Missouri football: 5 things I want to see from the Tigers on Saturday
Missouri is coming off an emotional weekend simply between the injuries to QB Kelly Bryant and LB Cale Garrett, 2 of the most important players on the team. Their injuries overshadowed the win over Troy and has caused more questions leading to this week’s Homecoming game against Ole Miss.
There are loads of similarities in this game between coaches Matt Luke and Barry Odom. Both are alums of their school, previous assistant coaches there who inherited at least part of the staff from the previous head coach, and are, or have, faced postseason bans. They’re also good friends.
This is just the 7th meeting all-time between the programs, and Missouri holds a 6-1 edge with a 5-game winning streak. The teams last met in 2013 in Oxford, a 20-13 decision in a game coached by Gary Pinkel and Hugh Freeze.
Here are 5 things I want to see from the Tigers this week:
How will they fare without LB Cale Garrett?
Garrett is likely out for the season after he had surgery earlier this week for a torn pectoral tendon. He’s the SEC leader in tackles per game and interceptions (co-leader with 3), but likely won’t play another college game. Odom said the program would try for a redshirt, but it’d be a long shot. It’s a tough loss because Garrett appeared to be the epitome of the Missouri defense’s heart and soul.
As with most great players, there won’t be one replacement, at least at the outset.
Sophomore Cameron Wilkins will get the first crack at middle linebacker. Wilkins replaced Garrett in the 2nd half against Troy, and finished with a career-high 5 tackles. But junior Jamal Brooks, listed as a backup at weakside linebacker, could provide some relief.
Odom couldn’t outline the timeline of Garrett’s recovery, but said he could likely make the NFL.
Kelly Bryant’s knee
The initial hit looked considerably worse than what came of the diagnosis, and Bryant appears to be on track to play Saturday. He’ll have a knee brace, which he’s worn this week at practice. However, it’s impossible to believe the game plan won’t be altered to compensate for whatever limitations he might have.
The coaching staff has said Bryant has practiced well, and he would do extra work and rehab to be ready to play with a brace.
One solace is that the Ole Miss defense has given up plenty of yards and points, including at least 300 passing yards 4 times already this season. Backup Taylor Powell took over last week in the 2nd half for Bryant and completed 6-of-8 passes for 57 yards.
How will Missouri defend the run?
Odom’s quote about Ole Miss’ rushing attack speaks for itself, even if it’s partially related to Vanderbilt’s defense.
“Shoot, they rushed for over 400 yards Saturday night,” he said. “That’s hard to do. That’s really, really hard to do. Now you’re looking at averaging over 300 yards in conference games. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen that number. We have to be really, really good against the run, but you also see what they’re doing throwing the ball down the field. It’s going to take a tremendous effort to slow them down.”
Missouri’s defense is 3rd in the SEC in rushing defense, however, that was with Garrett. The Tigers haven’t allowed even 70 yards in a game since the opening loss to Wyoming.
One key: containing Ole Miss dual-threat QB John Rhys Plumlee. The true freshman has reeled off consecutive 100-yard rushing games.
Continuity on the offensive line
The depth chart along the offensive line is again new this week.
If that holds true Saturday, it would be the 4th combination in 5 games. This time, the differences are guards Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms and Case Cook have swapped positions. Also Larry Borom and Hyrin White are a coin flip at right tackle.
Missouri has a pair of impressive streaks going, but can they continue?
The Tigers have a 10-game streak where they’ve scored at least 31 points. That is the longest streak for Mizzou since a 14-game span from 2006-07. What’s more, Mizzou has won 6 consecutive home games, which dates to last year’s 33-28 win over Vanderbilt. In the Tigers’ past 5 home games, they have outscored opponents 202-31.