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Texas Bowl: First look at the Missouri Tigers

There will be big plays in this game. If the ‘Horns can create some, that is.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, December 27, the first season under head coach Tom Herman will come to a conclusion for the Texas Longhorns in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl against the Missouri Tigers at 8 p.m. CT.

Here’s a first look at the Tigers.

Head coach: Barry Odom (11-13)

Record: 7-5 (3rd in SEC East)

Trending: Six straight wins

SB Nation site: Rock M Nation

Last meeting: Missouri 17, Texas 5 (2011)

Spread: TBD

Venue: Houston’s NRG Stadium

The season

After opening 2017 with a victory over Missouri State, Odom’s team struggled offensively in the early going, scoring only 30 points combined in three subsequent losses, including a 35-3 beatdown at the hands of Purdue. Further defeats to Kentucky and Georgia followed before Missouri got to the favorable part of its schedule.

Non-conference games against Idaho and UConn helped spark an offensive explosion that featured 45 or more points scored in each of the last six games. A 48-45 shootout in Fayetteville ended the regular season and the Arkansas coaching career of Bret Bielema.

The best victory on the season for Missouri? Vanderbilt, perhaps? The Commodores won five games season, the most of any opponent defeated by the Tigers.

Advanced stats profile

As seems befitting for a former Big 12 team, Missouri has an explosive, high-powered offense and a poor defense — the Tigers finished the regular season with the No. 10 offense in S&P+ and the No. 96 defense. The scoring offense ranked 11th in the country, while the defense ranked No. 96.

That same dichotomy extended to the ability of Missouri to create explosive plays, an area in which it ranked No. 6 nationally, and the inability to stop opposing offenses from gaining chunk yardage, an area in which it ranked No. 122 nationally.

Most notably, Missouri gave up 13 plays of 50 or more yards this season, while leading the nation in plays of 50 or more yards with 22. Suffice it to say that big plays all around were one of the defining features of Tigers games this season.

A more flattering similarity for Odom’s team this season was the ability of the offensive line to reduce negative plays in the running game and create them defensively — the offense ranked sixth in stuff rate and the defense ranked No. 10.

So even though Missouri defended the run poorly against Auburn and Georgia and gave up 26 rushing touchdowns on the season, this is a team that can get opponents behind the chains at times.

Offensively, the passing game ranks No. 15 nationally in S&P+ and benefits from a low sack rate. On the ground, three running backs all average 5.6 yards per carry or better, with the two leading rushers combing for zero fumbles all season.

Players to watch

Quarterback Drew Lock — A mobile passer who averaged 5.6 yards per carry this season, Lock set the SEC record with 43 passing touchdowns this season. His passer rating of 169.42 ranks fourth nationally, behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCF’s McKenzie Milton, and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. The former top-100 prospect does make some mistakes, however — he threw 10 interceptions at a rate of 3.1 percent and also lost three fumbles.

Wide receiver J’Mon Moore — In a familiar Big 12 story, the Texas product from Fort Bend Elkins may have a little bit of extra motivation in going against the Longhorns, which never offered him a scholarship back in 2013. Moore leads the team with 1,017 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns after Lock targeted him on nearly one in every four passes this season. At an average of 17 yards per catch, Moore is one of several explosive wide receivers for the Tigers.

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam — A redshirt season helped the former mid three-star prospect bulk up to 260 pounds and refine receiving skills that have made him a consistent red-zone target this season with 10 touchdown receptions. The Illinois product is also remarkably explosive, as he’s averaging 14.9 yards per catch.

Linebackers Cale Garrett and Terez Hall — The duo hasn’t been particularly active in recording remarkable tackle totals, but have combined for 20.5 tackles for loss and 38 run stuffs. At the second level, these are the players who have caused havoc for opposing running games.

Defensive end Terry Beckner, Jr. — One of the most heralded recruits in Missouri history, Beckner has lived up to his five-star billing as the nation’s No. 13 player and No. 3 defensive tackle in the 2015 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. And, unlike some notable Texas juniors, he’s already opted to return for his senior season. Beckner has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks on the season, so he’s going to be a load for the interior of the Longhorns offensive line.