Life on the SEC gridiron can be a dream when your program is winning, otherwise, it can be a nightmare. The bad dream that is a reality for first-year Missouri Tigers (0-2) head coach Eliah Drinkwitz continues on Saturday when the No. 17 LSU Tigers (1-1) walk onto Faurot Field.
After showing massive improvement from a 44-34 Week 1 loss against Mississippi State to a Week 2 41-7 victory against Vanderbilt, LSU was ready to lace them up in Death Valley against Missouri, but Hurricane Delta had a different plan in mind. In what will now be part of a three-game road trip (although LSU is technically the home team in this one), the Tigers are down one in the column to old SEC West foe Alabama playing the hunter for the rest of the 2020 season.
The one-year run at Appalachian State could not have prepared Drinkwitz for what he is experiencing in Columbia. Missouri's first half of the 10-game conference-only schedule features four ranked squads. The Tigers have had troubles scoring the pigskin, falling 38-19 to No. 2 Alabama and to then-No. 21 Tennessee 35-12. Might the unforeseen home-field advantage against LSU help the Tigers get into the win column this season?
Missouri at No. 17 LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network Alternate
Spread: LSU -20.5
When Missouri Has the Ball
It is early in the season, and the Tigers have played two tough teams, but the Missouri offense has stalled out of the starting gate. The Tigers are averaging 15.5 points per game, tied for 68th out of the 74 active FBS teams. The offense is producing 333.0 yards per game, ranked 61st; something has to change. Considering the competition, running back Larry Rountree III is getting it done, ranking fifth in the SEC in rushing yards (151). But he has yet to surpass the 100-yard mark in any game. Rountree carried the rock 14 times against Bama and 18 against the Volunteers. If he has the gas for a 25-carry kind of game, he might be one difference-maker Missouri can turn to with a positive outcome.
As the old saying goes, if you have two quarterbacks, you got none. The two-headed approach at quarterback is not working for Missouri. In the first two games, Drinkwitz has alternated between TCU transfer Shawn Robinson and Connor Bazelak. Bazelak seemed to settle in under center against the Vols with 13-of-21 passing for 218 yards and a pick, while Robinson completed 1-of-4 attempts. Regardless of whoever is slinging it, receivers Damon Hazelton and Jalen Knox have big-play potential.
Its horrific showing against MSU aside, LSU rebounded from allowing 632 total yards to the Bulldogs by stuffing the Commodores for 266 yards. A positive sign for Mizzou, Vandy rushed for 153 yards on 43 carries. A bad sign, the Tigers' defense tightened the bolts in the secondary to hold true freshman quarterback Ken Seals to 113 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
When LSU has the Ball
In LSU's opener against MSU, the Tigers had troubles moving the ball on the ground and were held to 80 yards. But against a veteran Commodores defense, they showed a more concerted effort and totaled 161 yards on 5.0 yards per carry. Sophomore tailback John Emery Jr., in perhaps his best collegiate game yet, lead all rushers with 103 yards off 12 totes with one score. LSU could see more success on the ground on Saturday since Tennessee was able to expose Missouri's weak run defense by hammering away 51 times for 232 yards with four touchdowns.
A two-game sample has provided a good snapshot of what we can expect from LSU quarterback Myles Brennan. He will slice defenses for 300-plus yards per game, potentially with multiple touchdowns, but he will also turn the ball over. The junior field general has thrown picks in consecutive games, two against MSU and one against Vandy. One area of marked improvement is his decision-making. Aided by the offensive line, Brennan was not sacked against Vanderbilt after taking seven in the opener.
A healthy sign for LSU, but a troubling one for Missouri, Brennan does not key in on one receiver. Brennan shared the wealth by hitting 11 different targets against Vandy. At any time, Terrace Marshall Jr., Jontre Kirklin, Kayshon Boutte, Jaray Jenkins, and true freshman tight end Arik Gilbert can burn a defense. Missouri had mild success against Volunteers' quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 190 yards with one touchdown. Limiting Brennan will be a challenge for Missouri.
Things seem back to business with LSU after a flat showing against Mississippi State that shocked the college football world. Brennan can sling it, and the ground game is picking up momentum. With points going up on the board, LSU's defense can make mistakes and get better against Missouri.
For the home team, they have to play mistake-free ball. The offense has given it away three times, while the defense has taken it back just once. Missouri's offense has been decent on third down conversions staying on the field 45 percent of the time. LSU's offense has been far less prolific winning that battle just nine of 29 times. Can Mizzou keep LSU's offense off the field?
Prediction: LSU 42, Missouri 21
Podcast: Week 6 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.