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Missouri is 8-4. Does it matter how it got there?

The route wasn’t always pretty, but Missouri got to eight wins — a rare mark in program history.

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Arkansas v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Four months ago, Missouri’s win total for the 2018 season opened in Vegas at 7.5. It eventually closed at 7.

If you bet the over, congratulations. Pick up your money. Missouri won its eighth game in the regular-season finale, throttling Arkansas 38-0 on Friday. It’s a surprisingly rare feat in Columbia:

While it’s rare historically, it’s not rare recently. Missouri won eight regular-season games seven times from 2006-2014, missing the mark in 2011 (still got to eight wins with a bowl game) and 2012. It’s proven that eight wins can be the rule at Missouri, rather than the exception.

Missouri got to that baseline this season. It beat Vegas. Does it matter what happened along the way?

Let’s look at two similar seasons in recent Missouri history.

(Note: Yes, I realize that the quarterbacks for these seasons were returning the following year; this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.)

Twelve years ago, Chase Daniel — in his first year as a starter — led Missouri to an 8-4 regular season. It was the inverse of a Barry Odom season: Missouri started 6-0, was ranked as high as 19th, and then collapsed down the stretch, going 2-4 to finish the season (and losing the Sun Bowl, featuring Rihanna as the halftime performer).

That’s remembered as a building-block year. A stepping-stone year. The specifics of how Missouri got to eight wins that year are largely ignored. What happened next overshadowed that.

Nine years ago, Blaine Gabbert — in his first year as a starter — led Missouri to an 8-4 regular season. This is probably the more apt doppelganger, because Missouri had two wins that could have gone either way (Bowling Green, Kansas), one befuddling loss (Baylor, starring Nick Florence at QB) and a measuring-stick loss (that Thursday night Nebraska game in the Great Deluge of ‘09). That team also lost the bowl game, a complete no-show against Navy.

Did it matter, in either of those years, how Missouri got to eight wins? Does anyone talk about the games that Missouri won — the ones just as easily could have gone the other way? No. We still focus on Baylor or Nebraska in 2009, or Texas A&M in 2006.

It’s real easy to get caught up moment-to-moment during the season. The fans, the media, everyone. Yeah, Missouri COULD have been 10-2 this year. It also COULD have been 6-6, with losses to Purdue and Vanderbilt.

Instead, Missouri won eight games. It won eight games with one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. Next year, Missouri has to replace its star quarterback — but it also has a much easier schedule (looking at it ten months out, anyway).

Don’t get caught up in the journey. Look at the destination. Missouri had a reset year. It got back to baseline. It provided some much needed stability and certainty — Barry Odom will be extended. No more hot-seat talk for the foreseeable future.

What’s next?

Go out and win a ninth.

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