In the two games against SEC teams in that span (LSU and Florida), Eastern Michigan allowed a combined 109 points.
Prediction: Missouri win (1-1, 0-0 SEC)
Georgia – Sept. 17 in Columbia, Mo.
Even if everything fell into place at Missouri, the Tigers still would have a very difficult time beating Georgia. The Bulldogs’ running attack does play right into Missouri’s defensive line, which is still one of the most dominant in football. However, Georgia’s secondary should pretty easily eliminate Drew Lock and the passing game. If Georgia gets anything from its starting quarterback, this one is over quick.
Prediction: Missouri loss (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Delaware State – Sept. 24 in Columbia, Mo.
Not only is Delaware State an FCS school, but it is also one of the worst FCS teams in the country. Had it not scored the final 13 points of the season finale vs. Howard to earn a 32-31 win, Delaware State would have gone winless last season.
Prediction: Missouri win (2-2, 0-1 SEC)
LSU – Oct. 1 in Baton Rouge, La.
As if playing in Death Valley isn’t difficult enough, Mizzou will have to face one of the nation’s most talented players. Leonard Fournette has legitimate Heisman Trophy aspirations, and even Mizzou’s hefty line won’t keep him from the finish line. LSU can struggle with being one-dimensional at times, but Mizzou can’t make them pay.
Prediction: Missouri loss (2-3, 0-2 SEC)
Florida – Oct. 15 in Gainesville, Fla.
Some of these losses on Missouri’s schedule are etched in stone. With all the uncertainty at Florida, this one is not. The Gators struggled mightily after QB Will Grier was suspended, going 4-4 in the final eight games. It remains unclear at this point whether former walk-on Luke Del Rio is the answer at the position moving forward. If he can make some plays and keep the offense humming, Florida is a contender for the conference title. If not? Missouri could stick around in this one.
Prediction: Missouri loss (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
Middle Tennessee – Oct. 22 in Columbia, Mo.
Middle Tennessee is a pretty good mid-major team, but a mid-major nonetheless. The closest MTSU came to winning a game against a Power Five opponent was giving Illinois a scare last season on its home field. Missouri won’t fall into that trap.
Prediction: Missouri win (3-4, 0-3 SEC)
Kentucky – Oct. 29 in Columbia, Mo.
The Tigers could start SEC play exceptionally poorly, but Kentucky is the first truly winnable game on the schedule. The Wildcats have grown under Mark Stoops, but perhaps not quite at the rate some members of Big Blue Nation might have hoped. Missouri should be able to contain RB Boom Williams and move the ball against an unproven front seven.
Prediction: Missouri win (4-4, 1-3 SEC)
South Carolina – Nov. 5 in Columbia, S.C.
Will Muschamp will not have many opportunities to lead his team to victory this season. For that reason, the Gamecocks will be looking for any signs of weakness in their opponents. If true freshman QB Brandon McIlwain pans out for South Carolina, he will be the most talented offensive player on the field. Missouri still lacks a player who can make dynamic plays under pressure. South Carolina gets its first conference win of the Muschamp tenure.
Prediction: Missouri loss (4-5, 1-4 SEC)
Vanderbilt – Nov. 12 in Columbia, Mo.
An unexpected loss to South Carolina will refocus the team and get the Tigers to start thinking about a bowl game once more. This game will be a defensive struggle. Both teams boast top defenses, just with different starring units. Vanderbilt has great linebackers, while Missouri produces elite defensive linemen. Missouri’s defense will score a touchdown, and that will be the difference.
Prediction: Missouri win (5-5, 2-4 SEC)
Tennessee – Nov. 19 in Knoxville, Tenn.
It’s strange to think, but Tennessee might be the most consistent team in the SEC East at this point. Butch Jones is somehow the longest tenured coach in the SEC East, tied with Mark Stoops. Jones has continued to build while at Tennessee, and now the program finally has the quality depth necessary to compete for an SEC championship. Mizzou does not have the playmakers to match what Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd can do.
Prediction: Missouri loss (5-6, 2-5 SEC)
Arkansas – Nov. 25 in Columbia, Mo.
In one aspect at least, this isn’t a bad matchup. Arkansas likes to run the ball, while Missouri has the defensive line to match. The Tigers held opponents to just 3.29 yards per rush last season, good enough for 10th in all of college football. Unfortunately, the schedule just works out poorly. Arkansas almost always peaks late in the season. Missouri’s game just six days earlier against a physical Tennessee team could have physical repercussions heading into this matchup. It will be competitive, but Arkansas will ride in November once more.
Prediction: Missouri loss (5-7, 2-6 SEC)
Projected record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC; Fourth in the SEC East
Analysis: Both on and off the field, things were about as bad as they could have been at Missouri last season. With an energetic young coach and new athletic director at the helm, things are looking up. Mizzou still produces some of the best defensive linemen in the nation. That is not expected to change with former Mizzou LB Barry Odom taking over as coach. Questions still surround an offense that ranked among the worst in major college history last season. If QB Drew Lock can’t turn things around, Mizzou could be in for another long season.
Other installments –
Mississippi State (8/12)
Texas A&M (8/14)
Ole Miss (8//15)