I need to preface this rant by stating that I love my school, and you're not going to find someone who is pulling for the Tigers harder than I am. And yes, I think this Missouri football team has the chance to be exceptional.
But in talking recently with a number of fans, it seems like the expectations for this team are absolutely out of control. A few have said that anything less than a National Championship game appearance would be a disappointment. Many more have said that anything less than a BCS bowl appearance would be a disappointment.
And I understand the excitement. Last season was electrifying, from the exciting victory over Illinois to the throttling of Nebraska to the entire D-Line's "intentional grounding" of Todd Reesing for a safety to the unforgettable Cotton Bowl. It was nothing short of astonishing and, moreso, exhilirating.
But, as rpt can attest to, I take exactly nothing for granted when it comes to Missouri sports. Trust me: much like all of you, I have been burned. Badly. And repeatedly.
And that's why I think Missouri fans need to pull back on the reins a little bit. Yes, it's fun to speculate. And I am absolutely guilty of such an activity. But Missouri fans need to remember that there are a lot of obstacles in the way, seen and unforseen, for this team, and I don't want thousands of Tiger fans crying themselves to sleep should this team fall short of these ever-heightening expectations.
Think about last year in terms of injuries. There was the season-ending injury to Pig Brown, but outside of that, Missouri was exceptionally fortunate not to sustain any other major injuries. Jeremy Maclin's knee held up. Chase Daniel got up every time he took a big hit because he doesn't know how to slide. Legs on the offensive line didn't get tangled up. William Moore didn't catch a helmet to the knee. Neither did Chase Coffman. Nor any of the running backs. Missouri was exceptionally fortunate to be so relatively injury free.
Think about the schedule this year:
vs. Illinois (St. Louis) -- perhaps the toughest non-conference game in the Big 12 this season.
vs. SeMo -- Moving on...
vs. Nevada -- Not a pushover, but I'd be much more worried about it on the road.
vs. Buffalo -- A team on the rise with an exceptional coach Turner Gill. Hard to believe Mizzou would fall at home to a MAC also-ran, but stranger things have happened.
@ Nebraska -- First true road game of the year, in a place where Missouri hasn't won since the Lincoln administration.
vs. Oklahoma State -- QB Zac Robinson is one of the more underrated players in the conference, and you always have to remember that Mike Gundy is a man, and will be 41 at that point.
@ Texas -- Can't say anything that hasn't already been said. Texas is a deadly team, especially at DKR.
vs. Colorado -- A true wild card this season, nobody really knows what to expect from Colorado. Even though it's homecoming, you can't write off this game because you don't know what you're up against.
@ Baylor -- Trap city.
vs. Kansas State -- Josh "No. 1 Pick" Freeman provides a challenge, but it's hard to take this team seriously without Jordy Nelson. And with Ron Prince stomping the yard. And playing in the Chases' final home game.
@ Iowa State -- Moving on...
vs. Kansas (Kansas City) -- A tough game to be sure, especially with a team that will be looking for revenge. As much as I'd like to make fun of them, this is a team with a good quarterback, a sound defense and a very good attitude.
And a fat coach. Damnit. Couldn't resist.
My point is, when you look at this schedule, there are four absolutely loseable games (Illinois, Nebraska, Texas, Kansas), and that's assuming that Missouri takes care of business in the other ones.
Even if Missouri splits those four loseable games, that leaves it at 10-2, almost definitely out of the National Championship hunt and probably on the outside looking in for a BCS bowl. 10-2 probably puts Missouri back in Dallas on New Year's morning.
And I think Missouri fans should be happy with that. Why does one great season give fans the right to expect the moon? In fact, if history serves us, Missouri SHOULD fall flat on its collective face this fall.
Do I think that will happen? No. I think this team is too good to let that happen. But to start expecting national championships and BCS bowls after one outstanding year isn't just too optimistic, it's borderline ludicrous.
To quote Gary Pinkel:
Do you mind that some people are talking about winning the national championship, or do you encourage that?
Gary Pinkel: Not at all. We haven't won a Big 12 championship around here. What are we talking about a national championship? Are you kidding me? We've won one Big 12 North title. That's people who are kind of just maybe handling it the best way they can. I'll handle it internally. Tell me their names (laughing).
Amen. Be happy with a good, not great, season. Be reasonable with expectations. And for the love of Science, don't become Ohio State, Florida and Notre Dame fans and feel entitled to a BCS bowl just by having one great year.
Because those fans suck.