COLUMBIA, Mo. – College football is back! The Missouri Tigers open a new season Thursday evening, a head start as most Power Five Football teams return to game action this weekend.
The Tigers kick off the 2023 campaign with a home non-conference matchup against the South Dakota Coyotes. The game begins at 7 p.m. Fans can watch the first game on the SEC Network, ESPN+ or FuboTV.
As the new Mizzou season begins, there’s quite a bit to unpack with the team roster and expectations. Let’s get started…
Eli Drinkwitz and coaching cast
Entering his fourth year as the Missouri Tigers’ head coach, Eli Drinkwitz is well revered by players and has developed a knack for big-time recruits, like Luther Burden III & Williams Nwaneri.
That said, it hasn’t translated to sustained success on the football field. Mizzou is 17-19 in three seasons under Drinkwitz and has lost many games within one possession. The Tigers have qualified for three lower-level bowl games under Drinkwitz, but remains without a bowl win.
Drinkwitz has acknowledged this is a big year for the program and wants to prove the Tigers truly “belong” in the Southeastern Conference, a switch made more than a decade ago. Drinkwitz earned a contract extension last season that will pay him around $6-7 million each year through 2027.
The Tigers brought in a new offensive coordinator, Kirby Moore, who is expected to handle more play-calling duties than Drinkwitz. Al Pogue, the cornerbacks coach, takes on another hat as the assistant head coach after the departure of Marucs Johnson. Five other assistant coaches return to the fold this season. For the full coaching cast, click here.
Drinkwitz has reiterated throughout the preseason that the Tigers would experiment with two quarterbacks in game situations for at least the first two non-conference games. Those QBs: Last year’s primary starter and junior Brady Cook, plus redshirt freshman Sam Horn.
Cook finished the 2022 season with more than 2,700 passing yards and 14 touchdowns, but also seven interceptions. Horn, who is also involved with the Mizzou Baseball program, only appeared in one game last year, but showed the ability to pile up touchdowns and yards in a hurry throughout his high school days.
What’s worth following early on is who gets more snaps, and what kind of game situations do both quarterbacks endure? Cook is likely to draw the start for Thursday’s opener based on experience, but jumping out to a big lead early could afford him some rest and deeper looks at horn. It remains to be seen who takes advantage of the quarterback competition before conference play begins in October.
Returning stars and new faces
Mizzou’s wide receiver core offers plenty of excitement this season with sophomore Luther Burden III and junior Mookie Cooper, both from the St. Louis area. Burden caught six touchdowns last year and can also step into the rushing game when the Tigers need a few yards for a first down or in the red zone. Both will be asked to step up after the transfer of Dominic Lovett.
When the Tigers have had success in recent history, the defense has proved important. Cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine returns after leading the team with 48 tackles last year. Jaylon Carlies and Daylan Carnell stepped up in forcing interceptions last year and both are primed for big roles this season.
Harrison Mevis enters his senior year as one of the more established kickers in the SEC. He went 22-for-28 in field-goal attempts last year and didn’t miss a PAT. In close games, especially come conference time, he could be a big difference makers.
As for newcomers, two new transfers to know are offensive lineman Cam’Ron Johnson and defensive end Nyles Gaddy. Johnson could handle a starter’s load almost immediately. As for freshmen, defensive back Marvin Burks Jr. and tight end Brett Norfleet (both from the St. Louis area) are among the first-year talents higher in the depth chart who could make an early impact.
Stadium and fan experience
For the season opener, Mizzou fans are asked to dress in black or gold attire depending on their specific section. The goal is to make the stadium look like a tiger claw for the season opener, and there will be similar themes throughout the season.
Mizzou Athletics has introduced “fan-friendly” concession prices at Faurot Field this season, slashing prices for several popular food and drink options. There are also more “grab-and-go” stands in hopes for efficient orders.
There are multiple entrances on the north and east sides of Memorial Stadium with a full capacity of about 61,000 people. As for parking, spots closest to the stadium are only reserved for Tiger Scholarship Fund members. There will be parking garages and hospitals that require a short walk to the stadium, but will offer parking. For more information on the parking situation, click here.
The Missouri Tigers have finished at the .500 mark in each of their last four seasons before bowl games. That is a realistic benchmark to start, but how much they can improve upon that remains to be seen.
- ESPN opted to be a little more critical of Mizzou, projecting a 5-7 overall record and a sixth-place finish in the SEC East.
- A crew of CBS Sports analysts evaluated Mizzou and said the defense, aside from the cornerbacks, will be challenged quickly. The overall consensus was “a pretty large margin between the Tigers and fifth place” in the SEC East, though some analysts predict they could finish as high as fourth in their division.
- FOX Sports is also predicting a sixth-place finish in the SEC East.
- FanDuel Sportsbook says at least seven wins (before a Bowl Game) is a projected goal for the Tigers.
Mizzou football broadcaster Howard Richards told FOX 2 the Tigers will have their best momentum if they can win all four preseason games against non-conference foes.
Entering the 2023 season, four of the Tigers’ upcoming opponents are ranked. Highlighted by the defending national champions in Georgia, that includes:
- Sept. 16 vs. Kansas State (No. 16)
- Oct. 7 vs. LSU (No. 5)
- Nov. 1 at Georgia (No. 1)
- Nov. 11 vs. Tennessee (No. 12)
For St. Louis fans, Mizzou will host the Memphis Tigers in their last game before conference play at the Dome At America’s Center, the former home of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. That game is set for Sept. 23 with gametime TBD.
The season, as customary with past years, ends with the Battle Line Rivalry against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Black Friday (Nov. 24). Arkansas plays host this year, and Mizzou has won six of those last seven contests.
For the full 2023 schedule, click here.
How to watch
As previously mentioned, you can watch Thursday’s season opener on SEC Network, ESPN+ or FuboTV. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Game broadcast channels and times could change on a week-to-week basis. As for TV channels, expect Mizzou games on either the SEC Network, ESPN or ESPN 2 and maybe CBS later into conference play.