Time for a State of the Union (of sorts) address. We'll start with the bad news.
We will not be winning a national title this year. With all the seniors (and players who won't be in Tiger uniforms next year...cough Maclin cough), I know there was a bit of desperation toward this--we're Mizzou and we don't many chances to win a national title. We missed out last year, and it turns out that was the closest look we were going to get. That, for lack of a better term, sucks. Hard.
We will not be adding a Heisman trophy to our relatively thin trophy case. I really can't blame Chase Daniel for anything that happened yesterday. When your receivers are dropping passes, and your offensive line decides to fall into a massive funk right as they play what is by far the best defensive line they'll see this year...and when you spend a lot of your time running for your life, it's just not going to be your day. I guess it's still technically possible for Chase to win--if Mizzou immediately rediscovers its rhythm up front, Mizzou goes back to scoring 50 points per game, AND Mizzou beats Texas in the Big 12 title game. But the likelihood of that isn't high enough to actually start hoping for it.
This defense just isn't the unit we hoped to see this year. With 10 starters back from what turned into a pretty stout unit in conference play last year, we expected the best Mizzou defense in a generation in '08. Turns out that, for a variety of reasons--lack of effective play-calling, injury to William Moore (and Van Alexander), nobody coming through at CB2 and SS--that has not happened. What we're left with is a unit with some individual play-makers and a bunch of hard hitters...but not the best Mizzou defense in a generation. Now, I don't want to take too much from yesterday--Texas hit a rhythm during the OU game, and no defense in the country was going to stop them yesterday. But it's clear at this point that the players aren't as confident, and Matt Eberflus has yet to get into his play-calling rhythm. He and the players are both a step behind.
Our time as a Top 5 team is over. And it's going to take a while to climb back up there. It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?
Not only are the remaining teams on our schedule still going to be gunning for us, but they're really actually going to think they can beat us. The bloom is off the rose. It's "A-game every game or bust" now. Do we have the resiliency? The leadership? My gut answer is 'yes', but until it's proven on the field, it's just a gut answer.
Once again, we will not be winning a national title this year. Not trying to rub salt in the wound here, but the quicker we can accept this and readjust our wishlist, the better.
We can still win the Big 12 title. Now, it's not likely, but it is technically still a possibility.
We can DEFINITELY still win our second straight Big 12 North title. The two teams we just played? Better than any of our remaining five conference opponents. We can kill Colorado, kill Baylor, kill Kansas State, kill Iowa State, and...well, we can't kill Kansas, but we can beat them, there is no doubt of that. All it takes is one thing: belief. Okay, two things: belief and confidence. When (not if) Mizzou finds its swagger again, it can roll through its remaining regular season slate. That could happen as soon as this coming Saturday.
We are still in position to possibly own the North for the forseeable future. Not saying we will, but we certainly could. Winning the North in 2009 will be rough--we will be replacing like 52 starters. But no other team has taken a step forward this year, aside from maybe Nebraska in the last two games. Kansas will still have Reesing and Briscoe in '09, but their defense will have to be rebuilt. Nebraska loses Ganz, Lucky, its top two WRs, the right side of its OL, and a majority of its solid defensive players. Colorado...well, they're still not very good. Kansas State and Iowa State? No. Start piling up the North titles, and losses like yesterday's become easier to swallow, whether the North is weak or not.
That defense that isn't as good as we'd hoped? It's still good enough to whomp the next few offenses on the schedule. Colt McCoy was amazing at handling the blitz. Cody Hawkins (and the true freshman now splitting time with him)? Not amazing. Josh Freeman? Not amazing. Austen Arnaud? Not amazing. Robert Griffin? Guaranteed to make an amazing play or two, but let's just put it this way--if he makes some of the throws that Colt McCoy made yesterday, Griffin won't have the receivers to make those catches.
We still have at least six, maybe seven, games remaining to watch Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, William Moore, Stryker Sulak, Brock Christopher, Tommy Chavis, Ziggy Hood, and a bunch of other guys who have brought Mizzou a new level of success. That needed to be said.
It's okay to still be bitter about these last 8 days. The last two Saturday nights have CRUSHED our team, our fans, and our goals. But in six days, the bitterness ends. It's time for Homecoming, and it's time to circle the wagons for another North division title.
(Oh yeah, and 2003 Kansas State.)