Though they’re only four games into the season, the Missouri Tigers have taken some significant steps forward offensively.
So far, the Tigers are averaging 569.5 yards per game, more than twice their 2015 season average (280.1). Though two of their games have come against non-Power 5 opponents (one Group of 5 and one FCS team), the Tigers didn’t approach the numbers they are currently posting last season against non-Power 5 competition.
Points are up (44.5 per game from 13.5 per game in 2015), third-down conversions are up (49.2 percent from 30.2 percent) and red zone touchdown percentage is way up (64 percent from 32.3 percent).
A third of the way through the season, it appears coach Barry Odom’s choice to hire new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is paying dividends.
"He and I played against each other, and I had such great respect for him as a competitor," Odom said. "That's what stood out to me when we played against each other. And then we recruited against each other over the years, coached against each other and ... leading up to the game and more so after, I thought his players played with great effort. They were so well-coached fundamentally. They didn't make mistakes very often or put themselves in a bad position.
"I think some of those are the same qualities that he's been able to provide our offense. He's been a great leader in that room, putting together and building the schematics week in and week out, putting our guys in position to have success. I think he's such a great teacher and leader for young guys."
Heupel, a former quarterback at Oklahoma who led the Sooners to a national championship in 2000 and was a Heisman Trophy runner up, has clearly had an impact on quarterback play -- particularly that of sophomore Drew Lock. Last season, Lock was thrust into the starting lineup in midseason after Maty Mauk was suspended, and Lock struggled.
So far this season he has thrown 14 touchdowns to only three interceptions, he’s averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt and leads the SEC in passing yards (1,508).
"Those guys, the quarterback room, basically since we started back in January, they've outworked everybody in the program," Odom said. "I think because Josh was such a great quarterback and has coached some really, really good ones over the years, he's got a pretty good plan on everything that those guys need to get done ... the checklist that you do during the week to have a chance."
The Tigers have seemingly developed a true go-to receiver for Lock -- J'Mon Moore, who leads the conference in receiving yards (434) and receiving touchdowns (six).
Mizzou, a team that hasn’t defeated a Power 5 conference foe yet this season, will get its stiffest test to date when it goes to LSU on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network). LSU will have the best defense this retooled Missouri offense has seen, and how it responds will be worth watching.