Predictions for every game of Mizzou’s 2017 football season

Assistant sports editor Joe Noser predicts Mizzou will finish bowl eligible for the first time since 2015.

Georgia junior wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, 16, catches a touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to give the Bulldogs a late lead in the game at Faurot Field on Sept. 17 2016. Missouri will be looking for revenge when they visit the Bulldogs in Week 7. Maneater File Photo

Although head coach Barry Odom’s first season at the helm of Missouri Tigers football was a turbulent one, the team’s win over Arkansas to end last year has set a tone of optimism entering this season. Here’s a breakdown of all 12 games this season:

Week 1: Home vs. Missouri State

When you look up “cupcake game” in the dictionary (you can’t, but you get the point), you find this game. Missouri has to annihilate Missouri State in Week 1, and there’s nothing indicating this won’t happen. Missouri State may be trying to become the flagship university of the state, but they will not be the flagship football team in Missouri for years to come. Look for Mizzou to win this game handily, with Drew Lock throwing for at least three touchdown passes.

Week 2: Home vs. South Carolina

This will be a huge early-season conference test for the Tigers. It’s also a great opportunity to get a Southeastern Conference win over a team that will be much improved from a year ago, as the Gamecocks just barely made a bowl game. This contest will be decided by youth. If Jake Bentley, the Gamecocks’ sophomore quarterback, carves up Mizzou’s equally green secondary, it could be a long day for the Tigers. That is, of course, only if Lock is unable to match him yard for yard, score for score. This one could go either way, but look for the Gamecocks to pull out a nailbiter on the road.

Week 3: Home vs. Purdue

If you’re looking for a potential letdown game on Mizzou’s schedule, circle this one on your calendar. Mizzou will be entering this game fired up about its Week 4 matchup against Auburn, especially if they’re able to pull out a victory over the Gamecocks in Week 2. But it would be a mistake for the Tigers to overlook Purdue. Although Purdue finished with a dismal 3-9 last season, new head coach Jeff Brohm has already breathed new life into the program. He should also help with the development of junior quarterback David Blough. Unless Blough doesn’t throw for any interceptions and Mizzou’s run defense is historically bad, I don’t see the Tigers allowing the Boilermakers to pull out a win here. Mizzou should win this one by at least 10 points.

Week 4: Home vs. Auburn

Ah, the reach game. Mizzou could very well be 3-0 entering this game, and Faurot Field will certainly be loud and rowdy if that’s the case. But a great home crowd and confidence gained from two or three wins to start the year will not be enough for Mizzou to beat a far superior Auburn team. Auburn has too many weapons on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is an athletic freak and running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson ran all over SEC defenses last year. The same will happen against Mizzou this year. Auburn should win this one in a blowout.

Week 5: Bye Week

Week 6: Road vs. Kentucky

This is another winnable game for Mizzou, but a lot of things are going to have to go right for the Tigers to pull out a victory. This will be the first road test for the Tigers’ unproven secondary, and if the Wildcats’ standout running back Benny Snell Jr. runs like he’s capable of, this could turn into a dogfight. The two big matchups to look out for in this one will be Snell versus Mizzou’s defensive line and Mizzou running back Damarea Crockett versus Kentucky’s Jordan Jones. It’ll be a knock-down, drag-out fight, but I anticipate Kentucky winning this one by two scores.

**Week 7: Road vs. Georgia***

In many ways, this game depends more upon how well Georgia plays and less upon the play of the Tigers. Sure, Mizzou will be extra motivated to pull off an upset after the heartbreaker of a loss the team endured to the Bulldogs last year, but Georgia on paper is just a much better football team than Mizzou is right now. If Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are back on track this year, that should open up opportunities for Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason to air it out. If that happens, good luck. Mizzou could win this game, but I see Georgia pulling out another close one.

Week 8: Home vs. Idaho

“Yikes.” That’s the first word that comes to mind when reading about Idaho this season. This will be their final year in the Sun Belt Conference, and with an above-average offensive line for the first time in many years, Idaho’s offense could be even better than last year, when the Vandals went 9-4. Idaho has nothing to lose and will be looking to spoil Mizzou’s Homecoming party in a big way. However, with the pain of last year’s Homecoming loss to Middle Tennessee still fresh in the Tigers’ collective memories, Mizzou should be able to score enough points to pull out what will be an absolute barn burner. Don’t be surprised if the Vandals play villain and throw off the Tigers’ whole season, though.

Week 9: Road vs. Connecticut

If you heard about Connecticut Huskies football last season, they were most likely mentioned in the context of their abysmal offense. The Huskies ranked second to last in the NCAA in scoring last season, putting up only 14.0 points per game. The Huskies will be a little improved this season, but not enough to keep pace with a Tigers offense that shouldn’t have trouble matching their 27.1 points per game mark from a year ago. Mizzou should win this one handily.

Week 10: Home vs. Florida

Apart from the Auburn game, no game on Mizzou’s schedule to this point should be a blowout for the Tigers. That streak will probably end against Florida. If Malik Zaire is Florida’s starting quarterback, this one is going to be ugly. An experienced, dual-threat quarterback and graduate transfer from Notre Dame, Zaire would run all over Mizzou’s run defense and light up the Tigers’ secondary. If Feleipe Franks starts, the Gators might throw for 400 yards through the air.

Week 11: Home vs. Tennessee

This is a gigantic game for Mizzou and an early chance in Odom’s coaching career to pick up a big win. The Volunteers have faded down the stretch in recent seasons and are certainly less talented on the defensive side of the ball with the loss of premier defensive end Derek Barnett to the NFL. With this game also being Mizzou’s Senior Day game, the stage will certainly be set for an upset victory for the Tigers. If Mizzou can contain running backs John Kelly and Ty Chandler and Crockett has a big game, Mizzou very well could win this one. I think it happens.

Week 12: Away vs. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt played its worst game of the year versus Mizzou last season and will not be nearly as bad at home in this one. Both teams will be battling to qualify for a bowl at this point in the year, and Vanderbilt’s senior running back Ralph Webb will also most likely be close to the cementing his status as the all-time leading rusher in the SEC. In other words, both teams are going to have a lot to play for in this one. However, with standout linebacker Zach Cunningham gone, Crockett may be able to run all over the Commodores. This one may come down to a field goal, but look for Tucker McCann to nail a game-winner for the Tigers, forever immortalizing this one as “the Tucker McCann Redemption Game.”

Week 13: Away vs. Arkansas

Arkansas was downright terrible at the end of last season, which may have helped Missouri pull out a surprise victory in the third installment of the “Battle Line Rivalry.” Nonetheless, the Tigers played one of their best games against the Razorbacks last season and will need a similar effort to pull out a win this season. However, without the Tiger faithful behind them, Mizzou is going to run out of gas in this one. Look for Arkansas to win this game by a touchdown.

Final Prediction

Record: 6-6 First bowl game since 2015

Edited by Eli Lederman | elederman@themaneater.com

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