I haven't posted too much lately but as a pretty close follower of not just Mizzou, but college football as a whole, thought I would post some thoughts this week on the weekend that just passed us by. I like feedback and quality discussion on college sports-related issues, so that spurred my decision to make this post and specifically here on Rock M Nation. I do have one basketball thought among my observations.
If folks like it maybe I'll try it again on a future week!
1. Good Start. On Mizzou, when asked by some (fans of other schools, but college football fans overall) about my thoughts on the status of the Mizzou football program,I have noted that I believe that despite last season's record and my overall uncertainty regarding our future due to recruiting, I actually thought this year would be a decent year for us. With Josey back, DGB in his second year and a talented senior quarterback, I indicated I thought we had the tools to have a very good year, particularly with the difficult-but-doable schedule on our docket this year. Though it is hard to take measurements from a game against Murray State, what I saw Saturday did indicate to me that my thoughts have merit. Not only on the field, but off - the locker room scene giving the game ball to Josey showed me this team, at least at this point, has a morale that is high and I think that will make a difference as the season goes forward.
2. I'm saying 9-3. Related to thought #1, looking forward to the rest of the season, while I do think that it's quite reasonable to predict 6-6 or something near there, I actually do not think those predicting something like 9-3 or even 10-2 are that out of line. Frankly, with the possible exception of the game at Georgia, I do not think there is a game on this schedule we are definitely going to lose, and there is only one other -- the home game vs. South Carolina, who I am not nearly as high on as others -- that I think we are LIKELY to lose, and I could see that game falling too. On the flip side, we actually could also lose every other game (including Toledo and Arkansas State, who are decent teams in their leagues, see my note later on the Red Wolves), but we are highly likely to win against Toledo, Arkansas State, and at Kentucky. So, if you add those three to the win column and put UGA and USC in the loss column, you're sitting at 4-2 with 6 games that could go either way.
Of those 6, two -- Tennessee and at Indiana -- I think heavily lean our way though both will be quite difficult. That takes you to 6-2. I actually do think we pull the upset against Florida and we get revenge at Vanderbilt. That takes us to 8. On Ole Miss and A&M (by the way, I really hope A&M brings their band -- they didn't the last time they were in Columbia but did the time before, and it was excellent!), though my head says we lose both, my heart says we split them -- so for now I'm going to say we get the road win at Ole Miss but lose to A&M, and that would make us 9-3. Yes, 9-3.
3. Schedule notes. Some notes of interest on the schedule, in terms of where we'll find teams:
On Indiana -- though they crushed Indiana State, they gave up a ton of points and Indiana State is not North Dakota State. Between now and and when we play them on the 21st, they play Bowling Green (who crushed Tulsa, who was supposed to be decent) and Navy, who actually beat them last year. Those two games will give us a much better view of who they are. I also like the fact we have a week to prepare.
On the Vandy game -- while it is our league opener, Vandy will have two league losses at that point, unless they win at South Carolina, and presumably (if they beat Austin Peay, UMASS and UAB) 3-2 on the season, starting at games vs. Georgia, at Florida, and at A&M following the game vs. Mizzou. We can frankly end their season as it's hard to get to 6 without us. I think this is one of those games on that momentum matters -- if we take care of business in our first four, I see us on a high and going in there and getting a win. If we lose to Indiana, we could be as demoralized as they are, with both teams looking to save their season.
On Ole Miss, they amazingly have a SIX game stretch of games at home, of which we are the last. (A&M, LSU, Idaho, Arkansas and Troy come before us) The Egg Bowl is after us at Mississippi State.
On Tennessee, I think they have five losses by the time they play us -- at Oregon, at Alabama, at Florida, Georgia, South Carolina (good God!) and frankly I could see them losing this week to Western Kentucky.
