Before the season, Missouri going 3-3 over its first six games seemed like a realistic scenario.
Most common to those expectations, however were two things. Either Missouri would go 1-2 over the Georgia-South Carolina-Alabama stretch yet drop a non-conference game, most likely to Purdue. Or, Missouri would start 3-0 and then go 0-3 over its toughest stretch of SEC games.
The latter happened. In early August, this didn’t seem out of the question. In fact, it seemed like the most probable outcome, based on the opponents and what we saw out of Missouri last year.
So why does it feel worse?
It feels worse because one of those three wins was an ugly shootout with Purdue. It feels worse because one of those losses was an ugly, sloppy gave-the-game-away defeat to South Carolina.
But nothing that happened against Georgia or Alabama was surprising. Even the most optimistic view of the season had those two as losses. Yeah, the Purdue game could have been a loss. The South Carolina game, by the same logic, could have been a win.
What I’m getting at is this — much like last year, Missouri’s 2018 season is going to be judged by its second half. The difference is that grading rubric wasn’t known before the season; it became a necessity because of how poorly Missouri played to start the season.
We knew this season would come down to the second half going into the UT-Martin game. Missouri could be 4-2 right now; it could be 2-4. Instead, it’s 3-3. Pretty much right where we’d thought they’d be.
This second half will be more challenging. It starts with Memphis, which is 3-3 yet has an explosive, balanced offense. Those Tigers rank seventh nationally in total yards and have a quarterback (Brady White) averaging 9.5 yards per attempt and a running back (Darrell Henderson) that’s averaging even more yards per rush (10.3! On 110 carries! He’s the nation’s only thousand-yard rusher).
Missouri actually has a better-than 50-percent chance to win in five of its final six games, per ESPN. But still, there’s no Idaho or UConn waiting for Barry Odom and Drew Lock and Missouri. No team has quit on their season. No coaches are on the hot seat.
After the 39-10 loss to Alabama, Larry Rountree told reporters that “We don’t need to be talking anymore.”
He’s right. The time for talking is over. It’s proving season. If Missouri is going to take any big, tangible step forward under Odom, it starts this week. It continues for the five subsequent weeks.
Time to earn it.