Week 1 College Football Picks: Missouri Tigers vs. West Virginia Mountaineers

QB Skyler Howard is entering his senior season at West Virginia.
QB Skyler Howard is entering his senior season at West Virginia.

Missouri-WVU
Time: NOON
Spread: WV -9.5
M/L: WV (-350), MIS (+290)
Total: 50

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

Missouri

The Missouri Tigers are coached by first-year coach Barry Odom. Odom hired former Oklahoma QB and long-time assistant Josh Huepel to be the offensive coordinator. He will rejuvenate Missouri’s spread offense, and the Tigers will continue no-huddle three and four wideout sets. The team is going to play a fast pace, and it should almost certainly produce gaudier numbers than last year’s paltry 13.6 points and 280.9 yards per game, which ranked Mizzou No. 126 and No. 124 among FBS schools.

QB Drew Lock clicked well with Huepel, and he has worked on his mechanics in an attempt to improve his accuracy. The roster has 11 scholarship WRs that he will have to target, including Alabama graduate transfer Chris Black. He will start if his ankles are up to the task.

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Huepel will also look to institute a physical running attack for Mizzou, and Ish Witter is a power back capable of making plays. He did so this spring. The OL in front of him and Lock has just two starters returning, and one of them spent the entire spring on a cane. Missouri is counting on an OL materializing out of thin air, but it might.

Former Missouri safety DeMontie Cross is the coordinator of the defense and LB coach. He spent three years as an assistant under Gary Patterson, and the 4-2-5 schemes may be in play at Missouri now, too. The Tigers return five defensive tackles, led by second team All-SEC edge rusher Charles Harris. Terry Beckner Jr. is back on the inside. He was a Freshman All-American last season, but his year ended early due to a knee injury in Game 10.

At linebacker Missouri will be without senior Kentrell Brothers who departed after leading the team in tackles last fall. Mizzou does still have the No. 2 tackler from last season in Donavin Newsom, and he is a great playmaker capable of top-notch field coverage at LB. Aaron Penton starts at cornerback and is one of the most experienced DBs in the SEC.

West Virginia

The West Virginia Mountaineers went 8-5 last season and QB Skyler Howard threw for 532 yards and five TDs in the Citrus Bowl as WV defeated Arizona State 43-42. The team has looked to improve its intermediate and short routes, in hopes to further bolster a passing game that finished No. 42 in the nation in yardage last season with 251.5 passing yards per game. With nearly every WR and OL player returning, the chance is definitely there for the Mountaineers to become an even more feared passing team.

Nine WRs caught at least one pass in 2015, and eight are returning. Shelton Gibson and Daikel Shorts lead the group with a lot of experience, and KaRaun White, Gary Jennings and four others all played roles.

The Mountaineers had 444 passing yards and 16 catches en route to four TDs in the Cactus Bowl. Sophomore Jovon Durante was out fro that game due to academic suspension, but he will be back this season and in the mix for big playing time.

The WRs are not short of talent.

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At RB, WV will turn to five-star recruit and one-time starter Rushel Shell to replace Wendell Smallwood. True freshman Kennedy KcKoy and JUCO Offensive Player of the Year Justin Crawford will provide additional depth, and the trio of backs should be able to get the job done. West Virginia averaged 228.2 rushing yards per game last season, ranking No. 16 in the nation.

West Virginia’s defense takes a big hit due to graduation. However, there are still four returning starters and several of this year’s starters did log some experience. It is not like last year when the Mountaineers were starting so many without any legitimate experience save the likes of JUCO and spot playing time.

There is a lot of growth to occur in the defense, even still. Safety Jarrod Harper has nine games starting experience after Karl Joseph went down last year. Antonio Crawford was a nickel corner at Miami before transferring to West Virginia. And at CB Rasul Douglas and LBers Al-Rasheed Benton, Sean Walters and Justin Ardnt all saw plenty of time last year. Darrien Howard has experience at tackle, too.

West Virginia has plenty of turnover on a defense that allowed 24.6 points and 396.5 yards per game las season, but it should be reasonable sufficient to keep winning games given the strength of WVU’s offensive side.

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