It’s difficult to gauge the excitement of Mizzou nation following, what can only be described, as a bizarre 72-43 season-opening win last week against Missouri State. A crowd of over 50,000 witnessed the Tigers break school records offensively, chalking up over 800 total yards including 521 from the golden arm of quarterback Drew Lock (who also threw seven TD passes).
With a slightly larger crowd expected for Missouri’s conference opener tonight at 6:00 pm against 1-0 South Carolina, the expectations are for Barry Odom’s Tigers to make a definitive statement- something that has been sorely missing thus far in his brief tenure.
On “Sec Nation” this morning, Odom addressed his teams’ defensive woes from last week, a game in which Missouri gave up an astonishing 492 yards of offense to the Missouri State Bears of the FCS.
“Well obviously we didn’t play anywhere close to what resembled to be anything we want to be known for defensively.” Odom stated. “When you look at the video and study it, a lot of correctable mistakes.”
Missouri fans are hopeful that the mistakes are, indeed, correctable as excitement over quarterback Drew Lock and the offense has been tempered with concerns that a long year defensively could be looming.
In 2016, the Tigers missed out on a golden opportunity to produce a statement win in its first conference game, losing a late heartbreaker to Georgia. The team finished with a 4-8 record, which marked the second consecutive season in which a bowl game was not achieved by a program that had come off back-to-back SEC East titles in ’13 and ’14.
All of a sudden, it feels like an eternity since Mizzou put the SEC on notice with those consecutive trips to Atlanta and positive news for the football program has been scarce since the 2015 Citrus Bowl win over Minnesota. Campus unrest, a coaching change, sluggish recruiting and poor on-field play have left Tiger faithful wondering when things are going to turn around.
A victory over a stingy South Carolina team and a 2-0 start would go a long way towards righting some of the wrongs that have plagued the program over the past two-plus years.
The Gamecocks come into this game riding high after a 35-28 win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack last week in Charlotte, a game in which its special teams was certainly the difference despite the defense giving up over 500 yards.
The over/under in this game opened at 74, which means a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out could be forthcoming under the lights of Faurot Field. Will the Mizzou defense be up to the task of slowing down quarterback Jake Bentley and his bevy of young receivers?
Prediction: Missouri 41 South Carolina 35