Football season is still a little more than a month away for Missouri, but that hasn’t stopped some from making some early predictions.
In 2016, Missouri struggled against its standard slate of opponents. A first year head coach, dropped passes, off field troubles, and underwhelming defensive efforts all factored into the tigers’ 4-8 record.
While most SEC fans predict much the same from Missouri, it is more likely that the Tigers will improve this year, and could surprise some over-confident teams, like South Carolina.
The Tigers will face a similar opponent in South Carolina, which some compare to a mirror image. While Missouri’s offense returns 10 starting players, its defense only returns five. To many, that leaves the Tigers with enough question marks to declare a weak defense.
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South Carolina has a talented offense, but being that Missouri’s defense is relatively unknown, it gives the Tigers an “x-factor,” which can’t be accounted for by the Gamecocks. The only thing South Carolina really has to game plan from is tape from 2016.
Tigers coach Barry Odom knows that last year, the Tigers were not solid on defense, especially early in the season.
While recruiting the offseason hasn’t gone as well as we’d like to see, Missouri has a knack for developing unknown players into special talents.
South Carolina has a stout defense, but with Missouri’s 10 players returning on offense, the Tigers will give the Gamecocks defense a hard time. Starting his second season, quarterback Drew Lock seems to have matured and improved his reads and passing accuracy.
South Carolina sees the return of defensive back Skai Moore, who has 11 career interceptions for the Gamecocks, but in an early season tilt (week 2), there’s no guarantee that Moore will be ready to produce at the high level that he is capable of.
Added to the fact that he will be facing a Tigers offense that has a year of experience under its belt. The Tigers have the most underrated running game in the conference, which will be seeking to make South Carolina respect its power.
As long as receiver J’Mon Moore has cleaned up his game, and with pairings of Johnathon Johnson and Nate Brown, Missouri’s aerial attack paired with its running game paired will give the Gamecocks’ defense fits.
The best chance that South Carolina will have at keeping the game close will be containing Missouri’s run game. Likewise, the best chance Mizzou has at not allowing South Carolina to take an early lead will be to control its ground game.
If the Tigers’ defensive front maintains its momentum from the end of last season into this year, then it should be able to keep the Gamecocks honest.
Once again, Missouri shouldn’t be sold short just because it had a down season over the last couple years. The Tigers are looking to rise again in 2017, and are showing stability and improvement throughout the team.