Offense Shows Up For Every Game
This is it for Drew Lock at Mizzou and he has improved every season since he got to Como. For all the big numbers he has put up though, what is his biggest win? Blowing out a Florida team with an interim coach? Arkansas in 2017? A team that fired our friend Bret Bielema as he walked off the field. Tennessee? I mean what is it? The problem seems to be, in games against teams that aren’t hot garbage, the offense seems to struggle, games against Georgia notwithstanding. Last year against Purdue, Auburn, Texas, "South Kurlina", the offense failed to keep the team in games, constantly going three-and-out, giving a defense that wasn’t all that great more time on the field.
The offense needs to put up some numbers in every game and yes that includes in Tuscaloosa. I know Alabama is Alabama but if Lock is what people think he can be, it would certainly help his reputation and that of the rest of the team. The running game should be strong even while losing Ish Witter. I did not think I would ever say that, with Rountree and Crockett back there hammering away. The receiving corps loses J’Mon Moore, but Emmanuel Hall, Jonathon Johnson, and Albert O are all still there. Also, look out for Nate Brown. He has missed a lot of time with injury but he still has a lot of talent and a lot to prove this year. New offensive coordinator Derek Dooley has much to prove as well to Mizzou fans who have been very mixed about the former Dallas Cowboys coach. As a playcaller, we don’t know what Dooley will do with this team. I presume we won’t see the breakneck speed we saw under Josh Heupel, so the overall numbers may be down but consistency definitely needs to go up.
Defense Does What It Needs To Do
Even with a beast like Terry Beckner Jr., no one is expecting the defense to set the world on fire this upcoming season. Not giving up 35 points to Purdue again would be a nice start. Shutting down the many opponents in the East with weak offenses, would also be a step in the right direction. You can not, under any circumstance, give up 40 to Kentucky again. The defensive line should be rock solid with TBJ and transfer Jordan Elliott up the middle. The linebacking corps has taken its lumps since Odom got here, but they are experienced and one would certainly hope that the progress they showed last season continues. Personally, I like the athleticism that the Tigers have in the secondary, however after some solid improvement during the Tigers six-game winning streak last season, Arkansas threw the ball wherever they wanted to in the regular season finale. When Odom was hired he was seen as defensive coach and he took the reigns as defensive coordinator after the disastrous tenure of DeMontie Cross. He has now passed them off to former secondary coach Ryan Walters. It remains to be seen if the defensive improvement last year came from actual improvement or just playing teams that had awful coaching (Hi to Alabama intern Butch Jones) and awful offenses.
With injuries and how things can work out in college football, you can’t guarantee anything, however let’s look at the schedule for the Tigers. Tennessee-Martin, Wyoming, and Vanderbilt should be guaranteed wins. Arkansas, Tennessee, Memphis, and Kentucky are games the Tigers should win. That’s seven games and matches last year's total which isn’t good enough. The two road games at Purdue and Florida I think set the tone for the season. Everyone in the Mizzou fanbase was quite frankly pissed off after the team was embarrassed in Columbia last year by Purdue. If that kind of result happens again, Barry Odom needs to be left in West Lafayette and find an interim. After what should be two easy wins against non-conference opponents, Mizzou should be rolling into this game and get some sort of revenge for last year’s humiliation. The game at Florida will be telling if Mizzou can be a top finisher in the East or middle of the pack. Florida still has its issues, but Dan Mullen is a vastly underrated coach by many, so unlike last year, this game could be tough sledding. It's tough to tell in the preseason, but Mizzou can very much come out with a win in this game. I think Mizzou does win these two games, so we are at nine wins. There are two games where Mizzou will absolutely be an underdog; at home against Georgia and at Alabama. I will say this, I will give the Tigers a puncher's chance against Georgia. Outside of the 2014 Maty Mauk game, they seem to play Georgia closer than most expect. Even last year, they hung around for a half. Against the Crimson Tide, all Mizzou fans can ask for is a competitive game. It is rather unfortunate that the year Mizzou seems poised to make a run at things, they get scheduled against Alabama, but isn’t this why everyone wanted to go to the SEC? To play against the best to see where they stack up, and who knows, maybe Drew gets extremely hot and the Tigers can find some magic. But I wouldn’t bet on it unfortunately.
I know a lot of people are onto the "hate USC" bandwagon after the feud in women's basketball, but I cannot stand South Carolina. They are a snotty fanbase who people forget have been one of the worst programs throughout the history of college football. Ever since Spurrier got there, things have worked out pretty well for them, but this fanbase acts like it is a national power, even though they have only ever been to one SEC Title Game, and got clobbered by Auburn. Say what you will about the final score of that 2013 title game, that Mizzou team was phenomenal and I still believe if James Franklin had stayed healthy, they beat South Carolina and make a national title run. South Carolina's best team, while admittedly talented, was nowhere near as good as the 2013 Mizzou team. Nothing would make me happier than walking into Columbia East, the world’s largest trailer park, and getting a win. This USC team is really solid. Jake Bentley is a good QB, and against all odds, Will Muschamp ha smanaged to not implode that team. So I don’t think Mizzou wins this game, but I do think it will be a shootout and will give Mizzou a 40% chance to win.
If the Tigers do what I just laid out on the schedule board, that’s a 9-3 record overall, 5-3 in the SEC, which would probably be good for third. Would that be good enough? Getting to ten wins after a bowl game... qould that meet expectations for a team with a first round draft pick at QB? For me nine wins is a must, and I will never be sour on a ten win season. Those Florida and South Carolina games loom large though. Two tough but winnable games can be the difference between eight wins, which is an good albeit tad disappointing, or 10 wins which could put you in position for a New Year’s Day bowl or one of the non-playoff New Year’s Bowls. This team is insanely talented on offense and has some good pieces on defense. There is no reason, barring injury this team should take a step back and I personally can’t wait for kick off MIZ.