Mizzou football: 3 storylines in the Tigers' contest against Auburn
Missouri opens SEC play against Auburn on Saturday. It will serve as a measuring stick for where this team stands in all 3 phases of the game 4 weeks in.
Auburn is among the more lowly teams in the conference right now, with a glaring question mark at quarterback. It still doesn’t have an answer after giving both TJ Finley and Robby Ashford time on the field, with some consideration toward letting Texas A&M transfer Zach Calzada see action as well.
But regardless of Auburn’s holes, this is still the toughest competition Missouri has faced. Here’s a look into 3 things to watch for this contest.
1. How well can Auburn take care of Luther Burden?
Missouri used trick plays in wins over Louisiana Tech and Abilene Christian — and they worked like a charm. Burden, the star freshman wide receiver, has been key to those plays, scoring the very 1st touchdown of his college career out of the wildcat formation against the Bulldogs. He has been some of a special teams ace as well, recording a 78-yard touchdown on his 1st career punt return for the Tigers.
There’s a reason why Burden was ranked as the No. 1 pass catcher in his class, and he’s exactly the spark this Missouri offense needs to take a step in the coming seasons. He has shown to be a versatile player, and that is sure to give Auburn something to think about and could give it some headaches on the field.
Auburn didn’t perform well against Penn State freshman running back sensation Nick Singleton last week, allowing him to rush for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 carries in the 41-12 loss. Burden could be the next 1st-year standout to give it the blues.
2. What Missouri’s performance could mean for Bryan Harsin
Harsin is a coach who many consider to be on the hot seat, and Mizzou is widely perceived as one of the easiest teams that Auburn has remaining on the schedule. Auburn faces nothing but quality SEC opponents, outside of a matchup with Western Kentucky in the 2nd-to-last game of the season. Mizzou is still looked at as a team in a bit of a rebuilding phase that has a good bit of work to do before it can be considered a consistently legitimate contender within the conference. So unless this team really hits its stride and reaches new heights much sooner than anticipated, a loss or poor performance against Mizzou could spell bad news for Harsin sooner rather than later.
3. This could possibly be a chance for Brady Cook to hit (at least a slight) upswing
That sounds like a bold thing to say, considering that Cook opened the door for quarterback controversy during the Kansas State game (though it was quickly shut by head coach Eli Drinkwitz in the press conference that followed) and because he hasn’t faced quality competition since that offensive disaster that he played a role in. But he did appear to take a step in the ACU game, completing 22 of 31 passes for 297 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He continued to make use of the mobility that has helped him to extend plays and create things in his own right, carrying the ball 6 times for 42 yards against the Wildcats.
On top of that, Auburn’s defense both against the run and the pass hasn’t been anything to write home about. While Cook is considered one of the more underdeveloped quarterbacks that Auburn will face for the remainder of the season, Penn State’s Sean Clifford ranks around the middle of the pack in most quarterback rankings and was able to complete all but 5 of his attempts without an interception and was able to take a touchdown in himself last week. So between some of the overall incompetence Auburn has shown defensively and the way Cook appears to be making less mistakes and taking what the defense gives him, this could be a more solid showing for him than some might expect.