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Missouri’s latest loss sends the program into a crossroads with Barry Odom

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One way or another Jim Sterk has to make some decisions.

Tennessee v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

So it looks like Barry Odom might be coaching for his job next week. The now annual Battle Line trophy game carries a lot more weight than we figured it would six weeks ago, but here we are.

It’s unfortunate how this has played out, in a nearly excruciating way. Missouri fans were mostly hopeful coming into the season. The Tigers were picked 3rd in the SEC East and at the time it felt like the season held the possibility of something better. A consistent defense, coupled with a (hopefully) more balanced offense could lead the Tigers to an upset, maybe two, and they’d be in business.

Despite the Wyoming loss, things were still mostly on course after the Ole Miss game. The Tigers were sitting at 5-1 and had two games ahead of them which should have notched them wins number 6 and 7.

That never happened. After losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the season was officially in trouble. Pin whatever you want on the loss of senior leader and middle linebacker Cale Garrett. We can bring up the injuries to Kelly Bryant causing his level of play to drop. The surprisingly inconsistent play from Albert Okwuegbunam, and the unsteady running attack and ineffectiveness from Larry Rountree III, who fought through a toe injury. A struggling offensive line couldn’t seem to get things right and create holes for runners or time for the quarterback.

Still, there was enough reason to think if Missouri got through the gauntlet of Georgia and Florida, there was time to recover against Tennessee and Arkansas. But the Vols had a good defense and dangerous passing attack, and Missouri very quickly found itself down its two starting cornerbacks. All season, the defense has struggled to generate pressure on the quarterback — and when it does happen it comes from the inside — putting even more pressure on the banged up secondary to hold the dam. Against the Vols, the dam broke to the tune of 415 passing yards.

Depth is a tricky thing, especially when you don’t have it. An injury at the wrong position, or maybe two in Missouri’s case, can apparently tank the season in a really unexpected way. When Garrett got hurt we asked how good would the defense be without him? It turns out, still pretty good. But not special.

With the Tiger offense largely devoid of playmakers on the outside, a hobbled quarterback — without his usual burst or ability to extend plays — was rendered ineffective. The offensive issues were masked early by defensive scores, but there was still reason to think the dual threat of Bryant could keep them above water even as the schedule ticked up. But a hamstring injury followed a knee injury, which then threw all of that out the window.

So here we sit with perhaps the most disappointing season in recent memory. Missouri is 5-6 and hoping to beat a 2-9 Arkansas team to become bowl eligible (NCAA appeal still pending). Missouri looks like a wreck on both sides of the ball, but still probably less of a wreck than where the Razorbacks are currently.

All of these things fall at the feet of the head coach. He’s the CEO of the program and responsible for filling out the roster with everything Missouri is currently missing. Barry Odom likely has one more game to hang onto his job and that may not be enough. I don’t know what Jim Sterk is thinking, but it’s hard to imagine just six weeks ago this thing torpedoing as fast as it did. But it did, and we’re where we are. I see reasons for keeping Barry Odom around and giving him the opportunity to fix what was missing this year. And I see reasons to think it won’t happen and moving on might be your best bet.

But a quick note on the reality: Missouri doesn’t have the deep pockets associated with its program to find and pay for a top-level SEC coach. Furthermore, they don’t structure contracts in ways that are agreeable to coaches. It’s why you see middling to bad SEC coaches like Chad Morris or Will Muschamp sitting on enormous buyouts. Coaches want security, and the job at Missouri doesn’t provide a lot of it. Cuonzo Martin had a historic clause in his contract which prevented him from being fired without cause after he made the first NCAA tournament for another four years. The best case scenario for Missouri is Odom figuring it out, because he knows what the lay of the land is.

Maybe he isn’t the guy who gets it done. Then again, maybe he is? History is long with coaches who struggled early and ended up figuring it out. It’s also long on firing coaches quickly and ending up with a mediocre-to-poor hire who ends up being fired again after 3 or 4 years.

Missouri is at a serious cross roads, and no matter what happens, there’s a lot of risk moving forward.

Here’s the box:

statbroadcast 2019 tennessee
statbroadcast 2019 tennessee

Other SEC Scores:

  • Vanderbilt 38, East Tennessee 0
  • Kentucky 50, UT-Martin 7
  • Auburn 52, Samford 0
  • Alabama 66, Western Carolina 3
  • Georgia 19, Texas A&M 13
  • LSU 56, Arkansas 20
  • Mississippi State 45, Abilene Christian 7

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