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Barry Odom, the wartime coach

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Barry Odom still has a chance to salvage a successful season, but now he’s going to have to go about it the hard way.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Enough with the bellyaching.

It’s time for Mizzou fans to move forward. Last week was abysmal. I’ve made my thoughts on that known. So has, well, everyone else in the fanbase.

As much as it may not feel this way now, the season isn’t over. There’s still a lot left to play for.

And there’s still a heck of a lot for this coaching staff to prove.

There’s a saying in politics that there are presidents who thrive in times of war, and there are those who thrive in times of peace. It’s becoming clear to me that Barry Odom is a coach who thrives as a wartime coach. Get the generals ready, because it sure feels like a war is approaching.

Mizzou is entering a stretch that will define the season. It is still possible, however unlikely, that this team can put together what most of us will consider to be a successful season. Disappointing, sure. But still successful.

How successful completely depends on the way the Tigers play moving forward.

If I told you coming into the year that Mizzou finish the season with a 10-2, you would have signed up for it, right? Of course you would. Most of us would have signed up for 9-3, too.

The concern only started to creep into the back of our minds if they finished the year 8-4 or worse. That would have been a sign of stagnation at best, and regression at worst.

Let’s take a look at where the Tigers stand today.

Mizzou is 5-2 with five games to play. The remaining games are at Kentucky, at Georgia, home against Florida and Tennessee and on the road at Arkansas.

Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas are officially must-win games for this season to be considered a success. Given the loss at Vanderbilt, the Tigers also need to split the games against Georgia and Florida.

If that sounds like a tall task, that’s because it is.

It’s not going to be easy to take down one of the top 10 teams in the country. The Tigers haven’t done so since 2013. But that’s what happens when you lose the games you were supposed to win. Suddenly the path to a successful season becomes a lot more difficult.

That’s what makes this such a difficult pill for Mizzou fans to swallow.

Let’s say in a hypothetical world that Odom is able to right the ship and the Tigers finish the year 9-3. On one hand, that’s objectively a successful season. It meets the criteria we set out at the beginning of the season. On the other hand, it would be impossible to look at that 9-3 record without wondering what could have been if only they showed up in two gimme games against Vanderbilt and Wyoming.

It’s the same question we asked ourselves a year ago about the losses to Kentucky and South Carolina. It’s Deja Vu. And this isn’t a feeling any of us wanted to experience more than once.

And that’s where we stand. Rooting for a team we all believed to be talented with a coach we were all ready to believe in playing a schedule which set up in a way that would allow for us to dream big.

Those dreams have transitioned into nightmares for some of us.

But the season can still take a turn. It can still be a success. It won’t happen in the way we all expected.

To start down that path, Odom will have to do something he has yet to do as a head coach at Missouri: defeat Kentucky. He’ll have to do so on the road in a stadium Mizzou hasn’t won in since 2013.

It’s not going to be easy.

This is what true adversity looks like. A season is on the brink for a coach whose fanbase is ready to turn on. This might not be war time, but it’s getting pretty close. This is when Odom is supposed to thrive.

It’s still possible to get this thing back on track, but it needs to happen fast.