The offensive-minded Tigers turned around their season in the Kroger Field halftime locker room. Kentucky held on for a 40-34 victory, but Missouri proved they were a changed team. After a loss the following week to Georgia, the Tigers won their last six games to become bowl eligible and give Barry Odom’s team momentum entering his third season in Columbia.
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said — Odom was emotional after the Tigers’ loss to Auburn (the week before the UK game) and explained why that was one of the many catalysts that turned around their season.
“I wouldn’t recommend anybody starts out 1-5. That’s not a lot of fun or healthy for anybody. But we were getting close, and we didn’t play — we didn’t play very well on Saturday afternoon or Saturday nights for three and a half hours. We weren’t playing consistent enough to win a football game.
“We were doing some really good things at times, either offensively or defensively, but not really putting it together and playing smart football together. We were turning the ball over too much. We weren’t getting it back near enough defensively. We weren’t playing consistent.
“But our guys stayed the course. They stayed — because our practice habits were pretty darn good. Our preparation leading up to the game, things trending in the right direction. I knew we were close.
“The emotional side of that evening after that game, our players see that side of me often, and I’ve — I’m usually fairly reserved in a setting with media and don’t show that side of me, but that’s more of my personality.
“I thought at that point in the season, at the time that they needed — they needed to see that. I needed to stand up for them a little bit publicly, because I knew we were getting close. I knew we were going to continue to get better. If we could just hold tight together and continue to show the family that we knew that we had in our locker room and knew we had on our football field and in the classroom, the things we were doing collectively together, then we were going to have a chance. But if we fractured at any moment and we didn’t show togetherness, then obviously we would have fell apart from there.”
The Best Thing Barry Odom Said (Out of Context) — “They’re better husbands, better fathers, better brothers, better dads, better sons.”
Coach Speak 101 — “There’s a lot of great things going on at Mizzou.”
Lock it Out — Nobody in the SEC had better passing numbers in 2017 than Drew Lock. The only SEC quarterback to average more than 300 yards per game, Lock steadily improved his completion percentage from his sophomore to his junior year. Considered by Mel Kiper as the top quarterback prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lock can bring Missouri back to the top of the SEC East in 2018.
Missouri’s Scariest Player — Terry Beckner is an absolute beast in the middle of the defensive line. The All-SEC defensive tackle from East St. Louis recorded 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2017. Beckner is Missouri’s biggest brute, but if you get past him, you’ll have to face Terez Hall, a middle linebacker who had 85 tackles in 2017.
How do you say that? The player many are picking ahead of C.J. Conrad as the SEC’s best tight end is Albert Okwuegbunam. I can’t tell you how to say his name, but I can tell you he broke Missouri’s freshman touchdown record with 11 in 2017.
Same Face, New Place — Missouri lost offensive coordinator Josh Heupel this offseason to become UCF’s next head coach. Barry Odom selected an odd replacement, Derek Dooley. Yes, that’s the same Derek Dooley that lost to a Kentucky team who had a receiver starting at quarterback.
Good News for UK — Benny Snell has saved his best games for Missouri. In two games he’s combined for four touchdowns and 309 rushing yards (5.3 yards per carry). Kentucky has averaged 228.3 yards on the ground in three consecutive wins over the Tigers. The Cats can make it four wins in a row if they can keep it rolling on the ground and get a few stops on defense.
Bad News for UK — Missou’s defense was bad, but they have seven returning starters. On offense, the only real loss is running back Ish Witter. On offense, Drew Lock will be protected by five returning starters from one of the SEC’s best offensive lines, and four of his top five targets return. Missouri didn’t lose much at all from a team that nobody wanted to play at the end of 2017.
Fear Factor — 7.7
Missouri gets crapped on as the “Big 12 of the SEC,” but don’t let the name fool you. These Tigers are no joke. A former defensive coordinator, if Odom’s defense only slightly improves to complement the SEC’s best offense, they can be a contender to win the SEC East.