Mizzou football: 10 bold predictions for the 2019 season
This could be a special year for the Missouri Tigers under coach Barry Odom. Or, it could go down as a season with an asterisk next to it in the history books.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Tigers, but the recipe is there for a great 2019 campaign. With Clemson graduate transfer QB Kelly Bryant running the show, there’s talent aplenty in Columbia.
With a little help from the NCAA (more on that in just a second), the Tigers could end up having their best season since 2013 and 2014 (when they won the SEC East). Here are 10 bold predictions for this fall:
1. The NCAA overturns Mizzou’s bowl ban
Every discussion about the 2019 Tigers starts here. With the bowl ban hanging over their heads, this will be an interesting year. The Tigers could be a few games into the season before the NCAA announces whether the bowl ban will be repealed.
Call me crazy, but I think the NCAA will do the right thing. That hasn’t been the case for Mizzou for the past several decades, but eventually the Tigers have to catch some kind of break, right? Right? … Right?
Look, the point is, I’d rather enter the 2019 season with optimism rather than feeling defeated already. We can look to Aubrey Solomon and Luke Ford for examples of the NCAA taking forever with decisions (Solomon) and making the clearly wrong decision (Ford), but let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope the NCAA realizes no one still with the Mizzou program had anything to do with the violations they’re being punished for.
2. The Tigers win 10 games (at least)
The Tigers have a ton of talent returning and a favorable schedule. If they can get over the hump against Kentucky or South Carolina (or both), they have a path to 10 regular-season wins.
Nine regular-season wins is also a strong possibility (it could be said that anything less would be a disappointment). Then, if the Tigers are eligible for the postseason, they could pick up their first bowl victory since 2014.
That would be a great milestone and would continue the Tigers’ upward trajectory under coach Barry Odom.
3. Larry Rountree III rushes for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns
Rountree rushed for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018, sharing the workload with Damarea Crockett and Tyler Badie. Badie is back and ready for a bigger role, but Crockett is off to the NFL, so that means more work for Rountree.
He’s one of the most underrated backs in the SEC (and the country, in general). He’s ready to be noticed nationally, and if he continues the improvements he’s made each year in Columbia, he could easily surpass 15 touchdowns and 1,500 yards.
4. The pass defense doesn’t finish last in the SEC
This isn’t asking for much, right? Well, the Tigers bring back most of the key pieces from a secondary that finished dead last in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game last season. The Tigers allowed 262 yards per game, just a shade worse than Ole Miss’ 261.7.
The good news is that all those players have another year of experience. That counts for something. And 4-star freshman Jalani Williams is being added to the mix. He’s not starting yet, but he should find ways to get on the field and help.
Simply cutting it down to 240 yards per game through the air would have seen the Tigers finish 10th in the SEC last year, so an improvement isn’t asking for too much.
5. Cale Garrett will lead the SEC in tackles
Garrett finished tied for 5th in the SEC in tackles last year (along with Ole Miss LB Mohamed Sanogo), recording 112 takedowns. Among returning players, only Arkansas LB De’Jon Harris finished with more tackles in 2018 (recording 118).
With Terez Hall gone and Mizzou shifting to more of a 4-2-5 scheme, Garrett will be counted on to do more. I think he’s up for the challenge.
6. The Tigers snap losing streaks to Kentucky and South Carolina
Mizzou has lost 3 consecutive games to the Gamecocks and has dropped their past 4 against Kentucky. Those are the teams the Tigers need to beat to reach 10 wins. If they can snap one of those losing streaks, it will be a good thing.
However, this is the place for bold predictions, so I say they take down both SEC East foes in 2019.
7. Mizzou beats Tennessee 50-17 for 3rd year in a row
The Tigers have taken down the Vols 50-17 each of the past 2 years, absolutely owning Tennessee. The Vols are certainly getting better, but they’re probably at least a year from being a threat in the SEC East again.
I’ll call my shot now — for the 3rd year in a row, the Tigers will beat the Vols by the exact score of 50-17.
8. The Tigers go undefeated at home
Here are the Tigers’ home opponents:
- West Virginia
- Southeast Missouri State
- South Carolina
- Ole Miss
- No. 8 Florida
Now, that’s certainly manageable, but it isn’t easy, per se. The Tigers have had Florida’s number the past couple of years, but that game will be tough. So will West Virginia, South Carolina, and even Ole Miss and Tennessee.
Still, I think the Tigers navigate it and finish 7-0 at Faurot Field.
9. Kelly Bryant throws for 3,500 yards and runs for 700 yards
The Tigers will have a versatile offense under Bryant. He can run and throw and should take a big step forward as a passer under OC Derek Dooley. In his last full year as a starter at Clemson (in 2017), Bryant threw for 2,802 yards, 13 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. He ran for 665 yards and 11 scores, too.
With the talent the Tigers have returning around Bryant, seeing him jump to 3,500 passing yards isn’t unthinkable. And he and Rountree form a dynamic backfield duo, so the running game should be a big part of his game, too.
10. Albert Okwuegbunam stays healthy and has 10+ touchdowns
When Albert O is healthy, he’s probably the best tight end in the country. In 2017, he caught 11 touchdown passes as a redshirt freshman. However, he was hurt for a few games last year and hasn’t been able to consistently stay on the field. He’s already battling a knee issue this summer.
He’s expected to play in Week 1 at Wyoming, and I think he’ll play in each of the next 11 games, as well. With the strengths of Bryant’s game, Albert O is the perfect tight end. He should have a huge year and could get in the end zone 11 or more times once again.