Missouri is 2-1 against Troy with home wins against the Trojans in both 2002 and '05. Troy stunned a No. 17-ranked Missouri team 24-14 on its home field in 2004 to score one of the biggest upsets in school history. The Trojans also came away with a monumental upset in their last matchup against an SEC opponent, shocking LSU 24-21 in Death Valley in 2017. Can the Tigers avoid a similar fate on Saturday?
Mizzou (3-1, 1–0 SEC) has already been on the wrong side of one upset this season, opening the 2019 campaign with a 37-31 road loss to Wyoming. But that’s now a distant memory, as the red-hot Tigers have gone on to outscore their last three opponents by a margin of 122-21 in wins over West Virginia (38-7), Southeast Missouri State (50-0), and South Carolina (34-14). Fresh off a bye, Barry Odom’s Tigers will now attempt to get to 4-1 for the first time since 2015 with a victory over the Trojans.
The Trojans (2-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) find themselves in danger of losing for the third time in just five games under new head coach Chip Lindsey. That’s a hard pill to swallow for a team that hasn’t lost more than three games in an entire season since 2015. Troy was able to make easy work of Campbell (FCS school) and perennial doormat Akron in blowout wins. And if a couple of breaks had gone the Trojans’ way in closely contested shootouts against Southern Miss (47-42) and Arkansas State (50-43), they would be sitting at 4-0 right now instead of 2-2. Nevertheless, it’s been a shaky start. The good news is that they have an opportunity to reverse their fortunes in a big way with an upset over Mizzou on Saturday.
Troy at Missouri
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Missouri -24.5
When Troy Has the Ball
The Trojans feature one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, averaging 513 yards (12th in the FBS) and 41 points (15th in the FBS) per game. A big reason for that success is senior quarterback Kaleb Barker, who has already thrown for 1,367 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions through four games.
Barker clearly likes to spread the football around with six receivers already in double figures in receptions. But his favorite target to date has been junior wide receiver Kaylon Geiger (26 receptions for 388 yards and two scores). The Trojans also feature a solid ground attack, spearheaded by sophomore running back DK Billingsley (5.2 ypc and four rushing touchdowns).
On paper, this is easily the best offense that Missouri has faced this season. Conversely, the Mizzou defense is by far the best that Troy has been paired against. The Tigers currently rank third in the nation in total defense (231.3 ypg), fourth in the nation in pass defense (135.5 ypg) and 23rd in the nation against the run (95.8 ypg). They also rank in the top 10 nationally in red zone defense, as well as third-down defense. Star linebackers Cale Garrett and Nick Bolton have led the way, combining for 62 tackles, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns in four games.
When Missouri Has the Ball
The Missouri offense has been solid overall, averaging 460 yards per game (30th in the FBS). However, you could make the case that this offense is still a work in progress with Kelly Bryant under center. The Clemson transfer has shown flashes of being a top-flight quarterback, while also being very erratic at times.
Bryant has completed 65 percent of his passes for a respectable 1,025 yards with eight touchdown passes to three interceptions. And after rushing for just 26 yards in the first three games combined, he unveiled his dual-threat potential in the win over South Carolina (77 yards on 17 carries).
Bryant has done well to spread the ball around among a stellar group of receiving options. Elite tight end Albert Okwuegbunam leads the Tigers with four touchdown catches, and senior wideout Johnathon Johnson leads the team with 16 receptions. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Knox (20 yards per catch) and Arkansas transfer Jonathan Nance (16 yards per catch) have provided the deep threats.
Running backs Larry Rountree III (375 rushing yards and four TDs) and Tyler Badie (215 rushing yards and three TDs) have given this offense a potent one-two punch on the ground, running behind a massive Missouri offensive line.
Collectively, this group could be in for a monster outing on Saturday. But it will be Kelly Bryant and the Missouri passing attack that stand to benefit the most from this matchup. Troy has been absolutely abysmal when it comes to defending the pass this season. The Trojans have allowed a ridiculous average of 16 yards per pass completion, which ranks dead last in the FBS by a wide margin. Southern Miss torched them through the air to the tune of 514 yards and three touchdowns. And just last week, the Trojans allowed freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher to throw for 440 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start for Arkansas State.
Troy’s high-powered offense is explosive enough to find the end zone on more than one occasion on Saturday. That being said, the Trojans are going to have a difficult time moving the football and scoring with any real consistency against a stout Missouri defense on the road. Meanwhile, the Tigers should be able to score at will against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation. Mizzou wins convincingly at home.
Prediction: Missouri 52, Troy 21
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.