“Show me” it’s the state motto of Missouri and it’s become Mizzou football’s slogan— branded onto all sorts of merchandise, used in their recruiting pitches, and apparently what ESPN is saying to Barry Odom’s Tigers during the preseason.
After consecutive seasons without a bowl game, any momentum from Missouri’s SEC Championship Game appearances in 2013 and 2014, has apparently run out.
ESPN’s Football Power Index’s ranks the Missouri Tigers 41st and favored to win in just 5 games. Those pre-season predictions are: Missouri State (98.3%), Idaho (94.8%), Purdue (89.9%), Connecticut (88.6%) and South Carolina (52.4%).
ESPN says Missouri is favored to lose seven games, those games in order are: Vanderbilt (46.0%), Kentucky (39.4%), Arkansas (37.8%), Tennessee (35.7%), Florida (33.6%), Auburn (17.3%), and Georgia (16.9%).
I have screenshot it for posterity.
Breaking that down further, ESPN is pretty confident Missouri will reach at least four wins by beating Missouri State, Idaho, Purdue and Connecticut and pretty certain the Tigers will lose against Auburn and Georgia. That leaves six games somewhat up for grabs, all against SEC competition.
It might be tempting to write off ESPN’s FPI as fake math their analysts use for confirmation bias, but it’s been a fairly accurate predictor. Last year it predicted Missouri to win 5 games and they won 4 (an understandable miss given several significant injuries).
Some might suggest using other advanced statistical methods, like Bill Connelly’s, but the fact remains ESPN’s reach is far greater and thus FPI shapes public perception to a significant degree. While there have been a lot of whispers about Missouri’s 2017 season, the fact remains that from a national perspective, the Tigers are currently a team on the outside looking in.
For Missouri to get back to a bowl game in Barry Odom’s second season, they will have to exceed expectations.
How many games will Mizzou Football win in 2017?
This poll is closed
CFB’s Ten Playoff Commandments?
On the subject of Missouri’s 2017 schedule: I came across an article called Anatomy of a CFB playoff schedule, where the author posits ten unofficial guidelines to “scheduling your way to a CFB Playoff berth.”.
Even though these may not be etched in stone, I’m going to call them “CFB’s Ten Playoff Commandments”. With all the whispers about 2017 being Mizzou’s year, let’s see how they compare to Missouri’s 2017 schedule.
I. You MUST schedule a Power school out of conference play.
Is Purdue a Power school? They are in the Big Ten, a Power 5 conference, but I don’t think anyone would call them a “Power school”. According to the author this, is one of two absolute requirements for a team to make the playoffs.
The Tigers stumble out of the gate, but keep reading there may be hope.
II. Schedule your bye week for Week 6 or later.
Missouri’s bye comes in week 5 —between a home stand with Auburn and a road trip to Kentucky. Normally having a bye before a team’s first road game might be considered a plus, but the following week the Tigers play at Georgia, a team ESPN’s FPI gives Mizzou the lowest chance to win. I’m sure the extra preparation would be more appreciated there.
Granted it’s a small sample size, but the only teams that didn’t meet this guideline were Ohio State in 2016 (bye week: 4), Clemson in 2015 (bye week 4) and Oklahoma in 2015 (bye week 3).
It’s possible that having a bye a week or two early is acceptable. Let’s call this one a maybe.
III. Schedule no more than two road games in a row.
No three game road trip, mission accomplished! There are two back-to-back road games scheduled this fall: Kentucky and Georgia after a bye then Vanderbilt and Arkansas to end the season.
In fact, the Tigers have not scheduled three road games this millennium. A cursory search couldn’t turn up a schedule that did have such a scheduling quirk.
In 2016, Missouri’s losing streak started after two blowout road losses to LSU and Florida—the only consecutive road games on last year’s schedule. In 2015, Missouri again only had one road back-to-back on the schedule—narrow defeats to Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Commandment-wise, this looks favorable for Missouri, but how they handle two such events on the schedule will be critical.
IV. Schedule at least three consecutive home games.
Not only did Missouri schedule three consecutive home games—they scheduled four! Michigan State had a similar setup on their way to a playoff bid in 2015, beating #7 Oregon, Air Force, Central Michigan and then Purdue at home (they continued their streak with wins over Rutgers, #12 Michigan and Indiana).
Back in 2013, one of our commenters took a look at how important starting 3-0 was for Missouri. In summary, it’s pretty good.
This should be a strong boost for Missouri’s playoff chances.
V. There is no need to double-up on non-conference power opponents.
No offense Connecticut but no worries here.
VI. Scheduling an FCS team isn’t a big deal.
Despite annual complaints to this effect, it doesn’t matter that Missouri gets to tune up against an FCS foe because everyone does it. Neat! Let’s play Missouri State every year. (Also, luckily Idaho remains FBS until the end of 2017.)
VII. Schedule at least seven games at home.
Unlike in 2015 and 2011 when they technically only played 6, with one neutral game in Kansas City, Mizzou’s 2017 home slate consists of: Missouri State, South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Idaho, Florida and Tennessee.
VIII. Schedule a non-conference power opponent that has a good chance of being ranked.
Counting on Purdue to bolster Missouri’s schedule doesn’t seem likely. I realize this is likely the last remnants of the switch to the SEC and the wrench that move threw into scheduling but dammit, things were going so well.
Missouri takes another demerit for scheduling Purdue.
IX. Schedule a school from any Power conference with the exception of the ACC
Again, no worries here. I don’t think Missouri is ready to pair an ACC opponent with their conference schedule, even if it’s primarily SEC East teams. Maybe Wake Forest?
X. Unless you’re Alabama, schedule 10 Power opponents in the regular season.
The more Power opponents a team plays (and beats), the better it appears in the eyes of the playoff committee—and there’s no conference better for that than the SEC.
Missouri plays eight conference games and the required one non-conference Power team as part of the SEC’s scheduling requirements. Contending for the college football playoffs will mean going through the conference championship game, giving any SEC team their tenth Power opponent.
The final tally sits at:
Favoring Mizzou: 6 - Not favoring Mizzou: 2 (thanks Purdue) - Maybe: 1
Fans know well how close that 2013 team was to appearing in the National Championship game instead of Auburn. It remains to be seen if Missouri’s scheduling philosophy changes under new athletic director Jim Sterk but there’s already precedent to stand pat.
For Missouri, bowl eligibility should be a matter of healthy pride. If the “Show Me” mentality is to be taken seriously, six wins can only be the Mizzou’s floor.
If Mizzou’s aim is to win a national championship, it comes down to, “Can the Tigers overcome a weak non-conference schedule with an undefeated run through the SEC?”