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Preview: West Virginia Faces Tough Road Test Against Hungry Missouri Team

In a battle of the old Big 12 team versus the new one, West Virginia has their work cut out against Missouri.

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West Virginia runs with the ball against Missouri - Getty Images - Joe Robbins
Getty Images - Joe Robbins

West Virginia defeated James Madison by the skin of their teeth last weekend. On the other side of this Big 12-SEC matchup, Missouri was shocked by Wyoming and started off the season 0-1. So, neither squad had an impressive showings in week one.

The Mountaineers faced a halftime deficit before quarterback Austin Kendall took over the game and led the Mountaineers to a 20-13 win. If you’re hoping that the games against JMU was an anomaly, coach Neal Brown has been open in his press conferences about his expectations for this season. He eluded to how West Virginia is going to struggle, and that he tried to warn the fans.

Whether Neal Brown says it openly or not, it’s common knowledge this is a rebuilding year for the Mountaineers. A bowl game this season would be a very positive start to the Neal Brown era and an upset on the road this week would put WVU in a very good place when it comes to bowl eligibility. 

The Tigers has some issues of their own on Saturday. They jumped out to a 14-point first quarter lead, but allowed 27 points in the second half in route to a 37-31 loss against the Wyoming Cowboys.

Missouri had lots of preseason hype and was predicted to have a good shot at an 8-0 start. They must now regroup and face a Mountaineer team in a down year. Missouri is currently serving in a bowl ban, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win games. They should be hungry this week looking to get their first win of the season. 

Game Details 

  • When: SAT, SEP 7 at 11:00 AM CT
  • Where: Faurot Field, Columbia, MO
  • Forecast: Sunny, High of 75
  • TV: ESPN 2
  • Stream: WatchESPN 
  • Betting Line: Mizzou -14, O/U 62.5

Missouri Tigers (0-1)

Missouri has a lot of issues that need addressing after their opening loss. However, quarterback is not one of them. Kelly Bryant completed 38 of his 48 pass attempts for 423 yards and two touchdowns.

The West Virginia defense will have to worry about containing slot receiver Johnathon Johnson, but Bryant does an excellent job of spreading out his targets. The biggest threat for WVU however, is tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. He is a matchup nightmare. Last time out, he caught three passes for a team-leading 72 yards.

Missouri has two running backs who split carries. Tyler Badie had 16 carries and Larry Rountree had 15 last week. Badie ran for 53 yards and Rountree added another 41. Badie is also a target for Bryant to throw to. He had seven catches for 49 yards last week. It’s a pretty solid one-two punch.

However, the most dangerous runner is Kelly Bryant. The Clemson transfer is not afraid to tuck it and take off.

Up front, Missouri has a solid offensive line who returned three starters from last season. Tre’Vour Wallace-Sims starts at right guard and was second team preseason all-SEC. 

The defense is where Missouri is going to struggle this season. They run a 4-2-5 base defensive scheme with mixed success. Last week, the tigers allowed Wyoming to run all over them. Two running backs for the Cowboys went for more than 100 yards, and the team rushed for 297. Missouri can’t allow 7.1 yards per rush like they did last week if they want to go anywhere this season. 

There is some talent on this defense. Cale Garret is a 2nd-team preseason All-SEC pick. He led the team in tackles the last two seasons, and had 16 in week one. Cornerback DeMarkus Acy is also a 2nd-team preseason All-SEC selection. Those two have to lead this defense which is otherwise lacking in talent. I believe James Madison was more talented at certain positions, especially on the defensive line. 

Missouri is good, they probably aren’t as good as the ten wins people were predicting, but they’re definitely a bowl game caliber team, if not for the ban. 

West Virginia Mountaineers (1-0)

West Virginia struggled in week one. James Madison gave them all types of fits. Quarterback Austin Kendall was a touch off on his deep throws. Sam James and Bryce Wheaton were open on go routes. If he can hit those this week, you can expect a big showing from Kendall. TJ Simmons got open a good amount of times, especially in the first half. If they can dial in the timing, the passing game should be solid.

The run game last week was utterly disgusting. The Mountaineers were held to 34 yards on 24 carries. With a Missouri team who can’t stop the run this week, the Mountaineers need to do better. Leddie Brown coming back might help, he’s still listed as questionable. Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway need to create more explosive plays, last week was unacceptable ground-wise. 

Some of that rests on how bad the offensive line performed. JMU lived in the West Virginia’s backfield. McKivitz held his own but the whole right side of the line needs to be better. That can’t happen again this week against a team that will put up more than 13 points. 

The Mountaineers defense played pretty well in week one. They let James Madison run the ball down their throat in the first half, but still held JMU to seven first half points and 13 total. The defensive line produced pressure in the second half as their depth wore down the JMU line. Both Stills brothers played very well, look for them to continue a hot start.

The secondary played great last week. James Madison really got nothing when it came to throwing the ball. Josh Norwood and Keith Washington both held their own and Washington had a huge interception. Hakeem Bailey also broke up three passes.

The WVU defense is middle of the pack in the Big 12 and needs to hold this Missouri offense in check, it’s a much harder task than last week. 

West Virginia Keys to The Game 

Contain Kelly Bryant – He’s as dual threat as dual threat gets. Bryant threw for 400+ last week and also ran 11 times. Ben DiNucci also had a lot of success against the WVU defense when he took off and ran, the Mountaineers can’t let that happen again. 

Run the Ball – Missouri couldn’t stop the Wyoming run at all last week. They did however hold Wyoming to only six completed passes. WVU has a strength at running back but struggled mightily to run the ball last week. West Virginia needs a breakout game on the ground. 

Start Fast – Missouri is going to do one of two things on Saturday. They’re either going to come out guns a blazing trying to get last weeks lost out of their head, or they’re going to come out slow with a noon home game and a droopy 0-1 crowd. Either way WVU needs to start strong, if not they’ll be down by a few scores, or have missed a huge opportunity.

Game Prediction 

Missouri didn’t look as good as advertised last week, but they for sure have the offensive fire power. I think this game has the potential to be a high scoring one. Both teams are going to struggle on defense but I’ll take the national champion Kelly Bryant over the newly starting Austin Kendall. I think West Virginia covers but Missouri gets the win. 

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