Missouri is in a very exclusive club right now. One it really doesn’t want to be in, actually.
The Tigers are one of only six teams from Power-5 conferences who have won three league games or fewer over the past two seasons. Missouri (3-13) and Oregon State (3-15) both have three conference wins over the past two years, Boston College (2-14) and Purdue (2-15) each have two, and Rutgers (1-16) and Kansas (1-17) each have one.
You, gentle reader, already know that Missouri has struggled in conference (and elsewhere) over the past two seasons. So why am I just rubbing it in?
Well, I’m not. I’m giving you a frame of reference for what I’m about to tell you and what it could mean for the 2017 Tigers.
Over the past decade (2007-16), 69 teams from Power-5 conferences have won three league games or fewer over separate two-year spans. Of those 69 teams, only 13 of them decreased their winning percentage the next season and only 17 failed to improve upon their two-year winning percentage.
So that’s the good news for Missouri. If recent history is any indication, the Tigers have about a 75-percent chance of winning two or more SEC games this year and only about a 25-percent chance of winning one or zero.
Here’s a bit of bad news, though, especially for fans expecting an immediate, dramatic turnaround. Only nine of those teams achieved a .500 or better record in the league the next season and only six claimed a winning record. So Missouri has about a 13-percent chance of going 4-4 or better in the SEC, and only about a 9-percent chance of going 5-3 or better.
The average win percentage improvement from those 69 teams from the two-year span to the next season was .158. So, if we take Missouri’s win percentage from the last two years (.188) and add on that .158, we’d maybe expect the Tigers’ SEC win percentage to be around .346 this year.
Or 2.77 wins. Would you take the Tigers at 3-5, (probably) 7-5 this year?
Here’s the complete rundown, with breakdowns for the three-, two-, one- and zero-win teams.
(As a special treat to you Missouri fans...you’re going to see a lot of Kansas in there. Like, a lot)
The three-win teams’ percentage change (.148) is a little under the average, which you would kind of expect given they’re the group among these teams with the most to lose and least to gain.
What you maybe wouldn’t expect, though, is the one-win teams have the biggest average improvement (.227). That is helped out tremendously by 2016 Colorado (1-17 to 8-1) and 2007 Illinois (1-15 to 6-2).
Those two, 2015 Arkansas, 2012 Vanderbilt, 2011 Virginia and 2008 Ole Miss were the high achievers of the group. So are there any commonalities with them?
Well, one, which might be a good sign for Missouri, is that half of the teams were from the SEC.
Two of the coaches — Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and Virginia’s Mike London — made the jump in their second years. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema and Illinois’ Ron Zook made it in their third years, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre in his fourth and Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt in his first.
Barry Odom’s entering his second season at Missouri, you know.
All but Virginia and Ole Miss had 1,000-yard rushers...like Damarea Crockett?
A bit of bad news, though: all but Illinois and Arkansas finished in the top 38 in yards allowed per game on defense and none finished below 58th (Arkansas). Colorado, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt all finished exactly 19th, as a matter of fact. Strangely enough.
So what do you say, Missouri fans? Wins over Missouri State, Purdue, Idaho, Connecticut...and South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas maybe?