Independence Day has come and gone which means college football season inches closer. We have already seen countdown clocks start springing up on social media, so I guess that means it is time to start the 2016 Game Preview Summer Series.
Game #1: Missouri Tigers
|2015 Missouri Record: 5-7 (SEC 1-7)
|5-Sep||SE Missouri St.
|12-Sep||at Arkansas St.
|5-Nov||#20 Miss State
||at Arkansas||28-3||L||5-7 (1-7)|
The first opponent to face off against the Mountaineers this season are the Missouri Tigers at noon in Morgantown on FS1. While only going 5-7 on the season, Mizzou was one of the most talked-about programs in the country last year due to off-the-field issues and the announcement that the winningest head coach in the program's history, Gary Pinkel, would retire due to health reasons after fourteen season with the Tigers. Missouri declined an invite to a bowl game citing that they would focus on finding Pinkel's replacement and, days later, hired long-time defensive coordinator Barry Odom to take the helm as head coach.
Defense is Mizzou's Main Strength
Missouri might have not had much of a season to write home about, but their defense is fantastic. The Tigers are downright stingy to play against regardless of offensive scheme and it shows in their national rankings.
|2015 Missouri Defensive Rankings (NCAA.com)
|Scoring Defense (Points Allowed)
|Yards Per Play Allowed
|Yards Per Rush Allowed
|Yards Per Pass Completion
|Team Tackles For Loss
Junior defensive end Charles Harris was named to both 2016 Nagurski and Bednarik Watch Lists for the nation's best defensive player of the year. These accolades don't come without warrant considering he finished the season with seven sacks and led the SEC last year in tackles for loss (18.5.) Exhibit A: This spin move.
It's also worth nothing that, because their new head coach was the defensive coordinator and most of the starters return, this side of the ball does not look like they will take any steps back whatsoever.
Tiger Offense: Woeful At Best
I'm kind of surprised that I have went this far without mentioning Maty Mauk. This will be the first and last time considering Mauk has transferred, solidifying Drew Lock as starting quarterback. Lock stepped into what proved to be a toothless Tiger offense with Missouri ending up on the wrong side of the national rankings. Note: There are 127 teams in FBS.
|2015 Missouri Offensive Rankings (NCAA.com)
|Yards Per Play
|Third Down %
|Fourth Down %
Woof. After this performance, Missouri fired OC Josh Henson and picked up Josh Heupel. Heupel, moving from the OC position at Utah State, is most known for his 11-year run at Oklahoma climbing the ranks from Quarterbacks coach to co-OC. Having your first game in Morgantown with a new offensive system doesn't seem ideal, but Mizzou returns most of their offensive skill players and linemen. If the Tigers can patch the holes left at offensive guard as Evan Boehm and Connor McGovern move on to the NFL, Missouri should prove to be much more potent on offense in 2016. However, this is much more likely to occur over the duration of the season and figuring it all out in time for Week 1 seems unlikely.
Prediction: Mountaineers Should Win
The battle lines are pretty well-drawn. The Mountaineer defense (even with its NFL Draft losses) should be able to manage the Missouri offense, so the show will be WVU O vs. Mizzou D. West Virginia returns a capable offensive line which can hold off Mizzou's pressure to let "another offseason under the belt/Cactus Bowl MVP" Skyler Howard do his work. If this game was played in Columbia, I wouldn't be so sure. If the Tigers still had Pinkel, I wouldn't be so sure. However, it's not and he's not..... so have Country Roads ready.