By Aaron Moser
A new fall season offers new challenges and new opportunities for all teams beginning the gauntlet of a college football season. After 150 years of college football, it is well known that anything can happen on any given down.
Missouri football begins their 2019 gauntlet Saturday night against the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie, Wyoming. The kickoff at War Memorial Stadium will be 6:30 CT for the rematch from last year’s 40-13 Missouri win in Columbia. The Tigers are currently favored by 17.5 points.
How to tune in
Watch: CBS Sports Network
Listen: 88.1 KCOU FM, 100.5 and 105.1 KTGR FM and 1580 KTGR AM. Online at kcou.fm.
What to watch for
Kelly Bryant’s performance:
Any casual college or Missouri football fan should understand the importance of what will be Bryant’s first impression and performance in black and gold.
He has been the headline of the football team since transferring from Clemson in 2018. He led Clemson to the 2018 college football playoffs and posted 3,473 total yards and 24 total TDs that season.
Bryant entered the 2018 season as the starting QB but was benched four games in after the Clemson coaching staff believed that Trevor Lawrence, the number one overall recruit in the nation, was more productive with his opportunities. That decision worked well for the Tigers, as only Syracuse truly challenged them on their way to an undefeated season and their second national title in three years.
Missouri and Auburn battled for Bryant, but he chose Missouri as his destination for a second opportunity. He stayed even after the NCAA handed the Tigers a postseason ban for the 2019 season.
Saturday will be Bryant’s first test using the up-tempo system created by head coach Barry Odom and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley. Will it look the same as when second-round NFL draft pick Drew Lock held the reigns? No, but Bryant adds his running ability as an option the offense will have.
And a great many options the offense will have. The Tigers are returning more than half of their yardage production, and the vast majority of their weapons including running backs Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie.
Receivers Jalen Knox and Johnathon Johnson along with veteran tight end Albert Okuegbunam, who staved off the NFL and returned for his junior year, will provide plenty of targets for Bryant. Freshman receiver Maurice Massey has impressed the coaching staff and is also expected to contribute to the offense.
Bryant and the Missouri offense will be facing an experienced Wyoming defense that is returning seven of their top ten solo tacklers and a senior laden secondary. The Tigers put up 40 points on the Cowboys last season, but with the group seeing the Missouri offense for the second time, they should be more adept at stopping it. The Cowboys allowed just 22 points per game last season.
Coaches always attempt to prepare their players athletically for the season, but the intensity of a game is always significantly more than almost any practice. Week one will put their feet to the fire, especially for players playing in their first game.
Missouri players will have to deal with more than that as War Memorial Stadium has the highest elevation in the Football Bowl Subdivision. It sits around 6,500 feet higher than Missouri’s Memorial Stadium in Columbia.
This drastic elevation difference will affect the Tigers as at higher elevations less oxygen is available to breathe. In order to combat this, the players have been drinking large amounts of beet juice, the Columbia Missourian reports.
With both the opening week intensity and high elevation, conditioning in the late quarters will be of even more importance. Newer players may be forced into greater roles as more substitutions may be made.
Whatever happens Saturday night, college football is back and that always makes a fan’s weekend better.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org