COLUMBIA Mo. – Missouri hopes to avoid the slow start that plagued the squad last year and pick up where it left off when it hosts UT Martin on Saturday. The Tigers won their last six regular-season games in 2017 and will look for a potentially potent offense to lead the way against the Skyhawks.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: None
The Tigers had trouble putting away Missouri State in last season's opener before losing their next five games, and they don’t want a repeat performance against another FCS opponent.
“We’ve been a team in the past that oozes our way out,” Missouri offensive lineman Paul Adams told the Kansas City Star. “It’s caught up to us a lot. I would love for us to come out and make a statement. Put our foot on the gas and never look back.”
The Tigers have plenty of fuel on offense, with 10 starters back from a team that led the ACC with 502.2 total yards per game. Among them is quarterback Drew Lock, who is surrounded by a group of weapons that includes Preseason All-SEC tight end Albert Okwuegbunam.
ABOUT UT MARTIN (2017: 6-5)
The Skyhawks did not have much firepower on offense last year as they averaged 19.6 points, but they made up for it with a stingy defense.
The unit that ranked fourth in FCS last season has several holes to fill, but all three starting linebackers return after combining for 27.5 tackles for loss in 2017. UT Martin is 1-24 all-time against FBS teams, with the only win coming in 2012 against a Memphis squad for which Odom served as the defensive coordinator.
ABOUT MISSOURI (2017: 7-6)
Lock set the school and SEC record with 44 touchdown passes last year and needs just 105 passing yards to move ahead of Brad Smith for second place on the school’s all-time list.
The Tigers also should have a solid ground game with Damarea Crockett and Larry Rountree III in the backfield. The defense should be strong up the middle, with tackle Terry Beckner Jr. back for his senior year to anchor the line and all three starting linebackers returning.
1. Missouri has won each of its last 12 home openers and 19 of its last 21.
2. The Tigers are 17-0 all-time against FCS opponents and have outscored their last 14 FCS foes 728-139.
3. Missouri’s offense has had fewer plays go for negative yardage than any other team in the nation each of the last two seasons, as it averaged three per game in 2016 and 2.85 last year.
PREDICTION: Missouri 37, UT Martin 13