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BYU Cougars vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction

Gary Pinkel

Gary Pinkel

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A week ago, this game between BYU and Missouri would have been buried on the watch list for college football fans. Now, with the recent player boycott linked to the student protest at Missouri, this game has shot up the charts in terms of interest.

There was serious doubt that this game was going be played with the Missouri coaching staff showing their support for the players’ boycott. Then University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned and football activities resumed for the Tigers.

Now Missouri (4-5) is looking to get a signature win over a 7-2 BYU team, and keep its bowl hopes alive.

Meanwhile, BYU is looking to get its second win this season over a Power 5 program. The Cougars are 1-2 against P5 teams this season, with the lone victory coming in the season opener against Nebraska on the final play of the game.

This is the first of a two-game series between the two schools. Missouri will be considered the home team on Saturday in Arrowhead Stadium, and then the Tigers will make the trip to Provo, Utah, in 2020.

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BYU vs. Missouri (Kansas City)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: SEC Network

Spread: BYU -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The emotion surrounding the game

It’s hard to ignore what’s been taking place on campus in Columbia this week. From the boycott, to the system president resigning and to the feelings of fear that currently reside over the Missouri campus. With all of these events and emotions taking place since the last time the Tigers stepped on the field 10 days ago, one would think that this team is going to be playing with a lot of emotion in this game.

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Will these recent events help propel Missouri to have a long overdue breakout game on offense? Will BYU be able to match the intensity and passion that the Tigers are expected to play with?

Maybe some of the emotion gets taken away with this game being played in a neutral site at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but I’d still wager that the Tigers are going to have an inspired performance compared to what we’ve seen in previous weeks from Gary Pinkel’s team.

2. BYU’s passing game vs. Missouri’s press coverage

The last time we saw BYU go up against a defense that has the personnel to press the line of scrimmage was against Michigan in September. BYU was shutout for only the second time in the last 40 years after that game, and the Cougar coaching staff questioned the physicality of their players, most notably the wide receivers.

All eyes will be on senior Mitch Mathews to have a big game against a talented Missouri secondary that boasts two experienced cornerbacks in Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis, a team captain.

If BYU has success through the air early, it could be a long evening for the Tigers, who have yet to see a passing attack like the one BYU boasts with Tanner Mangum at quarterback.

3. First team to 14 points wins?

It’s not every day that you see a team averaging 14.9 points per game on offense, yet somehow are still outscoring the opposition on the season. Say hello to the Missouri Tigers in 2015.

The Tigers’ offense, for lack of a better term, has been a mess this season. Even when Maty Mauk (suspended for season for violation of team rules) was at quarterback, the Tigers struggled to score touchdowns against the likes of UConn. Still, Missouri has been in every game it’s played this season because the Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country, giving up only 12.5 points per game.

BYU’s defense is no slouch either. The Cougar D is only giving up 17.8 points per game, and feeling confident after a game against San Jose State where the Spartans threw every trick in their playbook on the Cougars, yet BYU still held the Spartans to only 16 points.

The first offense to get to 14 points is likely going away as the winner in this one.

Final Analysis

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This game has suddenly become one of the more intriguing matchups of the week. With all the drama still on campus at Missouri, it’s going to be fascinating to see how these two teams perform.

Expect both teams to struggle offensively. Physical defensive fronts like the one Missouri boasts have historically given Bronco Mendenhall teams fits over the years, but the Tiger offense is such a liability that it’s hard to pick Gary Pinkel’s squad.

BYU has the edge at quarterback and also in special teams. Both areas are going to play a significant role in this game. BYU squeaks by Missouri to get a hard-fought win, as the Cougars continue their pursuit of a 10-win season.

Prediction: BYU 16, Missouri 13

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.