Head Coach: Barry Odom
2018 Record: 8-5, 4-4 Conference
Bowl: 33-38 Loss to Oklahoma State at Liberty Bowl
O/U 8 wins (O -150, U +120)
The Missouri Tigers got off to a rough start in the Barry Odom era, losing 13 of its first 18 under the head coach, but stability seems to be on the horizon after a long wait. The Tigers’ attendance has suffered (down 21 percent since 2014), and Missouri is banned from the 2019 postseason due to a tutoring scandal. The sanctions vacated some wins, and 5 percent of scholarships were lost as well, not to mention recruiting applications. Missouri appealed the punishment and launched a “Make it Right” campaign, but this is a program with a long list of issues before it even becomes a matter of what is on the field.
Four-year starting QB Drew Lock is gone, but the team will turn to Kelly Bryant, now a senior. Bryant led the Tigers to the playoffs in his freshman year after the team lost Deshaun Watson, so he has experience. He completed 66 percent of his passes over the last three seasons, and he is good on his feet as a strong dual-threat QB. Lock will hope for a lot of help from receivers Jalen Knox and Kam Scott, who combined for 35 catches, 633 yards, and five TDs last season. The team will be without its top two receives Emmanuel Hall and Albert Okwuegbunam due to injuries. Bryant also will have plenty of help from senior slot receiver Johnathon Johnson, who has caught 124 catches in his career. Jonathan Nance is a nice graduate transfer from Arkansas and he led the Razorbacks in receiving in 2017.
At running back, Larry Rountree III had a breakout campaign last year. He rushed for 1,216 yards in his sophomore season and was one of the best running backs in the SEC by the conclusion of the season. No. 2 back Tyler Badie is a good short-yardage option for third downs, and he is a good complement to Rountree’s explosiveness. The backfield should get it done for the Tigers.
The offensive line is big and strong, and Bryant should benefit with time to throw and some well-blocked runs. It returns three offensive lineman, including All-Conference selection Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms. The team should pick up where it left off up front, despite the loss of Paul Adams at right tackle. He will be replaced by sophomore Hyrin White.
Missouri struggled to produce sacks last year averaging just 2.5 per game. That had typically been a strength for Mizzou. The team was strong in other ways, though, allowing just 126.5 rushing yards per game (No. 22) and 3.7 yards-per-carry (No. 32). Jordan Elliot is a great player in the middle and junior end Akial Byers is a strong run-stopper.
Cale Garrett is a natural tackling monster and he had 264 solo and assisted tackles over his career as he enters his senior season as a middle linebacker. The ends are a bit dicier, though. JUCO transfer Sci Martin Jr. is a former LSU player who should be productive, while Trajan Jeffcoat is a sophomore expected to make a leap in production. But one of these players has to emerge as a big blitz threat to improve on last season’s poor sack production.
The Tigers ranked No. 31 in completion rate allowed (55.7 percent) and considering how weak the QB pressure was, that is really actually pretty solid. Its cornerbacks include Christian Holmes, DeMarkus Acy, and Adam Sparks. All have experience. While it had been a sore spot in previous seasons, the secondary will have plenty of games under its belt and should be good again, particularly if the ends are able to apply much more pressure to opposing quarterbacks.
Corey Fatony is gone at punter after four strong years of averaging 44 yards per punt. Tucker McCann will replace him and probably also serve as the placekicker.
The sanctions that hit this program, fair or not, have dealt it a blow, albeit hardly a crippling one necessarily. The Tigers will be competitive in the SEC, but it is a solid tier or two below the two powerhouses that rule this conference.
Prediction: 9 wins (over)