Last week, Missouri’s offense struggled early in the game at Tennessee. That prompted Coach Eli Drinkwitz to switch quarterbacks. The change provided too few results and occurred too late to overcome Tennessee’s 14-point advantage. What will this week hold as we look at our Missouri at LSU preview?
LSU rebounded from its season-opening defeat by thrashing Vanderbilt in Nashville. Derek Stingley Jr. made his first appearance of the season, shining on defense and special teams. It appears that the Tigers have settled on their primary running back.
The series record between Missouri and LSU is tied 1-1. LSU won the only meeting as an SEC matchup, 42-7, in Baton Rouge. That was Ed Orgeron‘s first game as the Tigers’ head coach in 2016. Missouri’s victory occurred in the 1978 Liberty Bowl.
Could a new starting quarterback for Missouri lead to a different result?
Drinkwitz inserted Connor Bazelak one minute into the second quarter in Knoxville. Bazelak did lead the Tigers to two consecutive scores though they had to settle for field goals. However, he was only able to guide Mizzou to the endzone once. That occurred late in the third quarter when they were already trailing by 22. He finished the game with 13 completions on 21 attempts for 218 yards and an interception.
In the season-opener against Alabama, Bazelak also entered in the first minute of the second quarter. The Tigers had punted twice and turned the ball over on downs prior to his appearance. They punted again despite Bazelak’s entry. In his only other drive, he ran for a cosmetic touchdown on the final play of the contest. He completed seven of 14 passes for 68 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Coming into this season, Bazelak had only seen action in three games last season as a true freshman. He connected on 15 of his 21 passing attempts for 144 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He had only seven rushes for two yards.
Shawn Robinson had to sit out last season after transferring from Texas Christian. As a freshman at TCU, he completed 13 of 27 passes for three touchdowns and rushed 23 times for 159 yards in five games. The following season, he saw action in seven games. He connected on 124 of 204 passing attempts for nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran the ball 49 times for 230 yards and three trips to the endzone.
Who should start in Baton Rouge? Robinson has much more experience. Bazelak sparked the offense against Tennessee in a losing effort. Is it time to give up on the transfer from TCU?
Can LSU run the ball effectively again this week?
In the loss to Mississippi State, LSU rushed 38 times. However, the Fighting Tigers gained only 80 net yards after accounting for the Bulldogs’ seven sacks. That yardage was the Tigers’ lowest since gaining only 86 yards on 25 attempts against those same Bulldogs last October. Three running backs carried the ball at least seven times but none of them exceeded 50 yards or reached the endzone.
The Tigers improved dramatically at Vanderbilt. They compiled 161 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 32 carries. Three running backs also had eight or more attempts.
However, one member of that trio, John Emery Jr., broke ahead of the pack in Nashville. He rushed 12 times for 103 yards and a touchdown. The other two backs had eight carries each for 30 and 29 yards respectively. Emery caught three passes for 21 yards, becoming the only running back to have at least one reception in both games of this season.
Missouri has looked increasingly vulnerable to a determined rushing attack. Last week, Tennessee pounded the ball on the ground 51 times for 232 yards and four touchdowns. In the season-opener, Alabama looked a bit less impressive in rushing 36 times for 111 yards and three trips to the endzone.
Missouri appeared hopelessly outclassed in its first two contests. Alabama raced to a 28-3 advantage at the end of the first half then cruised to 35-6 after three quarters. Tennessee trampled Mizzou’s defense with ease. One has to wonder about the Tigers’ confidence going into a third straight matchup against an opponent ranked in the top 25.
LSU’s season-opening loss to Mississippi State looks uglier in light of Arkansas’ winning its first SEC game. However, the Fighting Tigers have to continue to build on the lessons learned from that debacle in Tiger Stadium. With more players returning after missing the first game, LSU can still contend for the SEC championship. However, the Bayou Bengals need to focus on dispatching Missouri and not start looking ahead to the trip to Florida next week.
It looks like Missouri and LSU will continue in the same direction as they started in Week 2 of SEC play.
Prediction: LSU 34, Missouri 16