The last time the West Virginia Mountaineers and Missouri Tigers met, the Mountaineers had a senior dual-threat quarterback and a senior-laden defense, while Missouri was breaking in first-year head coach Barry Odom after he took over for longtime head coach Gary Pinkell. The Mountaineers jumped all over the Tigers that day in Odom’s head coaching debut. Three years later, the roles are reversed.
GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY
Where are they from?: Columbia, MO
Recommended Blog: Rock M Nation
Famous Alumni: Brad Pitt (loosely, he left 2 weeks before graduation), Jon Hamm, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart)
Conference: Southeastern Conference
THE HEAD COACH
Barry Odom has spent his career at Missouri, minus a one-year stop in Memphis. He started as a graduate assistant in 2003 before turning to recruiting under long time coach Gary Pinkel. Odom came back to coach the safeties in 2009, before leaving for the defensive coordinator job at Memphis in 2012. Odom returned to Columbia in 2015 as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Odom took over for Gary Pinkel when the long-time head coach retired due to health reasons in 2016.
Odom struggled in his first season at the helm, going 4-8. Missouri stood at 1-5 in his second season before rattling off six straight wins to finish 7-5. Last year the Tigers finished 8-4.
SCOUTIN’ THE TIGERS
The Tigers started 3-0, following the typical SEC non-conference slate of bad, mediocre and not awful. They then started SEC play against Georgia and followed that up two weeks later against Alabama. That 3-0 start evaporated into a 3-3 record halfway through the season. A mid-season tilt with Memphis stopped the bleeding for a week before the Tigers then ran into the killer Kentucky Wildcats.
Following that 4-4 start, the Tigers righted the ship and snuffed out the ten-win Florida Gators before the schedule eased up for them. Their final three games of the season came against Tennesse, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, allowing the Tigers to claim 8 wins. In their bowl game, Mizzou faced long-time Big 12 foe Oklahoma State, who reminded the Tigers what life in the Big 12 is like. The Cowboys ended the Tigers season with a 38-33 defeat.
Who did they lose?
Current Denver Broncos QB Drew Lock. Lock was selected in the 2nd round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock threw 44 touchdowns in the SEC in 2017, which is a lot for any conference. He set the conference record that year and was the NCAA leader in touchdown passes.
Who do they return?
Not so much return as get through the transfer process, former Clemson starting QB Kelly Bryant will take the reins of the Mizzou offense in 2019. Bryant, in his lone year starting for Clemson Tigers, threw for 2,800 yards and ran for another 600 while accounting for 24 touchdowns. It would appear that the quarterback position is addressed.
Bryant will have a compliment of receivers and backs to operate the offense at this disposal, including tight end Albert Okwuegbunam and slot receiver Johnathon Johnson along with sophomores Jalen Knox and Kam Scott. In the backfield, Larry RountreeIII rushed for 1,216 yards last year, finishing strong and he is joined by third-down back Tyler Badie.
Missouri has used the SEC defense-style to lure in NFL style defensive tackles and that will show in 2019. Jordan Elliot and Akiel Byers are studs against the run for a defense that held teams to 3.8 yards per carry last season.
Behind the defensive line, linebacker Cale Garrett is Mizzou’s version of former West Virginia Mountaineer David Long. Garrett has 264 tackles in his career. Cornerbacks Christian Holmes, DeMarkus Acy and Adam Sparks all return to a defense that held teams to 55 percent passing.
Why should West Virginia be worried?
Three years ago, the Mountaineers welcomed first-year head coach Barry Odom into Mountaineer Field and smothered the Tigers in a 26-11 season-opening win that propelled the Mountaineers to 10-wins. The Tigers will be looking to, at minimum, do that this season. Bryant gives the Tigers a legitimate QB and the Tigers have improved every season under Odom. This will be the first true test for Neal Brown.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
Missouri, with its most talented team in years, is facing a bowl-ban thanks to a scandal from a former student-tutor who cheated for athletes across multiple sports. Knowing they can’t play in a bowl could have players not looking at the bigger picture. If there is a glimmer of hope, its that the bowl ban makes Tigers lethargic.