When/where: 3 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Columbia
TV/radio: SEC Network; KMBZ (98.1 FM)
The series: Missouri leads 1-0
The line: Missouri by 6 1/2
What’s at stake
Bowl eligibility for Missouri. The Tigers need to win four more games to ensure a return to college football’s postseason and the next four games are, far and away, the easiest remaining games on the schedule. If first-year coach Barry Odom’s crew can’t knock off the lone remaining nonconference foe on the schedule, it’s highly unlikely MU wins four of five in SEC play down the stretch. It’s do-or-die time for the Tigers.
Cheers if ...
Sophomore quarterback Drew Lock gets back on track. He looked indomitable at times early in the season, but Lock’s proven to be a mere mortal in back-to-back blowout losses at LSU and Florida, going 21 of 55 for 206 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions in the last two games. Mizzou hopes he bottomed out last Saturday in The Swamp.
Jeers if ...
Mizzou’s defense, which played better for three quarters at Florida, coughs up more than 30 points. The Tigers haven’t allowed 30-plus against a non-Power Five conference opponent since a 35-13 loss against Navy in the 2009 Texas Bowl, a span of 19 games. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee, which has topped 30 points in five of six games this season, is 52-5 under 11th-year coach Rick Stockstill when reaching that plateau.
Tod Palmer’s pick: Missouri 38-27
With the Tigers playing at home for the first time in almost a month, Missouri fans should have something to celebrate for homecoming. Still, Middle Tennessee is a tougher foe than some might expect, so the game could be uncomfortably close into the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Tigers ought to pull away.
Three things about Middle Tennessee
1 Blue Raiders sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill, who is the head coach’s son and was recruited by Barry Odom when he was still at Memphis, has topped 300 yards passing in nine of the last 12 games. He rewrote the team record book for passing last season during a 4,000-yard campaign and is tied for seventh nationally this season with 18 touchdown passes.
2 As good as Middle Tennessee’s passing game is, don’t sleep on senior running back I’Tavius Mathers. He’s rushed for at least 135 yards in four consecutive games and ranks 10th nationally with 120.8 rushing yards per game. With 12 touchdowns, including 10 on the ground, Mathers is third in FBS in scoring per game.
3 The Blue Raiders’ defense has surrendered only 44 points in the second half of its six games this season, excluding overtime. Middle Tennessee, the preseason favorite to win the Conference USA East Division, is led on the defensive line by senior tackle Shaquille Huff and senior end Steven Rhodes, a Marine Corps veteran.
Mizzou’s pass defense vs. Middle Tennessee’s aerial assault: Only four teams average more pass attempts than the Blue Raiders’ 48.8 throws per game. The Tigers’ secondary and linebackers will need to stick like glue, especially on underneath routes and tackle well.
| Tod Palmer, tpalmer@kcstar