Barry Odom expects a big season from the Missouri offense this season, led by junior quarterback Drew Lock and 10 returning starters. (File)

By Spencer Gleason

Missouri Tigers head coach Barry Odom is ready for his squad to start the 2017 football season.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun day for everyone. It’s always exciting to get in a competitive arena.”

The second-year head coach and Missouri football fixture has been grooming his team since the beginning of August, when their fall camp opened. Saturday’s season opener against the Missouri State Bears will be the first game between the two in-state schools in 94 years.

That matchup, in 1923, resulted in a 10-0 win for the Tigers. Back when college teams actually had a junior varsity squads, the two schools met three times, but that hasn’t happened since 1952.

Saturday’s game is set for 11 a.m. at Faurot Field in Columbia and will be televised by the SEC Network.

“I think the greatest significance is the two schools – two great schools, two great universities – playing each other,” said Bears head coach Dave Steckel, a longtime Mizzou assistant. “I think it’s phenomenal for the state.”

In-state product, Drew Lock, from Lee’s Summit, returns at quarterback to lead the Missouri offense. The junior was the leading passer in the SEC last season, throwing for 3,399 yards. Only 11 returning quarterbacks in the country threw for more yards than Lock last season.

In addition to Lock, the Tigers return two key offensive weapons, sophomore running back Damarea Crockett and senior wide receiver J’Mon Moore. Crockett rushed for 1,000-plus yards and Moore surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau as well last season, when the Tigers finished with a 4-8 record.

Missouri is the only SEC team to return a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. Only Oklahoma State, Washington and Middle Tennessee can also make that claim among Division I schools. In total, the Tigers return 10 starters from last year’s offense.

Despite that, Odom said he will not be afraid to insert some new players in the first week of the season.

“We’re going to have a bunch of guys play,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t have a starter or a backup at certain spots, but we have two or three or four at some positions that really give a chance to win. There’s a level of getting guys ready to go play and when it’s their time and their number’s called to go execute like they are the starter. We’re going to play a bunch of guys on both sides of the ball.”

On the opposite sideline, Steckel said Missouri State will be looking to start fresh after last year’s 4-7 finish. The Bears will turn to 6-foot-3 sophomore Peyton Huslig at quarterback.

“The bottom line is that this team is better,” Steckel said. “I’m curious to see how much better. This task may or may not show that. We have to put things in perspective. But the bottom line is that we have to go up there and we have to execute and we have to protect the football.”

Steckel and Odom know each other from when they were assistants on Gary Pinkel’s staff at Missouri. Their friendship will be put on hold for a couple hours on Saturday.

“When we tee the ball up it’s a blank picture for me,” Odom said. “And I just try to get my guys to go play their best and hope at the end of the game we’ll be able to say, ‘Hey’ and then catch up at some point in the offseason.”