The 2007 season is why we all watch. Because you never know.
The bottom line is, despite the fact that Mizzou has improved in five of six seasons under Pinkel, the one season they didn’t (2004) has defined Gary Pinkel’s tenure to this point. And it will continue to do so until Mizzou overachieves in the same way they underachieved that year. Simply exceeding handicapped expectations isn’t enough.
If you haven’t noticed, Mizzou’s exceeded expectations each of the last two seasons (and really, in four of the last five). The 2005 Tigers were picked by most to crash and burn and quietly finish off the Pinkel Regime. They lost to New Mexico and Kansas in beyond-aggravating fashion, but thanks to some Chase Daniel magic against Iowa State and some Brad Smith magic against South Carolina, they finished 7-5. At the beginning of the season, 7-5 would have been a welcome bounceback to 2004. At the end of 2005, 7-5 seemed disappointing.
In 2006, Mizzou was picked preseason #5 in the North. They were supposed to struggle to make a bowl game while turning the page on the Brad Smith era. As I’ve pointed out, the Sporting News picked them to lose to Ole Miss at home. Well, they went 8-5, exceeding preseason expectations...and it felt a bit disappointing. In other words, Gary Pinkel’s teams are experts at exceeding expectations in the most disappointing way possible, even going back to 2002 (predicted to suck, but Brad Smith emerged...and went 5-7) or 2003 (8-5 was quite a lovely step forward, but it still came with super-annoying losses at Colorado and Kansas). Mizzou flashes more potential than others thought they had, then pulls a Lucy Van Pelt (or, I guess, a Tony Romo) with the football.
Pinkel needs to win and win big in 2007. Not necessarily because he’ll get fired otherwise (it would probably take a 5-7 season for that to happen, possibly 6-6) and not necessarily because Nebraska is about to distance itself from the rest of the North. I’ll believe that when I see it (how are the four Heismans for Harrison Beck and Marlon Lucky coming along?). No, he needs to win big because, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re one or two steps away from the dreaded Glen Mason Territory, where a coach at a mid-level school establishes his program enough to go 7-5 every year but never turns a corner. To me, 7-5 this year is the worst-case scenario because he won’t get fired, but he’ll have missed another opportunity to turn a corner and prove himself to future recruits.
That, and he needs to win because this year’s team is the most talented Missouri team in 25 years. Chase Daniel > Brad Smith and Corby Jones. Tony Temple > any Mizzou RB since Devin West. Will Franklin, Danario Alexander, Jared Perry, Jeremy Maclin, etc. > any Mizzou WR corps I’ve ever seen. All-world TE Chamartin Ruffman > Kellen Winslow (combined, not individually...and yes, Barking Carnival, Coffman and Rucker are as good as people say...in fact, the ‘lazy media’ is why Martellus "Rivals 5-star" Bennett is being rated above either or both of them in most publications despite all on-field evidence to the contrary).
Yes, the defense will be the team’s Achilles heel. That’s obvious. But the defense just has to be competent, and a defense with Darnell Terrell, Brock Christopher, Lorenzo Williams, Ziggy Hood, and William Moore on it has no excuse not to be at least that. Great? Not with the question marks at DE. Competent? Yes.
For the last three years, I’ve constantly defended Gary Pinkel from attack...mostly from Mizzou fans. Which is funny, because I still have no idea if he’s a great coach or just a pretty decent one. As I’ve said before, he’s extremely classy, and he does everything the exact way I want a coach of my school to do...other than win big. Now it’s time for him to check that one off the list as well.
But then this happened.
[VIDEO REDACTED BECAUSE GAME DID NOT ACTUALLY HAPPEN.]