Game time: 4 p.m. ET; Sept. 4, 2021
Venue: Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Columbia, MO
Where to watch: SEC Network
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Missouri -14; O/U 61; Money Line: Mizzou -630, CMC +450
BetMGM: Missouri -14.5; O/U 60.5; ML: Mizzou -588, CMC +425
FanDuel: Missouri -14.5; O/U 60.5; ML: Mizzou -750, CMC +490
2020 season record
Central Michigan: 3-3
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Central Michigan - Mizzou preview and analysis
Think of the quarterbacks that have come through Missouri.
Chase Daniel and Drew Lock are in the NFL. Sorry to Blaine Gabbert for not thinking he mattered right away. James Franklin did stuff for a bit. Even Maty Mauk was a thing.
But when’s the last time Mizzou was actually excited for a quarterback? Maybe when Daniel was lighting up Big 12 defenses over three seasons?
Enter redshirt sophomore Mizzou QB Connor Bazelak, who had the most Tigers-like stat line you’ve ever seen: almost 2,400 yards, seven touchdowns, six interceptions. Throw for all those yards in the SEC and not score? Sounds about right.
Bazelak, who has already shown to be a steady passer in this passing attack, will try to improve off his five-win season a year ago when Mizzou opens the new season with a matchup against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Faurot Field on Saturday.
The former four-star recruit comes into a season where the Tigers are expected to be better. After an 0-2 start, Bazelak became the full-time starter at Mizzou and the Tigers won five of their next six games to improve to 5-3. The Tigers ran into a buzzsaw that was the Georgia Bulldogs, and then lost by three touchdowns to Mississippi State in the conference games-only season finale.
Good news was the Tigers did get invited to a bowl game. Bad news: The Music City Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes was canceled due to COVID.
Such a strong finish all gone due to a pandemic, but the Tigers have reason to feel optimistic about this season should Bazelak improve in Year 2. It could be a tough go at first. Mizzou is no longer without leading rusher Larry Rountree III (sixth round pick by the Los Angeles Chargers this past Spring) and second-leading receiver Damon Hazelton (now with the Green Bay Packers).
Top receiver Keke Chism does return, and Tyler Badie will be the featured back.
It may be a bit before the glory days of Jeremy Maclin catching bombs from Daniel come back, but Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz has Mizzou off to a solid start after one year post-Barry Odom. Mizzou’s SEC opener will be next Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats.
This is going to be a good test for Bazelak to start the season. The Central Michigan secondary full of ball-hawks, led by sophomore Willie Reed’s three in six games.
The Jim McElwain era in Mount Pleasant is off to a solid start on the gridiron. The former Florida and Colorado State head coach led Central Michigan to an 8-6 record in 2019, highlighted by a loss in the New Mexico Bowl. In six games, CMU went 3-3 led by quarterback Daniel Richardson. Splitting time with Ty Brock, Richardson completed 64 percent of his passes but only had four touchdowns and two interceptions.
It’s the running game that’s going to be the catalyst for Central Michigan. Lew Nichols III and Kobe Lewis return for a running attack that combined for nearly 1,000 yards last season. Lewis, who will be out with a knee injury on Saturday, ran for 1,074 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. Nichols, the speed back, averaged 6.5 yards per touch last season and only had one touchdown.
Missouri would like an efficient start for Bazelak, get him comfortable and get him ready for next week. It’s a new era for the Tigers, and they’ll need better offense this season, but expect Week 1 to be a decent one. Missouri wins 37-21.
This is the first-ever meeting between Central Michigan and Missouri.
The Tigers are 124-43 when they score 28 points or more in the last 167 games.
Central Michigan was 4-0 last season when it forced at least two turnovers.
Players to watch
Central Michigan: Troy Hairston II will be tasked with leading CMU’s defensive front of getting to Bazelak. The senior had 5.5 sacks last season.
Mizzou: While he’ll be the frontrunner at tailback, Tyler Badie also had 333 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season.
Statistical leaders from 2020
Passing: Daniel Richardson -- 769 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Lew Nichols III -- 508 yards, 4 TD
Receiving: Kalil Pimpleton -- 277 yards, 2 TD
Defense: Troy Hairston -- 5.5 sack
Passing: Connor Bazelak -- 2,366 yards, 7 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Larry Rountree III -- 972 yards, 14 TD
Receiving: Keke Chism -- 458 yards, 1 TD
Defense: Nick Bolton -- 95 tackles
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