Not sure whether to call this my ‘Bonehead Line Move Play of the Month’ or my ‘High Altitude Play of the Year’. The Missouri Tigers open their season on the road in the remote environs of Laramie, Wyoming as they take on the Wyoming Cowboys. This game opened at -14.5 when college football odds were first posted in June and today it’s widely available at -17. It went as high as -17.5 at some books but is getting some takeback on the Cowboys.
Missouri finished 8-5 last year and return 7 starters on offense and 6 on defense. Their biggest loss was quarterback Drew Lock who finished as the SEC’s #2 all time leading passer and is now a ‘quarterback of the future’ project for the Denver Broncos. In theory, the Tigers have a good replacement waiting in the wings–former Clemson starter Kelly Bryant who traded in the orange/white tigers for the black/gold variety. Bryant is a good quarterback who had the dubious fortune of playing behind two potentially great quarterbacks. He spent two years as a backup to Deshaun Watson and after being the starter in 2017 wound up backing up future NFL QB Trevor Lawrence. He’s in his final year of eligibility and in reality might be better suited as a backup. At any rate, there’s no reason to think that he’ll be a seamless replacement for Lock.
Wyoming went 6-6 last season after two consecutive winning years under head coach Craig Bohl. The Cowboys were decimated by injuries before the season losing their top two running backs, best wide receiver and a couple of linemen before they even played a game. Bohl (one of the more underrated coaches in college football) continued to make adjustments and found the right mix on offense with Sean Chambers at quarterback. He also implemented a run heavy attack at is almost a throwback in these pass happy times. One writer called the Cowboys’ offense–an ‘old school meat grinder’. Another writer suggests that Wyoming is running a ‘1960’s Nebraska style offense’. The Cowboys finished the year winning four straight and covered 4 of their last 5. The ‘meat grinder’ offense combined with a very competent defense that finished #29 in scoring defense and #17 in scoring defense mean that Wyoming should be back over .500 this season.
This could be a very challenging scheduling situation for Missouri. They play in Laramie against a team that doesn’t provide any intrinsic motivation before returning to Columbia for five straight home games. The next three are laden with ‘lookahead’ potential–next week’s home opener against West Virginia, the 9/14 in state matchup against SE Missouri (a very solid FCS team) and 9/21’s SEC opener against South Carolina. The Tigers don’t play on the road again until October 19 at Vanderbilt.
The biggest issue facing Missouri could be the Laramie, Wyoming altitude. Columbia, Missouri is at 758 feet above sea level. Nothing can prepare Missouri for the 6,470 foot difference in altitude. Kelly Lawrence has never played at an altitude higher than 2082′ feet in Blacksburg, VA against Virginia Tech, Under Barry Odom, Missouri hasn’t played at an altitude higher than 906′ (Morgantown, WV). That leaves us with a new quarterback playing on the road at altitude with questionable motivation against an underrated defense. Can’t see them covering the 2 TD+ number.