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Missouri out for fourth straight bowl berth as season opens against South Dakota

South Dakota at Missouri, Thursday, 7 p.m. CT (SEC Network)

Line: None listed by FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The pressure is mounting for Missouri to take a step forward under fourth-year coach Eli Drinkwitz, who has qualified the Tigers for three straight bowl games but has yet to win one or finish a season with a winning record. This could be his best chance to change that script with an offense that returns several starters and a defense that was surprisingly stout last season. South Dakota hosted its first playoff game in 35 years in 2021 but slid back to 3-8 in the tough Missouri Valley last season.

KEY MATCHUP

Missouri QBs against the South Dakota defense. Brady Cook is the incumbent but rode an up-and-down season last year in which he played through a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery. He was listed as an “OR” with redshirt freshman Sam Horn, a star baseball player with a big arm, on the initial depth chart.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

South Dakota: RB Travis Theis is entering his fifth season and third as the starter. He was sixth in the conference with 775 yards rushing last season, averaging 4.7 per carry, and finished second on the team with 25 receptions.

Missouri: WR Luther Burden III caught 45 passes for 375 yards and six touchdowns while running for two more scores as a freshman. The Tigers need him to take a big step forward after Dominic Lovett transferred to Georgia.

FACTS & FIGURES

South Dakota has a new offensive coordinator in Josh Davis, who won a national title on the staff of rival South Dakota State last season. ... Coyotes QB Aidan Bouman took over the starting job midway through last season. He spent his first two years at Iowa State. ... South Dakota has faced an FBS school every non-COVID season since 2010, beating Minnesota that year and Bowling Green in 2017. ... Drinkwitz and Warren Powers are the only coaches to lead Missouri to bowl appearances in their first three seasons. ... Missouri finished fourth in the SEC in total defense at 337.1 yards per game. ... The Tigers have 18 returning starters. ... Missouri has won 13 consecutive non-conference games at Faurot Field. ... The Tigers return leading rusher Cody Schrader, who ran for 744 yards and nine scores after transferring from Division II Truman State last season.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll