Welcome back to the Opponent Q&A, this week featuring Pete Scantlebury of sister site Rock M Nation to fill us in on the Missouri Tigers’ season so far. Pete was gracious enough to answer our questions, so without further ado, here they are.
Mizzou is coming off a bye week, but the last time they played, it was in a somewhat closer-than-expected loss to Georgia that — much like the Gamecocks’ loss to UGA — mostly got out of hand from unforced errors. In light of that, how are fans now viewing this team’s potential?
I think for the most part, fans are viewing Missouri’s potential as “cautiously optimistic.” There have been good signs and bad signs from Missouri first four games, and the Georgia game seems to be ultimately a positive — Missouri was not pushed around or “out-athleted” by Georgia. I’m not saying Missouri would have won the game had it not shot itself in the foot or if some controversial calls went in Missouri’s favor, but those would have put Missouri in position to potentially have the ball late in the fourth quarter in a closer game. However, under Barry Odom, Missouri has not played well — at all — against quality, competent opponents. Especially not on the road. So, that history in itself probably leads to more cautious, tempered expectations until Missouri proves otherwise.
After watching South Carolina play a very suspect game of football against Kentucky last week, does this game seem like less of a toss-up and more of a possible win?
I think Kentucky is pretty dang good, so no, that loss to the Wildcats doesn’t really change my expectations for the challenge this game presents for Missouri. I think it remains a toss up, and I see two really even matched teams with a lot of similarities on both sides of the ball. South Carolina lost to an elite team and a surprisingly good team; while I’m sure that outcome is disappointing for the Gamecocks, I don’t think it means they’re any less talented of a team than they were before this season.
Many SEC fans snickered when Derek Dooley was hired as your new offensive coordinator. How’s that move been working out so far?
He’s been fine, to be honest. Missouri seems to be more varied in its offense, but it’s still very much a spread, hurry-up attack. On the surface, he hasn’t really changed much at all. The offense isn’t putting up the same staggering numbers it did for the second half of last year, but it’s still very consistent with the potential to be more explosive. Dooley, it seems, has also called pretty clean games. There have been no really “What the hell?” play calls through four games.
All anyone can talk about when it comes to Missouri is Drew Lock. Is there anything else Gamecock fans should be looking out for, on offense or otherwise?
Yeah, Emanuel Hall and Albert Okwuegbunam. If Hall is healthy, he’s one of the best receivers in the nation and a mismatch against nearly any defensive back he goes against. However, he’s been limited since before the Purdue game, and that especially showed against Georgia when he was pretty much used as a decoy. Okwuegbunam is one of the nation’s best tight ends and is due for a big game this year. Missouri’s ground game is finding its legs, too, and the real surprise there has been freshman Tyler Badie, who is being used a lot as a receiver out of the backfield.
On defense, Terry Beckner Jr. is still Missouri’s best overall player and should be a high-round draft pick at defensive tackle this year. A player to watch out for in the secondary is CB DeMarkus Acy who has been in position to make some big plays.
Finally, care to make a prediction?
So, I could very well see this as a game where Missouri comes out and craps the bed. They’ve done that a good number of times over the last two and a half years. Fact is, they haven’t won this type of tough game over a quality opponent under Odom. The Purdue game this year MAY end up looking better in hindsight, but, still. This is a long-winded way of me saying that I don’t have a logical reason why, but I’m predicting Missouri to find a way to win a close one over South Carolina. There have been some weird bounces in this series since Missouri joined the SEC, and I think this year it bounces in Missouri’s favor. Let’s say Tigers 27, Gamecocks 24.
Big thanks again to Pete for talking with us, and keep an eye out on Rock M Nation for GABA’s responses!