Barring any unforeseen Covid complications, the Missouri Tigers will travel to Mississippi State this weekend to take on the Bulldogs. On paper, this game looks like a layup. In reality, the game has meaning for both of these two programs. Here are some of the keys to this matchup:
What’s at Stake?
The Bulldogs would love to get a win against a quality opponent to end their season. Their 2-7 record isn’t as terrible as one would think. They lost close games to Georgia, Ole Miss, and Arkansas. If a few things break their way, then we’re talking about a different football team. As it stands, their lone wins were to a fallen LSU and a hapless Vanderbilt team that couldn’t win if you spotted them two touchdowns. A win here would salvage something of the season and give the Bulldogs something to build on.
Missouri, on the other hand, would like to pad its resume heading into bowl selection. A blowout win here would give the bowl selectors something to think about. It would also add to the unexpected, immediate success that Coach Drinkwitz has achieved in his first year in Columbia. Could the Tigers add to that by getting an invite to, say, the Citrus Bowl against a team like Northwestern? It’s definitely a possibility. That would give Mizzou fans something to cheer about.
Keys to the Game
Missouri- The Tigers’ defensive secondary will be tested. Mississippi State only averaged a minuscule 23 yds/g rushing, but they averaged
312 yds/g passing. The defensive front needs to keep the run in check so Nick Bolton and SEC sack leader Trajan Jeffcoat can get in the backfield and wreak havoc.
On offense, the Tigers have to get Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie going early and often. After being completely shut down by Georgia last week, the run game needs to come out swinging so Connor Bazelak and the receiving corps can do their thing. A solid ground game will really open things up for the Tiger offense and pressure of the redshirt freshman under center.
Mississippi State- If the Bulldogs’ coaching staff took notes, they know they have to stop the Missouri ground game. Georgia stopped Roundtree and Co. to great effect. Missouri’s receivers are vulnerable, and it showed last week. Mississippi State must force Connor Bazelak to shoulder the burden and keep Mizzou’s offense off-balance.
Offensively, it’s pretty simple: Run the ball someway, somehow. If the Bulldogs can’t get the ground game going, expect the Missouri defense to have a field day in the backfield. If all Mizzou has to do is defend the pass, it will be a long day for Mike Leach’s offense.
This should be a tougher test than most think for the Tigers, especially on the road. Still, Mizzou should come away with the win. It might not be the impressive victory the bowl selectors want to see, but it should still be a fun game to watch. I predict a final score of 31-27 with the Tigers coming out on top.
When: Saturday, December 19th
Kickoff: 2:30 pm CST
Network: SECN Alt
Forecast: 54 F, cloudy with a chance for rain.