AUBURN | Auburn’s 2017 football schedule includes two tough road games in September, three more in October and two big November rivalry games at home.
Today, we continue an early look at each opponent with the SEC opener on the road.
WHO: Missouri (4-8 last season, 2-6 SEC East)
WHEN: Sept. 23
WHERE: Memorial Stadium (71,168)
WHAT’S NEW: This will be Auburn’s first-ever game at Missouri. Auburn is 1-1 all-time against Mizzou with a 34-17 loss in the 1973 Sun Bowl and a 59-42 win in the 2013 SEC Championship game.
Todd Van Emst/Auburn athletics
WHO TO WATCH, OFFENSE: Senior J’Mon Moore is a big-play wide receiver with an NFL body at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He led the SEC with 62 catches for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
WHO TO WATCH, DEFENSE: Defensive end Marcell Frazier is poised for a big senior season. He had 34 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 8.5 sacks as a junior, but 7.5 of those TFL’s and 6.5 of those sacks came in the final three games.
OUTLOOK: Missouri returns 10 starters and nine key backups to an offense that led the SEC and was 13th nationally averaging 500.5 yards per game last season. Junior quarterback Drew Lock returns for his third season as the starter after completing 237-of-434 (54.6 percent) of his passes for 3,399 yards and 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions last fall. All five starters return on an offensive line that gave up an SEC-low 14 sacks despite being third in the conference with 448 pass attempts. Also returning is running back Damarea Crockett, who rushed for 1,062 yards and 10 touchdowns on 153 carries as a freshman last year.
How much improvement the defense can make in year two under head coach Barry Odom and defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross will go a long way in determining if Missouri can return to a bowl game for the first time since 2014. The unit ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing defense, 12th in passing defense, 14th in total defense and 12th in scoring defense last season. Frazier and the return of a healthy Terry Beckner Jr. should anchor the defensive line, which will be bolstered by the addition of four junior college signees. Missouri, which will be basing more out of a 4-2-5 defense, returns two starting linebackers and two starting defensive backs.
This could be an interesting matchup for Auburn, which needs to avoid a shootout on the road against a high-powered offense. Missouri’s ability to protect Lock and Auburn’s questionable pass rush going into the season could be an advantage for the home team. This is one of several road games Auburn should be favored to win but could suffer a setback if the offense can’t protect the ball and/or the defense gives up too many big plays.
AUBURN CONNECTION: Missouri offensive line coach Glen Elarbee was a graduate assistant for national champion LSU in 2007 with current Auburn assistant Larry Porter, who was the running backs coach. Defensive line coach Brick Haley hasn’t coached at Auburn but the Gadsden, Ala., native has 11 years of SEC coaching experience including a year at LSU with Porter.