COLUMBIA, Mo. – They ended up with different results, but Missouri and West Virginia had something in common during their season openers — cause for concern. Two teams coming off lackluster opening games will try to turn things around when the Mountaineers visit the Tigers for a nonconference clash Saturday.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Missouri -14.
The Mountaineers gave new coach Neal Brown a victory in his West Virginia debut last week, beating James Madison 20-13, but the margin was awfully narrow against what should have been an overmatched opponent. "We had a lot of mistakes and teachable moments," Brown told reporters. "We've got a long way to go. We've definitely got to get better. I think that should go without saying." Missouri coach Barry Odom can relate after the Tigers' rally fell short in a 37-31 loss at Wyoming last week. The Tigers jumped out to a 14-0 lead before allowing 27 points in the second quarter, and their potential game-winning drive came up short.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (1-0)
The Mountaineers didn't produce much offense to speak of in their opener, and they especially struggled to establish the run, gaining only 34 yards on 24 attempts. The passing game was more effective, but not terribly efficient, as Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall was 27-for-42 for 260 yards and two touchdowns in his West Virginia debut. The defense played well enough to secure the win, but the Mountaineers gave up 328 total yards, and they will face a much greater challenge against the Tigers.
ABOUT MISSOURI (0-1)
Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant put up prolific passing numbers in his Tigers' debut, going 31-of-48 for a career-high 423 yards, but it wasn't enough to complete the comeback. The Tigers averaged only 2.7 yards per rush, as neither Bryant nor running backs Tyler Badie and Larry Rountree III were able to get much going on the ground. Missouri's defense was gashed on the ground against the Cowboys, who rolled up 297 yards on 42 attempts, and the Tigers will have to solidify the run defense to have success.
1. West Virginia has forced a turnover in 12 consecutive games and has two or more takeaways in five of its past six contests.
2. Missouri has won 13 straight home openers dating to 2005, but the Tigers haven't hosted a Power 5 opponent in their first home game since facing Illinois in 1993.
3. The Mountaineers are looking for a third consecutive win over an SEC opponent.
PREDICTION: Missouri 27, West Virginia 20