Both teams will be trying to recover from rough season openers when the Missouri Tigers play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers this weekend. The action gets underway at noon EST on Saturday, September 7 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. Fans can watch the game on ESPN2.
According to our Week 2 college football odds, Missouri is favored by 14.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is 62.5 points.
Missouri was one of the biggest upset victims in college football the opening week of the season. The Tigers traveled to Wyoming as 16.5-point favorites but ended up losing 37-31. Statistically, Missouri should have won the game easily. But the Tigers turned it over three times and couldn’t overcome a 34-17 deficit early in the fourth quarter.
Now head coach Barry Odom has to do some damage control heading into the home opener. The season is far from over, as Missouri’s schedule is manageable moving forward. But the fanbase could lose faith quickly if the Tigers lose two in a row to start the season, so a strong performance and win on Saturday are of the utmost importance.
As for West Virginia, they also had an ugly showing in their season opener. But the Mountaineers were at least able to escape with a 20-13 win over James Madison. In fairness, new head coach Neal Brown was making his debut. James Madison is also one of the best FCS programs in the country, having won the FCS national championship in 2016.
Nevertheless, the West Virginia faithful expected a little more than getting out-gained by an FCS team and only winning by a touchdown. Also, unlike Missouri, the Mountaineers face a rather unforgiving schedule, as they have NC State lined up for next week and later play three ranked teams in a row in October. When all is said and done, this might be a game West Virginia needs just to qualify for a bowl this year.
This will be the second time Missouri and West Virginia are meeting in the last four seasons. The Mountaineers won 26-11 in Morgantown in 2016. However, that was Odom’s first season with Missouri, and he’s taken the Tigers a long way since then. Meanwhile, West Virginia is starting over under Brown and is not the same team they were even a year ago, much less three years ago.
This might be one of the most difficult games of the weekend to pick. Based on last week’s games, these two teams appear to have strengths that will match up against one another and weaknesses that will match up against one another. That being said, I think West Virginia has some work to do with a new head coach while Missouri should be able to bounce back after last week’s loss. Even if the spread begs you to take the underdog, I’ll lean toward Missouri to cover.
The biggest reason I like the Tigers is quarterback Kelly Bryant. Remember, this guy was good enough to take Clemson to the College Football Playoff two years ago. He also threw for over 400 yards last week, albeit against a suspect Wyoming defense. The Tigers also have a nice collection of receivers around Bryant, as well as two capable running backs, even if Missouri struggled on the ground last week. If the Tigers can clean up some things after turning the ball over three times against Wyoming, I think the Missouri offense will thrive.
Meanwhile, I have some concerns about the West Virginia defense. The Mountaineers haven’t exactly been strong defensively during their time in the Big 12. I also think there could be some growing pains while they go through a scheme change under Brown. The WVU defense was solid last week, but there will be a big step up in competition from James Madison to Missouri, which is why I like the Tigers to score plenty of points.
Offensively, the Mountaineers have a transfer quarterback of their own in former Oklahoma backup Austin Kendall. He was solid last week, although not overly impressive against an FCS opponent. However, the bigger concern for West Virginia was their terrible rushing attack. The Mountaineers gained 34 yards on 24 carries. Their longest running play was just five yards. Even against a good FCS team, that’s downright pitiful.
The caveat is that Missouri was absolutely shredded on the ground by Missouri last week, allowing close to 300 yards and over seven yards per carry. I’m not sure what to make of that, although it’s worth noting it was the Wyoming quarterback who was the team’s leading rusher. On the other hand, even if you take away Wyoming’s defensive touchdown, the Tigers allowed 30 points to a team that had less than 100 yards passing, so I’m not sure how they’ll match up against the West Virginia offense.
Either way, picking this game will require a leap of faith in a team that underperformed in their season opener. With that in mind, I’ll take my chances with Missouri. The Tigers are at home, they have the better quarterback, and I think they may even have the better defense. Despite the unsavory spread, I’ll take Missouri to cover.