By: Sammy Stava
The Missouri Tigers are coming off a 7-6 2017 season which ended with a 33-16 loss to the Texas Longhorns in the Texas Bowl. Last season was a promising finish and a step in the right direction towards this season after starting 1-5, and while all of their six losses came against teams that made it to a bowl game, each of their seven wins also came against non-bowl teams.
More should be expected from this 2018 Missouri Football team that returns most of their starters on offense that led the SEC in almost every offensive category in 2017. Head coach Barry Odom should be more comfortable with his experiences heading into year three, and senior quarterback Drew Lock could have a dark horse Heisman type season if everything falls into place.
Everything will need to go right for Missouri to meet or exceed expectations, so here are three keys of what needs to happen for Mizzou to have a top tier season in the SEC:
Finish the non-conference undefeated:
The non-conference schedule for Missouri is no joke, as CBS Sports ranked it as the toughest among SEC teams. They’ll open vs FCS opponent UT-Martin on September 1st, but will also host Wyoming (September 8th), visit Purdue (September 15th), and host Memphis (October 20th). Wyoming and Memphis are two dangerous Group of Five teams that won’t be intimidated coming into Faurot Field, and a much anticipated rematch of Purdue awaits the Tigers in West Lafayette, as Sporting News ranked that game as the most underrated on the Week 3 College Football schedule.
If Missouri can find a way to go 4-0 on a tough, but manageable non-conference schedule, they will put themselves in great shape for the rest of the season with plenty of momentum.
Find a way to get one win in the Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama stretch:
Without a doubt, this is the toughest part of Missouri’s schedule this season, so it’s going to be difficult to find a win here, but they could have things going in their favor.
If Missouri heads into the Georgia game with a 3-0 record, there’s a good chance that it will be a CBS 2:30 or ESPN primetime game, providing an electric atmosphere at Faurot Field. If you want the most ideal situation to play a team like Georgia, at home and early in the season is the time to do it.
Missouri and South Carolina are two evenly matched teams which could be a critical game in the SEC East standings come October 6th, but it’s at a tough place to play in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Tigers do have their bye week before playing the Gamecocks, which could help, but this game might be decided by who wants it more.
There’s not much to say about Alabama. This one is in Tuscaloosa and it’s going to have to take a perfect game for Mizzou to have a chance to beat the defending National Champions and the No. 1 ranked team in the AP preseason poll.
If Missouri somehow manages to get one win out of this stretch, there’s no question that it would be a success, and Drew Lock would add a signature win to his Mizzou quarterback resume.
Take care of business at home:
Through his first two seasons as Missouri head coach, Barry Odom is 8-6 in home games. This goes without saying, but winning on the road in the SEC (and in all of College Football), is a tough thing to do, making it extra important to win your home games. This is Drew Lock’s last go-around as a Missouri Tiger, so he’ll want to make every game at Faurot Field count. There’s seven home games on Mizzou’s schedule this season, so just win six of those, and they’ll be bowl eligible at the very least.
There’s no doubt that there’s enough talent on this team if you look at the conference preseason accolades and the national award watch lists. This season is about putting the talent all together, and if they can address those three keys, the Missouri Tigers can perhaps be a surprise contender in the SEC East, getting back to the 2013 and 2014 times.