Yes, the running game is less than spectacular at this point, averaging 3.9 yards a carry as a team, and work-horses Crockett and Rountree only have a combined 207 rushing yards. Yes, Tucker McCann has a 66.7% FG percentage. Yes, the defense is not getting as many turnovers as we would like to see against inferior opponents.
But Mizzou is doing everything they needed to and more through the first two games. They have remained healthy, they have shown improvements on almost every side of the ball compared to last year at this point, and have not been challenged against two inferior opponents. I actually think this team is better than expected and therefore the ceiling should rise considering the crap shoot that is the SEC East. It is now conceivable this team can win 9 or 10 games. This is not the same team as 2017. There should be no better example of the progress made than the game this week in West Lafayette, Indiana against the Purdue Boilermakers.
The first game against a Power 5 school in 2018 features a match-up of two programs going opposite directions so far. Purdue does not have a true starting QB, going back and forth between David Blough and Elijah Sindelar. Missouri features a Heisman candidate who will end his career in the top three for passing TDs in SEC history. The Boilermakers have 405 total passing yards for the season while Drew Lock alone has thrown for 687. Purdue’s offense seems like a traditional Big 10 opponent who is built around the run, with three different players having more than 100 yards rushing already, and average nearly 272 yards rushing per game. We know how Mizzou’s running game has done so far. Purdue is 0-2, losing to Northwestern and Eastern Michigan in close games. Mizzou is 2-0.
So, can Mizzou win against Purdue?
Yes. And they should win easily. This is not the same team that torched Missouri at home last year. They appear to be especially suspect in the secondary, giving up 291 yards per game and only forcing one turnover in two games. It appears Mizzou has learned how to tackle and we would expect Ryan Walters and Brick Haley to amplify pressure up front on Purdue, plugging gaps to stop the run and force the Boilermakers to throw the ball. We should expect Drew Lock to keep up his fantastic numbers and Emanuel Hall will continue to show his versatility, getting behind defenses with an expanded route tree and showing why he may be one of the best WR in the SEC. While I would be surprised to see Mizzou win by the three to four touchdown margins we have had the first two weeks simply because of improve athletes and more depth from a Big 10 school, Mizzou should easily cover the 7-point spread and have this game in hand going into the 4th quarter.
Mizzou should absolutely be 3-0 heading into the biggest game of the season, a morning match-up against the no. 3 Georgia Bulldogs in Columbia. The Tigers will have had nearly a month to address any issues and make changes necessary to compete in the East. On the 22nd, we will see if Coach Odom has them up for the task.