Earlier today, those of us on SB Nation’s college football team unveiled a massive look back at the 2007 season as it approaches its 10th anniversary. It was maybe the sport’s craziest ever season, and Missouri figured prominently in it. One of my contributions to the package: a look back at MU-KU with Todd Reesing and Chase Daniel. Please check it out and click around a while.
In the run-up to the 2017 season, I thought it would be fun to walk through the season, game by game. Consider this Part 1 of, oh, 15 or so.
Expectations were high for Missouri heading into 2007, but that’s basically the same as saying there were expectations at all. Picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 North in 2006, the Tigers had instead gone 8-5 thanks to new QB Chase Daniel and some exciting young pieces. In 2007, the Tigers boasted more upside and experience than they had at any point to date under Gary Pinkel.
There was a little bit of dread mixed in with the enthusiasm, though. For all the gains Missouri had made under Pinkel, the Tigers had always managed to leave a few points and wins on the table. From a post I wrote at my pre-RMN home:
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. [...]
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.
I’d like to say that all my old posts were as prescient as that one, but that perhaps wasn’t the case. Regardless, this one was pretty good. Mizzou needed to win big and entered the season a 4.5-point favorite over Illinois. And hoo boy, was it a chore even getting to just 1-0.
To be continued.