On Friday, November 29, 2019, the Missouri Tigers will play the Arkansas Razorbacks at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Arkansas.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing and/or willfully forgetting this fact. In an alternate universe, such knowledge would have inspired something like excitement or nervousness in football fans across Missouri and Arkansas. In this universe, it’s more like indigestion.
In case you haven’t noticed — and if you’re reading this, you likely have, you poor bastard — neither Missouri or Arkansas are very good at this football game we all know and love. By SP+ rankings, Missouri stands amongst the nation’s Top 40 teams. However, the Tigers have lost their last five games by a combined 77 points. The Razorbacks, who do not rank amongst the nation’s Top 40 teams, have lost their last seven by a combined 189 points.
This is the part of the post where things could get tedious. We could talk, at length, about the reasons the Razorbacks are bad. Do we start with their porous run defense or their complete lack of competent quarterback play? Either way is just as nice! It’s all bad in Fayetteville! As for the Tigers, just look through our archives over the past six weeks. You’ll find enough material to make your head spin.
However, that would belabor the point. We know the Razorbacks are dreadful, and we know the Tigers are slightly less dreadful. What we don’t know is what comes after the dreadfulness comes to a merciful end.
There’s a middling-to-decent chance we’re seeing the last days of Barry Odom as the Missouri Tiger head coach. If you’d have told the Rock M masthead as much just a few weeks ago, you’d have been promptly scolded off the Slack channel. For the first time in his young career, Odom had led his team off to a fast start as opposed to a spring to the finish. The defense was finally looking like the promised units of a Barry Odom residency. The offense was full of up-and-coming playmakers. Then the rest of the season happened.
However, there’s nearly as good a chance that we’re due for yet another year of Barry Odom football. Missouri’s financial situation — a complicated brew of expensive buyouts, NCAA sanctions and debt — dictates that staying put may be the only feasible way forward. Odom may not be the preferred man for the job, but if Sterk can’t find anyone better, at least he knows where the floor is on this program.
Some will say it doesn’t matter — Odom had his best chance to make a statement and blew it. Others will point to ill-timed injuries or positive headway in local recruiting as reasons to ignore the 2019 season as an outlier. They’ll point to 2018, where Odom was a handful of plays away from nine or 10 wins.
Either way, it’s hard to fault either side. Barry Odom’s tenure at Missouri has been nothing if not baffling. It feels like the Midwest’s worst tango — two steps forward, one step to the side, two steps back, a weird spin and dip. The highest of highs are often followed by the lowest of lows, leaving the fans curious, dizzy and more than a little nauseous.
If you’re looking for clarity in Missouri’s final game of the 2019 season, though — barring a victory and reinstated bowl game, of course — you’d be wise to forget it. Missouri could very well muster the minimal mojo it takes to skewer Arky. But even if they did, would it really tell you anything you wanted to know about the Tigers in the first place?
In case you skipped to the end hoping for some grand kicker, let me remind you: Arkansas is bad, and should feel bad! Missouri shouldn’t be bad, but is, and should also feel bad. A win over the Razorbacks tells Missouri fans nothing they didn’t know already, much in the same way as watching a professional baseball player hit with a metal bat. Even a middle-schooler can hit it out of the park with that thing. Congrats.
Some Missouri fans may just be hoping for a loss, which would certainly tip the scales toward a speedy exit for Barry Odom. However, it doesn’t sound as if Missouri is a team that has quit. More than likely, Tiger fans will just have to sit through another gameday void of much meaning, hoping for a little more clarity in the days and weeks to follow.