Bill: So before we dive into the Florida game itself, let’s lay out the stakes: In your opinion, how many games does Barry Odom need to win in November to feel safe about his job status at the end of the Arkansas game?
Tramel: If it were up to me, Barry wouldn’t have to win another game to be back next year. Unfortunately, a majority of the fans and the AD don’t agree.
But to answer your question, in order to feel 100% safe, Mizzou needs to be 7-5 following the Arkansas game. That said, if Missouri is 5-7 with no bad losses, Odom could argue that the officials prevented them from their sixth win against Kentucky. The officials mishandling the last 45 seconds wasn’t the lone reason they lost, but it did take the final result out of their hands if that makes sense.
Bill: I don’t really think the bar is that high. He’s obviously safe at 6-6 or 7-5, and I’d be willing to bet that he’s about 95 percent safe at 5-7 too. As I’ve written a lot, you have to do something pretty special (and not in a good way) to get canned after two years, and improving from 4-8 to 5-7 in your second year isn’t ‘special’ enough in that regard.
It gets interesting to me at 4-8, however. From a pure, objective projections standpoint, a four-win season would be two or three wins below what was expected. My own projections set the bar around six or seven wins, and that was in an SEC East that was supposed to feature a bunch of improving teams.
As it turns out, however, Tennessee and Florida have completely bottomed out, Vanderbilt is worse, and both Kentucky and South Carolina are somewhere between the same and slightly worse. With this SEC East, I’m betting my projections would have seen something closer to eight wins or so. 4 = half of 8.
While the Wildcats and Gamecocks have taken advantage of this diluted field, however, Mizzou enters November in search of its first league win. If the Tigers don’t get at least a couple down the stretch, I think you can make a very solid case that Odom isn’t getting up to speed quickly enough and that Mizzou cannot waste time.
The other factor here, however, is the crowded coaching carousel. Florida is replacing Jim McElwain. Ole Miss is replacing Hugh Freeze. Tennessee will likely be in the market. Arkansas is probably leaning that way. With a couple more disappointing losses, so, too, could Texas A&M. Auburn maybe (they’re crazy).
Based on money, prestige, etc., Mizzou could be fifth or sixth on the coaching totem pole within its own conference. If Jim Sterk is on the fence, that could push him toward keeping Odom and maybe taking his chances with a better position next year.
Hopefully this all remains hypothetical, though. Hopefully, Mizzou beats Florida on its way to a 3-1 or 4-0 November against a bottoming-out field of teams.
What’s that going to take?
Tramel: With Florida’s bread and butter lying within its run game, it’s imperative that Missouri’s front four has the game of its life. Last week, versus Georgia’s stout run defense, the Gators racked up 183 yards. Now that quarterback Malik Zaire has been named starter, Missouri has another potent rusher to worry about.
Luckily, A.J. Logan’s return has allowed Missouri’s defensive line an opportunity to wreak more havoc. With Logan drawing double teams, Terry Beckner and Marcell Frazier can find themselves in more 1-on-1 situations.
Few men are able to block Beckner on their own. As a result, we’ve seen consecutive impressive performances by the junior defensive tackle. To be honest, the entire D-Line has experienced an increase in production since Logan’s return. To keep the winning streak alive, that production must continue.
Before you, and the 12 other people that read this, bring up the lesser opponents argument: It’s important to remember the Missouri State game. UConn and Idaho are both substantially better than the Bears, but against Missouri State, Missouri was unable to create any pressure. That is no longer the case.
Bill: It’s a step in the right direction, at least. We’ll learn pretty clearly how much of the recent production was due to the opponent and how much was on Mizzou.
Honestly, the most important thing in this game might be the first quarter. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Florida unleash a few new wrinkles to try to score some early points, perhaps enough to be able to lean on the run game and play the favorable game state. If the Gators are scoreless after one quarter, that could be a tremendous sign. Mizzou’s not going to score 50, but the Tigers should be able to score a decent amount unless they’re behind and rendered completely one-dimensional. Don’t allow an early lead, and things look good.
Alright, what’s your score prediction? I’m already on the record saying a blowout in either direction wouldn’t surprise me much. Do you see one or the other happening, or are you thinking nip-and-tuck throughout?
Tramel: The game will indeed be decided by how the first quarter plays out. Missouri’s offense is all about rhythm and flow, so if the Gators are able to limit Missouri early they’ll win 27-16.
Unfortunately for Florida, that won’t be the case. Zaire will bring a nice spark, but his carelessness with the ball will ultimately end multiple promising drives for the Gators. Drew Lock won’t be amazing, but he will be good enough to win. For better or worse, Larry Rountree III will be the difference maker.
Barry Odom will keep the Tigers’ Wins Wagon rolling towards bowl eligibility, as Missouri wins 33-21.
Bill: Man, get out of my head. A ~12-point win feels right either way, though I figure the Florida win would be a little more low-scoring — something in the neighborhood of 21-9 or 23-10 or something. Regardless, those early possessions will be quite telling.
For everything that has gone wrong in recruiting of late, and for how awful September was on the field, Barry Odom and this program have been gifted one hell of a lifeline. We’ll see if he takes advantage.
Florida by 12.
See what I did there?