It’s officially the start of the 2016 football season.This season, we are going to bring you a weekly article about who the Mountaineers play on Saturdays. We’ll give you information on that team, what to look for, and any information we can find on that week’s opponent. By now as everyone knows, the Mountaineers face off Saturday against the SEC’s Missouri Tigers.
The Missouri Tigers are entering their fifth season in the East division of the SEC. Prior to joining the SEC, the Tigers were previously members of West Virginia’s own Big 12. In the past four seasons, Missouri has made it to the SEC Championship twice, losing both to Auburn in 2013 and Alabama in 2014. Going into this season, the Tigers are coming off a 5-7 season, and unfortunately losing their head coach Gary Pinkel, who lead the Tigers since the 2001 season. Pinkel was the winning-most coach in the history of Missouri Tiger football, and will be watching the Tigers this season from his first year of retirement.
While the Tigers were only 1-7 in conference play last season, the team from the SEC East did have the 13th best defense in the nation. The team suffered several injuries throughout the year, and had players hurt literally on the first offensive play of the season. These injuries affected the Tigers throughout the entire 2015 season as evidenced by their season record. The Tigers also dismissed their quarterback at the time, Matty Mauk after just four games into the season. Mauk was dismissed from the team for “violating team rules” and replaced by true freshman Drew Lock, who returns to the team this fall.
Missouri’s offense struggled through the meat of their schedule, going over a month last season between scoring anything besides field goals. The team’s on-field struggles and issues with Mauk took a backseat last fall when members of the team joined in on-campus protests of the racial incidents going on at the University of Missouri. A struggling team, combined with team members protesting the racial divide and threatening not to play in their upcoming, at the time, game versus BYU. It was shortly after this that Coach Pinkel announced his pending retirement.
With all of this being said, Mountaineers may be asking who are the Missouri Tigers. Answering that is quite simple. The Missouri Tigers are a team four years into a new conference, much like our beloved Mountaineers. The Tigers have had two very successful years in the SEC and under the helm of their new head coach, former defensive coordinator Barry Odom, the Tigers look to come into Morgantown and set the tone for their season. This season brings a season of unknown for the Tigers, a coach changing roles, and rebounding from a down season just a year ago.
Missouri fans travel well, just look at the amount of Tiger fans who traveled to Columbia, South Carolina several years ago for their match-up against the Gamecocks. Missouri fans made an extended weekend out of it, traveling down to Charleston before the Gamecocks-Tigers game. Missouri fans have been known to travel well to Atlanta for the SEC Championship in the past as well. Going into Labor Day weekend, the Tigers and their fans will travel roughly 737 miles, about 11 hours to our lovely Morgantown where Mountaineer fans are sure to welcome the Tigers into town and sing a little song called “Country Roads” as the Tigers head back to Missouri.
It’s game week. Football is back. Let’s go Mountaineers.