4. The Hearnes Center game is a great idea. I'm probably looking forward to this game as much as any other on the schedule, and it's an exhibition. I have friends coming in that weekend and we're doing some carpooling on Saturday to the homecoming game, so I'm actually going to drive in for that game and drive back to KC, even though I'm coming right back again on Saturday morning. Though I do like Mizzou Arena, as it was very inexpensive and a very nice arena, I am actually one who thinks all the stadium building across the country is a bit excessive and not always necessary, and the Hearnes Center was a quality basketball facility. I liked the "inside" concourses (also something I like about Faurot). I liked the feeling of being on top of the action, even though it went high. I liked the easy access to the building from all sides. I liked the noise that place could generate. And, after we played our last game there in 04, that horrible loss to Kansas, I thought we'd never get to play there again, ever. So to get one trip down memory lane there is fantastic, and I highly credit Alden and company for putting it together.
5. On the football renovations, thumbs up. I loved the new hill. Classy looking. Didn't scream "excess" like many upgrades across the country and added flow and good sight lines for the folks sitting (and standing) there. Though I am skeptical of whether we'll ever consistently fill up our stadium when we finally expand to 80K with the south end zone, I give a cautious thumbs up to the east side expansion. It's "part of the deal" and will look nice -- I just hope that the upper deck is kept affordable, as I think a key component to getting that consistent crowd turnout is reasonable prices (note the 15K noshows at Florida this week) and I think it is important for the future health of our program to get a lot of fans at the low and middle income parts of the scale attending games. So here's hoping the east side second deck above the suites is at a reasonable price for fans.
Transitioning to college football as a whole...
6. Props to the FCS. While I understand not everyone follows college football as a whole, I do have to smile at those who always act like every FBS vs. FCS game should be a blow out. The fact is that the upper levels of FCS -- teams like North Dakota State and Eastern Washington (Top 4 teams) are excellent teams, and they beat legit FBS teams this weekend, on the road. Northern Iowa (who beat Iowa State) and Towson (who beat UCONN) are also Top 15 teams there. I was glad to see those results, as despite all the discussion (which in my view is largely silly and myopic in nature) about a new "4th division" of so-called haves, I actually want to see all of college football - including FCS and below -- succeed and elevate. So to see those teams do so was exciting to see and indeed a positive development.
7. I believe in Clemson. First of all, what a great game, which I watched much of due to its repeat on ESPN today. Two upper-echelon teams, wearing normal non-gimmicky uniforms and helmets, playing high quality college football with great players on both sides of the ball. I thought Clemson would beat Georgia and they did, and I think Clemson is a serious threat for the national title game and to actually win it, if they can get past Stanford and Ohio State, who are in front of them and could also run the table. Boyd is the real deal, of course, and I think has everything it takes to lead them the distance. While their overall schedule doesn't scream difficult, they do have games vs. Florida State and at South Carolina, which I think is sufficient argument should they end up 13-0.
8. There could be 6 undefeateds. Schedule matters, as we all know, and Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Louisville, Stanford, and Northern Illinois all have the type of schedule I think could lead to undefeated seasons. I do think if that occurred, it would be funny given it is the last year before a 4 team playoff. Which two would you leave out in that scenario? Surely Louisville (who has a nothing schedule but is legit Top 10 team in my view) and Northern Illinois, but would that spur the discussion of 8 teams even further, which I think is the best system of all?
9. Non-BCS Sleepers. If you're looking for teams from the "other four" (including the American among the six, since they're still BCS this year) to emerge this year as the "next Boise State", I think the best choices are Northern Illinois (still has a game at Purdue), Western Kentucky (plays at Tennessee this weekend), and Arkansas State (who plays at Auburn and at Missouri, of course). I enjoy watching football in those leagues and thankfully many of the games often appear mid-week on ESPN's networks, so take a look if you get a chance.
10. Boise/Mountain West. As for Boise State, their reign appears to ending, at least in the interim. Not to say one loss to Washington means it's over, but that's a game they win two seasons ago. I think they'll remain a quality team, but I think they'll far from own the Mountain West, which I actually think will be wide open this year. I'm not a Boise State hater or lover, but I think their time was good for college football and an example of why I oppose any move to separate FBS between two divisions. More on that in a future post.
That's it for this week!