Tigers' Odom begins head-coaching run at WVU
For the first time in 21 years, the Missouri Tigers opens the campaign on the home turf of a power conference foe. But will they mark Barry Odom’s head coaching debut with an upset of West Virginia?
Oddsmakers aren’t quite willing to go that far. According to online sports book Bovada.lv, the Mountaineers are 10-point favorites this afternoon. The over/under is 50.
Last fall’s promising start in Columbia quickly disintegrated into an utter mess. Quarterback melodrama, atrocious wide receiver play and Gary Pinkel’s health-driven decision to step down all contributed to a 5-7 finish. After two straight SEC title game appearances, Mizzou couldn’t even go bowling.
Odom’s hunger to restore his alma mater to the elite of the conference, however, has MU supporters buzzing entering the weekend. While defense will always represent the 39-year-old leader’s forte, his offense needs to make considerable strides in 2016. Drew Lock returns as the trigger man, having thrown for 1,332 yards and four touchdowns last season. He hopes to develop a quick rapport with Chris Black, a wideout transfer from Alabama.
The Tigers should have an easier time moving the ball in light of injuries to some of WVU’s top defensive contributors. Free safety Dravon Askew-Henry’s already out for the season with a knee injury. Lock needn’t worry about linebacker Brendan Ferns (knee) or nose tackles Jaleel Fields (knee) and Xavier Pegues (shoulder), either. Coach Dana Holgorsen already dealt with a fairly porous D in 2015, so this could be a challenging opener at Milan Puskar Stadium.
That said, the Mountaineers still know how to get vertical with the best of them. Signal-caller Skyler Howard comes off a year in which he averaged 14.2 yards per completion. He’ll inevitably gouge Missouri’s vaunted defense for a few chunk plays, which will be enough to let West Virginia emerge with a tight victory.
SATURDAY NCAA FREE PICK: MISSOURI +10