Sometimes, the opening game of a college football season is a perfect fit. That seems to be the case this year, when Missouri opens the season with a grand adventure, traveling to Laramie to face Wyoming on Saturday (6:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network).
It’s a different kind of venue and a different way to start a season, in one of college football’s delightful and quirky corners. The Wyoming Cowboys’ War Memorial Stadium is situated 7,220 feet above sea level, the highest Division I college football stadium in the country. There is no place in college football quite like it.
Likewise, Missouri is embarking on a season unlike any they’ve had. The Tigers are still waiting for a ruling on their appeal of NCAA sanctions, most of all whether their postseason ban for this year will be lifted. Word on that could come at any time during the season, or maybe not during the season at all, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen.
Adding to that unique flair, Missouri is in the fairly new situation of having a quarterback, Kelly Bryant, who has come to MU for a single season after transferring from Clemson. His selection of Missouri over other power programs was cause for celebration among Tiger fans, and the anticipation has built over the season and how Bryant will fare replacing Drew Lock.
Missouri has a chance to build momentum as the season gets going; the Tigers will be heavy favorites at Wyoming and then play five straight home games over the following six weeks. After that long homestand come winnable road games at Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Sure, there are plenty of games where the Tigers could stumble, and fourth year coach Barry Odom has still not beaten South Carolina or Kentucky, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see how Missouri could get to 8-0 heading into what would be an epic showdown at Georgia in November. A tough game with Florida follows that one.
In addition to the schedule, the Tigers have talent to make some noise. Bryant had success at Clemson, and he is surrounded by a good compliment of receivers and running backs. An experienced offensive line protects him, led by Tre’Vour Wallace-Sims, Yasir Durant and Trystan Colon-Castillo. It’s probably not riveting column writing to suggest a right guard might be the team’s best player, but Wallace-Sims was First Team all-SEC last year and really might be Missouri’s best player.
The Tiger defense has some question marks, and needs some defensive line playmakers to emerge. Missouri does return its top tackler from last year, linebacker Cale Garrett.
So now we saddle up and head west to begin the adventure of another college football season, ready to fight for oxygen and a win against those Wyoming Cowboys. This could be a special season for Missouri, or it could unravel amid NCAA sanction uncertainties and the rigors of an SEC football season. All we know is that on Saturday, finally, after months and months of offseason, the journey begins.