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Checking in with Missouri’s 2023 Football Opponents

A rundown of all twelve teams the Mizzou Tigers will face in the 2023 season, and where they stand this offseason

Arkansas v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Over the summer we will take a deep dive into each of Missouri’s 2023 opponents, but with spring ball starting or just around the corner, let’s take a brief look at where each challenger stands this offseason.

South Dakota – The Coyotes limped through a tough season in 2022, finishing near the bottom of the Missouri Valley Conference with a 3-8 record and having to watch their in-state rival South Dakota State win the FCS national championship.. They did score wins over FCS-ranked Southern Illinois and Bobby Petrino’s Missouri State squad, and showed signs of life after inserting quarterback Aidan Bouman into the lineup. Bouman – a former ESPN Top-300 recruit and a transfer from Iowa State – is back this year, along with star linebacker Stephen Hillis, who led the team in tackles, sacks, pass deflections, forced fumbles, and interceptions. The Coyotes do share something in common with the Missouri Tigers: both were blown out by Kansas State last season.

Middle Tennessee State – Rick Stockstill has been the head coach in Murfreesboro for longer than current recruits have been alive. His Blue Raiders navigated a strange up-and-down season last year, losing to dreadful Louisiana Tech and Colorado State teams, but beating Miami (the Florida one) and winning a bowl game. They bring back most of their defense, but have to replace their entire passing game (QB Chase Cunningham and his top three receivers). They will still be working on building that chemistry when they visit Columbia – a week after visiting Tuscaloosa to open the season.

Kansas State – The defending Big 12 champions relied on an explosive, big-play offense last year, but must replace their two biggest threats at receiver (Malik Knowles and Kade Warner) as well as program legend Deuce Vaughn. The defense takes a hit as well, including pass-rushing terror Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who is off to focus his ire on NFL quarterbacks. Will Howard takes over full-time quarterbacking duties in the Little Apple. High school recruiting has ticked up for Chris Kleimann thanks to on-field success, but hopefully Missouri will be catching a development program in a manageable spot.

Memphis – Missouri will round out their non-conference slate with a neutral site game in St. Louis against the fellow Tigers of Memphis. Head coach Ryan Silverfield has been unable to keep up the momentum of Justin Fuente and Mike Norvell, and has only eked out consecutive 6-6 regular seasons in his past two years. His seat will be toasty this fall; his outfit must be competitive in the new-look American with previous conference bullies Houston, UCF, and Cincinnati off to the Power Five. He will look to do so with Seth Henigan, who will be in his third year starting at quarterback with transfers like star Old Dominion running back Blake Watson and old friend Tauskie Dove.

Vanderbilt – This is now AJ Swann’s ship; the two-quarterback rotation is over after Mike Wright transferred to Mississippi State. Running back Ray Davis is also staying in the conference, heading to Kentucky after rushing for 1,042 yards last season. Clark Lea has largely eschewed the transfer portal in his rebuild, with only three veterans coming on board this spring.

LSU – Brian Kelly has taken the opposite approach in Baton Rouge, loading up on high-impact transfers for the second year in a row to jump-start his rebuild. Ah, the difference in expectations. The Tigers will again be contenders in the SEC, with both coordinators returning, starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, and a loaded roster that is a gumbo of star players like Harold Perkins, Mekhi Wingo, Malik Nabers, and more.

Kentucky – Mark Stoops has consistently raised expectations – and then met them – in his tenure, and in 2022 he finally fell short by “only” winning seven games. Rebuilding the offense is the priority this offseason, and Stoops jettisoned coordinator Rich Scarangello to bring back Liam Cohen. Then he nabbed running back Ray Davis and quarterback Devin Leary from NC State from the portal, to pair with an excellent receiving corps. But like Missouri, these moves won’t have the desired effect if the Wildcats are unable to rebuild an offensive line that collapsed in 2022 and was one of the worst in the Power Five.

South Carolina – Shane Beamer’s program is all strikes and gutters right now. In the season, an offense that couldn’t move the ball in deflating losses against Missouri and Florida hung 94 combined points to knock both Tennessee and Clemson out of the playoff conversation. In the offseason, huge high school recruiting wins were offset by an exodus of talent on both sides of the ball. Spencer Rattler and receiver Antwan “Juice” Wells both return, but star running back Marshawn Lloyd will not (he’s off to USC). The vibes are sky high in the other Columbia right now, thanks to Beamer’s infectious energy, the big wins, and the recruiting scores, but they are still on the hunt for more consistency overall.

Georgia – The two-time defending national champions have had an eventful offseason off the field, starting with the tragic fatal car accident that claimed the lives of lineman Devin Willock and staff member Chandler LeCroy on the night of their championship parade. Star defensive tackle Jalen Carter was arrested in connection with that crash, as well as arrests for Stetson Bennett and incoming transfer RaRa Thomas. On the field, the Bulldogs will be replacing Bennett, and the three-way quarterback battle between Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton will dominate the headlines generated on the practice field. Despite the loss of Bennett, Carter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and another wave of NFL draft picks, Georgia will be a top-three team in the nation again this fall, thanks to Kirby Smart’s excellent coaching and continued bumper crop of blue chip ballers.

Tennessee – The Volunteers will have to replace key components of last season’s magical offense: coordinator Alex Golesh, quarterback Hendon Hooker, and receiver Jalin Hyatt are off to new ventures. But the building blocks are still in place to run Josh Heupel’s veer and shoot offense, and the main storyline will be if blue-chipper Nico Iamalavea can unseat veteran Joe Milton for the quarterback gig. Points will again be as plentiful as the playing of “Rocky Top” in Knoxville this fall.

Florida – Things are messy in The Swamp right now. It started with a lackluster effort in the Las Vegas Bowl blowout loss to Oregon State, and has been compounded with the embarrassing Jayden Rashada recruitment, exposing a lack of cohesion in the program’s NIL efforts. Billy Napier will have to exceed expectations to quiet rumblings this fall, while overcoming coaching staff turnover and player departures. Former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz will likely start for the Gators, a significant downgrade from Anthony Richardson’s explosive playmaking at the position last fall. Billy Napier’s seat isn’t hot yet, but some logs are being stacked up and the lighter fluid has been purchased.

Arkansas – Coordinators Barry Odom and Kendall Briles both moved on after spending the past three seasons together with head coach Sam Pittman, Perhaps some new blood in the meeting rooms will be necessary for an Arkansas program that underwhelmed in 2022. Both KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders return to form the most established star-studded backfield in the SEC, but question marks abound elsewhere; the Hogs rank 106th in Bill Connelly’s returning production metric.