This week, the Tigers play what could be one of the defining games in Barry Odom’s Mizzou career. The Memphis Tigers, where Odom served as a defensive coordinator before coming home to Mizzou, come to Columbia for homecoming and Mizzou searches for a way to end a three-game skid. Will they end the losing streak and regain momentum before re-entering SEC play? Let’s look at the Memphis Tigers in hopes of figuring out whether Mizzou can beat Memphis.
The Memphis Tigers are 4-3 and are coming off a disappointing one point loss to the undefeated, number 10 ranked UCF Knights at home. This game really was a tale of two halves, with Memphis building a 17-point early lead. Memphis scored 30 first half points, scored six times on six possessions, and Darrell Henderson, one of the best running backs in the country, ran wild for 172 yards. The second half led to the Knights comeback for a thrilling victory, shutting down Henderson to a measly 27 rushing yards.
Henderson appears to be the key to the Memphis offense. U of M averages more rushing yards (275) than passing yards (263) per game. This is not to demean QB Brady White, who is an accurate QB who boasts a 68% completion percentage and a stellar 15:1 TD to INT ratio. White spreads the ball around, with Damonte Coxie serving as his top target at WR. Patrick Taylor is another name to watch, as the running back is second on the team with 7 TDs.
Defensively, Memphis allows a total of 365 yards per game, nearly perfectly balanced between the running and passing game. Linebacker Curtis Atkins leads the team in tackles while Bryce Huff and Joseph Dorceus each have five sacks.
Coming into the season, I thought Memphis is the exact type of team that Missouri should beat if Odom wanted this team to achieve any distinction. This is even more true now that the schedule looks more daunting than it did in September as Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas all seem to be better than we thought they were. I still want to think Memphis is a team Mizzou will beat.
Mizzou will have a lot to overcome though, as it appears Emanuel Hall is still out, due to injury and the death of his father. Drew Lock will have to step up and beat an opponent with a winning record for the first time in his career. He will have to limit bad decisions and protect the ball. I do not think he is the key to this game though.
The Mizzou defensive line will have to take over this game, stopping Henderson from taking control of the game and keeping him out of the end zone. When Memphis does pass, the Mizzou secondary will need to make plays and not let players get past them. Offensively, the Mizzou running back trio of Crockett, Rountree and Badie will need to take advantage of a Memphis defense that allows 171 rushing yards per game.
The Missouri Tigers have everything to play for in this game. Homecoming, ending a losing streak, keeping hopes alive for a bowl game, and their head coach. This game will tell us more about the Tigers, Odom, and Missouri football than any game so far this season. Mizzou should win this game, but I fear it will be close. And we all know how our close games tend to go…