2020 Preview: Missouri Tigers

The Missouri Tigers are the newbies of the SEC and after a somewhat strong start to their tenure with the best football conference in America, but for the past five seasons, it’s been tough sledding for Barry Odom’s squad. A postseason ban cost them a bowl game last year, giving them just two appearances since 2014 (both losses), compiling a perfectly average 30-30 record along the way. And if there’s one thing that’s clear, perfectly average will never be close to good enough in the SEC. Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant is good after putting up solid numbers under center for the Tigers, the Tigers will look to hand the reins to TCU transfer Shawn Robinson. That move alone brings a lot of question marks, and ultimately, Missouri just looks middle-of-the-road at best once again in 2020. 

Top Returners: Tyler Badie, Kobie Whiteside
Badie is a key attribute returning to the Missouri offense, as his contributions both in the running and passing game will be key for the Tigers. Robinson has averaged under 7 yards per attempt in his career, so an experienced and speedy back who can catch screens and slants will be a huge asset.
Defensively, Kobie Whiteside returns as a force on the defensive line, a year after racking up 7.5 sacks. Missouri’s defense looks exceptionally average, so they’ll need Whiteside to be at his disruptive best on virtually every snap to limit their opponents’ opportunities offensively. 

Biggest Concerns: The passing game

This concern has two edges to it, as there is the concern about how transfer Shawn Robinson will fit into the offense, and also the lack of experienced options he will be throwing it to. Badie’s 356 yards is the top returning mark on the team, leaving Missouri without a true #1 receiver. Robinson has averaged under seven yards per attempt and in his lone season as a full starter, he threw 8 interceptions to just 9 touchdowns. That’ll need to improve if he’s going to optimize Missouri’s offensive production. 

X-Factors: Jalen Knox

Knox is Missouri’s best chance at addressing some of the concerns listed above. He was fourth on the team with 307 receiving yards as a sophomore last season, and he seems like the best bet to emerge as a #1 receiver for Robinson. As good as Badie is, he’s still a backfield weapon and should not often be used as a passing threat outside of screens and slants. Knox could add an extra edge to Missouri’s offense, which would be predictable and dull without it. 

SEC Record Prediction: 2-6

If Knox steps up, Whiteside puts together an outrageous season on the defensive line, and Shawn Robinson gels immediately into the Tigers’ offense, Missouri could be far better than this. However, that’s a lot of ifs and question marks, and I’m not comfortable betting on a team like that. Home contests versus Vanderbilt and Kentucky look like great opportunities for victories, and I like their chances to maybe swing another win along the way, but there’s too many questions to predict a better record than this with any kind of confidence.


Top Returning SEC Guards: #3 – Dru Smith, Missouri

Checking in at #3 in our top returning SEC Guards countdown is yet another lockdown defender who offers a versatile toolkit on the offensive end of the court. Smith led the Tigers last season with 12.7 points per game and 3.3 assists. His 4.2 rebounds also ranked among the team-leaders. Defensively, Smith led the SEC with a stunning 2.1 steals per contest. Here’s a throwback to one of his best early performances of the year:

An early-season double-double at #21 Xavier (22 points, 10 rebounds) put Smith at least on the SEC’s radar, if not the national one. He punctuated that performance with an 8-8 effort from the free throw line, which became a theme throughout the year. He shot 90% from the charity stripe throughout the year, locking up close victories for Missouri all season long. During Missouri’s SEC slate, Smith put up some very impressive efforts, starting with a 22-point, 6-assist, 5-steal statline versus Florida. Just ten days later, Missouri welcomed Texas A&M to town, and Smith was all over the court, going 11-11 from the free throw line, notching 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. His season-high in points was 28, and that came against #11 Auburn, Missouri’s highest-ranked opponent in the year. For a Missouri squad that struggled to escape the basement of the SEC standings, seeing their point guard step up in the biggest situations has got to be a sight for sore eyes. 

If Smith can continue to a do-it-all swiss army knife and lead Missouri to a few big wins, he should be in the conversation for being one of the most impactful players in the SEC.