It was a tough week for the team, but there is a lot to discuss, so I'll get right to it.
1. Is this rock bottom? I went to the game on Saturday with one of my best friends who is also a diehard fan of LSU, the SEC, and college football in general. We enjoy talking about the game a great deal. As we did so on Saturday, I opined how in my 23 years of attending Mizzou football games (missing only two in that span, and attending 26 away from Faurot), I had never felt this hopeless about a team's chances, game in and game out, as I do with this team. Not in 1995, not in 1999 or 2000, not in 2004, not in 2012, not in any of those seasons did I feel so pessimistic about a team going into any given Saturday as I do with the 2017 Missouri Tigers.
So yes, I would say this is rock bottom. Rock bottom is related to record but isn't solely dependent on it. You can have two teams finish 3-9 and feel okay about one and terrible about the other. I feel terrible about this team, whose ceiling seems like 3-9 at the moment.
2. Odom's rant didn't inspire confidence. My profession is politics - in essence, I'm a "coach" for politicians - and in order to be hired and retained by clients, I have to win games (elections). Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes things are beyond your control. Sometimes you get handed a mess and it takes a while to get out of the mess. But at no time should you regress or start ranting and raving in public. Never good. And that's how Odom seemed to me in his rant after the game. I appreciate his passion, I do, and a good rant at the media can be healthy. I actually think something like that can help a team wake up. But, in this case, I couldn't help but cringe. First, his comparisons to other Mizzou "builds" were not accurate in my view, and second, it just seemed slightly unhinged in a (pardon the second reference to politics) Howard Dean kind of way. Like, seriously, is this guy okay? I get it, I could not imagine the pressure and stress that a head coach faces. It just screamed "in over his head" and that concerns me, greatly.
3. The closest comparison to this disaster is 2000. If you're looking for comparisons to past years, the closest I can really come up with is 2000, Larry Smith's last year. The previous year we had sucked (check) and the recruiting cupboard was bare (check). I remember giving up 20 points to Western Illinois in the FCS game and thinking "this can't be good", and then the following week, kind of like we did against Purdue, we just got drubbed by Clemson. Almost every game that year was noncompetitive. Oddly enough, the time I realized that Coach Smith didn't have it in him anymore was the third week against Michigan State, where we were surprisingly close. It was in the 4th quarter, and with about 2 minutes to go, Mizzou faced a 4th down at midfield and in a bizarre decision I will never forget, Larry Smith opted to punt and the game was over. It was like "what in the world?" It was like he was giving up. Save a win against Oklahoma State and a road win against Baylor, who was terrible at the time, the season was bad. In the last game against K-State, who was ranked highly, we actually again played competitively all game, only to lose it in the end. Something tells me that may be the way this season plays out too -- we'll get a couple wins (Idaho, UCONN, maybe Tennessee who looks as hopeless as we do) along the way, and then in the Florida game or something, we'll play surprisingly competitively but we'll flame out and that will be that. And we'll move on.
4. Slow. It. Down! As for the on-field play, if there is one thing I could say as a casual observer it would be to stop with the hurry up. This team just does not seem well suited for it. The absurd false start penalties point to that for one, but so does the fact that the only way we're going to remain in games is by limiting the time our defense is on the field and to perhaps be a bit different. One way to be different would be to go back to the huddle, slow it down, and then work our tail off on simply executing the play. It just seems way too fast for me and it's clearly not working.
5. Rountree for Heisman. I am joking, of course, but the point of this post is to say "please play the new guys." Seriously, if you want to make this season interesting for us will-travel-2-hours-win-or-lose type fans, at least play younger players like Rountree and KEEP THEM IN THE GAME. Don't say afterwards something to the effect of "we hope to include him more in the future." Why not then when you're losing 28-7? Seriously. I don't get it.
Those are my Mizzou observations! As a fan of college football who is also a season ticket holder, I must say I'm really looking forward to September 30th as a day I can actually sit back and watch the game as a whole without having to go to Columbia. As much a I love it, the four weeks in a row of home games wears me out! So, with that in mind, here are some observations regarding college football as a whole...
6. Alabama really shines above everyone else. Clemson, Penn State, Oklahoma, etc., just seem a level below, at least for this week. Penn State barely beat Iowa. Oklahoma had issues with Baylor. Clemson had issues with Boston College til late. Yet Alabama crushes Vanderbilt who has shown dramatic improvement. That doesn't mean Alabama won't have it's tough week or two either, but it may be a year where the Tide rolls. This is certainly the case in the SEC as well, where the gap between the Tide and whoever is second (Georgia, I guess?) is vast.
7. Frank Wilson continues to impress. My choice for the next Mizzou football coach continued with his winning ways this week as the UTSA Roadrunners defeated Texas State 44-14. A sure sign of a good coach is someone who can, before his "own players" arrive, immediately turns a team in the positive direction. UTSA was 6-7 last year and is 3-0 this year. Gut feeling says this guy is going to be a stud HC for a long time, and if we can somehow move in on him now, we should. Would be far more exciting than a re-tread. My worry is that programs like Tennessee, Arkansas, etc, will also come calling, and there are only so many choices out there, but Wilson would be at the top of my list.
8. Early Forecasts. Like predicting the weather, predicting results in sports long term is a fruitless endeavor and I'm not doing particularly well in Pick Em this year. But, that's not going to stop me from offering some "gut level" predictions at this point in the season, so here are three for you:
- Minnesota wins the Big Ten West.
- There will be five new coaches in the SEC next year, at least.
- All but one team in the Playoff will have at least one loss.
9. It's the Golden Era for watching college football. It's amazing to me...I was driving back from CoMo with my friend and as he flipped between various games on his smart phone via the WatchESPN app, it occurred to me how quickly things have changed in terms of viewing the game. It was only 15 years ago that most of our home games were still at 1:00 p.m. because they weren't on TV at all. Now we're able to drive in the middle of nowhere, Missouri, and flip between various games anywhere in the country and watch them live - with good reception - on a miniature TV that doubles as a phone. And all you have to have is a subscription to a cable-like service. Every game from the national game on ABC to the FCS games are on espn3.com, as well. It really is amazing and you begin to wonder whether the NFL and other sports leagues would be wise to make all their games accessible that way as well for minimal extra cost or none at all. This might improve attendance, too, if you know you can watch other games via your phone while still attending your favorite team's game in person.
10. On Attendance. This is a topic in both professional and college sports and will continue to be in the coming years. I've addressed it a lot here as it's related to my concerns about the SEZ Project.. If I had one thing to offer, particularly in the era of suites and high-priced TV contracts, is that I would really encourage colleges particularly, but also professional teams, to dramatically lower the cost of attendance. I know that seems dramatic - but the best way to get people to be loyal to your team is to get them to be part of the atmosphere and then develop loyalty so they keep coming back. As I looked around me on Saturday, I was encouraged by some families attending and it occurred to me how that must be the focus going forward...and I'm pleased to see Sterk do some of this regarding the Tiger Town and other things. However, beyond outside-stadium gimmicks, the main thing I would stress is simply affordability. Let a whole family in for $40 and charge reasonable prices (like $2 a piece) for the most basic food items like hot dogs and sodas. Make it so dad or mom can withdraw $100 on Friday and that pays for the whole weekend, tickets and concessions included. The revenue generated from suites and TV contracts should allow teams to drop the price for bleachers and concessions so families can attend. We need to avoid making sports seem like the entertainment of the well-to-do.
That's it for this week!!