The two glaring failures of the 2016 Missouri team were an inability to get their high-octane offense going against top-tier competition, and the total collapse of the entire defense. These are big problems to fix, for sure. However, they are also very fixable.
The offense, if you’ll remember had been completely remade after the 2015 Josh Henson offense proved just as anemic as the 2016 defense turned out to be. New offensive coordinator Josh Heupel put the pieces in place but they were young and new to his system. Now that same squad, and I quite literally mean SAME SQUAD (replacing only one starter for 2017) has more experience in big games and knows the Heupel system inside and out. Do not expect the same collapses we saw against LSU and Florida this year. Coaching adjustments and player development will even out those issues.
On defense, Mizzou benefits as much as anything from the law of averages. The Tigers ranked 116th out of 128 FBS teams in yards allowed last season. This was the worst performance in Columbia in 16 years. It would be nearly impossible not to improve on this output. Now before you say “Charles Harris and Aarion Penton are gone,” keep in mind, there were a lot of factors hamstinging us besides personnel.
One factor that is far too underappreciated is just what a piece of human garbage Jackie Shipp turned out to be. We’ve talked and talked about how lousy Mizzou performed under DeMontie Cross’ system, but the primary problem was on the defensive line, coached by none other than garbage-human Jackie Shipp. Everybody hated him. He caused massive locker room turmoil, and was ultimately fired for literally fighting with a player. Yes, the grown-ass man, Jackie Shipp was fighting with a college student-athlete while on the job. People don’t take into consideration just how much a locker room cancer like Shipp can be to the morale and performance of a team. Guys like that are toxic. Good riddance, asshole.
So, we’re going into 2017 with a battle-hardened offense and a defense working in a more natural scheme for a coach they don’t hate. No one in the national media is attuned to this reality, and that is why they are all predicting us to lose and lose and lose again.
It ain’t going to happen. And the one place that they’re most assuredly dead wrong is in Lexington, Kentucky. The Wildcats made a bowl game last year and featured two 1,000-yard rushers. That is enough to start a hype train. Kentucky lost the talented Boom Williams to the NFL but is returning sophomore Benny Snell. They’re going to continue to run the ball well, but that is quite literally all the Wildcats will have going for them in 2017. Lost in the steam and “choo choo” noise of the Kentucky hype train is the reality that the Wildcats had their own garbage defense to deal with in 2016 and they still don’t know who the starting quarterback will be with only weeks remaining until the season starts.
Who knows just how much Mizzou’s defense will improve but I’m very confident that the Tiger offense will feast in Lexington. If the renovated Tiger defensive line slows Kentucky’s running down, this one is an easy pick. Instead of a two-headed running game ramming through a broken porous line, as it was last season, you’ll see stalled drives punctuated by Tiger touchdowns.
Expect this one to be relatively high scoring and for Mizzou to win by two scores. That’s right. Two scores. We might occasionally wear black-and-gold colored glasses, but we have this one right. Lock it in. August 11, 2017… Mizzou beats Kentucky by 10+ points.