Game Time: Noon ET/11 a.m. CT
TV: SEC Network
Radio: MSU Radio Network || Tiger Network
How to watch online: Watch ESPN
Odds: No betting information for FBS-FCS matchups.
For the past few years, The University of Missouri and Missouri State University have been locked in a battle for the top talent the state of Missouri has to offer. Top-level talent out of St. Louis that had generally made the trip on I-70 to Columbia is increasingly opting to trek down I-44 to Springfield.
It’s started a full-on recruiting battle between the two preeminent public universities in The Show Me State.
What’s with the incredulous look? Wait, you thought I was talking about football?
Oh, heavens no. This was just the most interesting angle to take on this lopsided cakewalk.
I was referring to the two schools recruitment of the general student population. Missouri State has began to make a real dent in the enrollment numbers on the University of Missouri System’s flagship campus. Mizzou answered back with the Missouri Land Grant Compact, which will cover all tuition costs for students who are Missouri residents and qualify for federal Pell Grants.
So while the two schools are facing a great recruiting battle in the classroom, Saturday’s meeting on the gridiron will be a one-sided fight between a member of the best football conference in the country and an overmatched Football Championship Subdivision team.
Getting “Lock”ed in
It’s no secret that the improvement of quarterback Drew Lock is the single biggest determining factor in Missouri’s success for the 2017 season. Lock put up some impressive numbers in 2016, namely 3,399 passing yards and 23 passing touchdowns. He also had an ugly 54.6 completion percentage and 10 interceptions.
Those stats paint a pretty clear picture: Lock needs to improve his accuracy. It’s a paramount step for the junior quarterback to take on a personal level. It also could be the difference in the Tigers making a bowl game or sitting at home throughout December.
To be clear, what Lock does on Saturday should have no bearing on who wins (It’s funny, because Missouri State’s mascot is the Bears. Keep up, I’m not going to explain every high-brow joke for you moving forward). Saturday’s contest will be a chance for Lock to get off to a comfortable start to the season.
He didn’t get that luxury last year with a season-opening trip to West Virginia. It turned into an unforgettable—and not in a good way—day at the office. Lock attempted 51 passes but connected on just 23 of them. It was his first of five games with a 50 percent-or-worse completion percentage.
This should be a confidence-boosting game before Mizzou hosts the team from the other Columbia next week. With that early SEC opener against South Carolina, it’s imperative for Lock and the Missouri offense to take as much momentum from this weekend’s game as possible.
Sticking it to “Stec”
Saturday’s game will see Dave Steckel and Barry Odom face off in a meeting of former Gary Pinkel assistant coaches. It’s not a meeting they are exactly looking forward to. Odom, in particular, doesn’t seem to be thrilled with facing his former colleague and friend.
Missouri HC Barry Odom on going against Mo. State HC Dave Steckel: To be frank, I don't like it— Tramel Raggs (@Raggs_No_Riches) August 28, 2017
Odom apparently said that during a teleconference. During a subsequent press conference, he mentioned having great respect for Steckel. Odom also knows that the former Mizzou defensive coordinator is returning home looking to beat the man who replaced him when he left for Missouri State.
Steckel, meanwhile, seems to have mixed feelings about returning to the place he coached for 14 years. At the end of the day, Steckel probably doesn’t expect his team to beat—or even hang with—the Tigers. Then again, it’s a lot easier coming into a game where expectations are that low for your team.
On the other side, Odom has to hope his team escapes the 60-minute affair with everybody healthy. He also has to balance getting his first-string, particularly the offense, enough snaps to find a rhythm and not putting his starters in undue harm.
With a friend on the opposite sideline, it will be a lot easier for Odom to justify calling off the hounds earlier rather than later.
So, what happens?
While OddsShark does not place odds on FBS-FCS matchups, the website did have a predicted score of roughly 31-7 (Technically, it was 30.7-6.5, but I think we’re fine to round up in this instance.).
The Missouri offense likely is completely unaware of this information. If Lock & Co. were made aware of it, they would probably take it as a slap to the face and understandably so.
In 2016, the Tigers averaged 31 points per game and 500 yards of total offense. No offense to Missouri State, but the Bears are not at the same level—literally, they play in the FCS—as most of the teams Missouri put up those numbers against last season.
Missouri’s point total will depend on how long Odom decides to keep his starters in the game. Even if they play just one half, expect the Tigers to light up the scoreboard. This game could be a shutout, but I’ll be nice and let my sister’s alma mater have a fluke touchdown.
Prediction: Missouri 59, Missouri State 7