<
>

Schedule analysis: Missouri Tigers

As we inch closer to the start of the season, it’s time to review the schedules of every SEC team. Whether it’s home vs. road, nonconference matchups or potential trap games, there’s a lot to get into.

We continue the series with the Missouri Tigers.

Nonconference opponents (with 2015 record)

Sept. 3: at West Virginia (8-5)

Sept. 10: vs. Eastern Michigan (1-11)

Sept. 24: vs. Delaware State (1-10)

Oct. 22: vs. Middle Tennessee (7-6)

SEC home games

Sept. 17: vs. Georgia (10-3)

Oct. 29: vs. Kentucky (5-7)

Nov. 12: vs. Vanderbilt (4-8))

Nov. 25: vs. Arkansas (8-5)

SEC road games

Oct. 1: at LSU (9-3)

Oct. 15: at Florida (10-4)

Nov. 5: at South Carolina (3-9)

Nov. 19: at Tennessee (9-4)

Gut-check time: The Tigers' four-game stretch against Georgia, Delaware State, LSU and Florida will set the tone for the rest of the season. Sure, that Delaware State game should be -- should be -- a cakewalk for Missouri, but Georgia, LSU and Florida certainly won't be. Georgia is at home, which helps, but the Gators and that other group of Tigers will host Mizzou. Those are two tough rough games in the middle of the season for a team that will still be trying to figure its way around an offense that was the SEC's worst last year. Having that salty defense will be a saving grace of sorts, but this will be the hardest part of the season for a team under new management. I'm sure Barry Odom would rather have a stretch like this closer to the end of the season when guys are a little more comfortable with their new staff. Unfortunately, the growing pains will come during three games in the middle of the season that the Tigers likely won't be favored in.

Trap game: For a team that went 5-7 last year, has a new coach and is littered with offensive questions, it's hard to really find a true trap game. Every win will be big, and outside of the opener against West Virginia, you'd expect the Tigers to be favored. But keep an eye on that Middle Tennessee game on Oct. 22. It's sandwiched between the trip to Florida and a home game against Kentucky. The Tigers will be coming off what should be a very physical game against Florida and will be staring a must-win game in the face when the Wildcats come to town. But before that, the Tigers must concentrate on a Blue Raiders team that won seven games last year, returns five starters from one of Conference USA's most athletic defenses, and has a quarterback-wide receiver duo of Brent Stockstill and Richie James that combined for 5,388 yards of offense in 2015.

Final analysis: Odom has an uphill battle on his hands in Columbia, and so patience will be needed for the man replacing legendary coach Gary Pinkel. That stretch from mid-September to mid-October won't be nice to the Tigers, and the last month of the season features trips to South Carolina and Tennessee and home games against Vanderbilt and Arkansas. When you look at Mizzou's schedule as a whole, how many wins do you see after what transpired last year? It's hard to say this is a bowl team, right now, but having such a talented defense will keep the Tigers in most games. If Josh Heupel can turn quarterback Drew Lock's confidence around and get the running game going, the Tigers will be much more competitive than people think. Still, those five road trips will be tough for this team to overcome.