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Pregamin’ Kentucky

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TIME TO CHUG SOME BOURBON AND HOPE FOR THE BEST... WE’RE PREGAMIN’ KENTUCKY STYLE

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Week 9 everyone. Missouri is looking to recover from a abysmal loss to Vanderbilt by, uh, you know! Going back out on the road!

Should be fun!!!

Pregamin’ Scoreboard

Writer Wins
Writer Wins
Ryan Herrera 3
Mitch Hill 3
Ryan Faller 1
Sean MacKinnon 1
Tim Bussen 0
Nate Edwards 0
Brandon Kiley 0
Josh Matejka 0

No changes in the Pregamin’ scoreboard this week. You may be wondering why that’s the case. The reasons are two-fold.

  1. Last week’s panel — myself, Tim Bussen and Mitch Hill — were all woefully off in our predictions, but we all ended up around the same place. Given how awful our predictions were, it seemed fitting to scrub the deck and get three new voices in.
  2. Last week was an abomination all around, so why not just start fresh?

Now that I think of it, those are really more like 1a and 1b, but no matter. Just so you know that three different mastheaders will be going at it this week.

NOW FIND YOUR BEST BOURBON, POUR YOURSELF A FEW FINGERS AND GET TO DRINKIN’ BECAUSE WE’RE HEADED TO KENTUCKY!

Some Narrative Redirection

The m.o. of Mizzou Football under Barry Odom has often been about family and sticking together when things are hard. No better time to reinforce that message, I suppose.

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

I have to say... I’m not crazy about this look. It feels like good ingredients mixed in a way that doesn’t work. White jerseys? Great! Gold pants? Excellent. All-black helmet with Block M? Yes, please!

But all together? I don’t know... it feels like a let down after last week’s beautiful (if somewhat spoiled) duds. (editor’s note- last week’s duds should be burned)

Gaze Into My Crystal Ball...

Talk about being blindsided. Missouri certainly had its flaws, but I don’t think anyone outside of the surliest pessimist saw last week coming. Now that we’ve had a few days to digest the loss, were there any warning signs you could think of that might have tipped us off?

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: I would say that there were plenty of warning signs, frankly. The season-opener against Wyoming. Barry Odom’s previous history of letdown games. His history on the road. Mizzou being Mizzou. We were always waiting for that game, right? I mean, that game is why it took so long for fans to truly get on board to begin with.

Now, it would have been impossible to truly foresee that particular game being the one when it all comes crumbling down. But that’s how life is as a Mizzou fan. That’s what we signed up for. Just when you think nothing will go wrong, the rug gets pulled out from underneath you.

Ryan Herrera, Football Beat Writer: I don’t think there were really any warning signs prior to that game. Missouri had just come off probably its best game of the year against Ole Miss. The only area of struggle we might’ve seen coming was kicking, as Tucker McCann was already showing consistency issues heading into the Vanderbilt game. Those struggles continued with him missing three field goals against the Commodores (though only two were official due to a roughing the kicker penalty). So, though I do think the Tigers overlooked their opponents too much, I wouldn’t say there were warning signs from any of the previous few weeks that foreshadowed Missouri’s collapse.

Ryan Faller, Columnist: Nope, no warning signs here. In fact, I was telling Nate on the BTBS podcast a few days earlier that I thought Mizzou could beat Vandy with its B or C game. I still believe that, but Mizzou brought its D- game last weekend. Apparently, that wasn’t nearly enough.

Nate and I also talked about what game within the second third of the schedule could potentially be that annoyingly ugly and frustrating loss. I was emphatic that if it were to happen, it’d be the Kentucky game. Joke’s on me. But I guess that means they’ll win by 30 on Saturday. (editor’s note: I sure hope so)

Like it or not, Barry Odom’s reputation as a coach under fire has been well-earned. Does his track record of motivating downtrodden teams give you any confidence moving forward?

Brandon Kiley: Of course. Listen, there are certain things that are unequivocal with Odom. He has a proven track record at this point of his teams bouncing back when it feels like their backs are pushed up against the wall. He also has a proven track record of having letdown games at inopportune times.

Last week was the latter. I expect this week to be an example of the former. Mizzou will play with energy and passion we didn’t see a week ago. Odom said on his coaches show that he didn’t believe the Tigers lacked energy against Vandy. I don’t know how anyone could have that opinion. The Tigers lacked any sort of juice in that game. They looked like a team surprised that the opponent came to play, and when they did, Mizzou never had a response.

I say all of that to say this: I fully expect a response from Mizzou this week. I would be more surprised if they don’t respond this week than I was that they laid an egg a week ago.

Ryan Herrera: We’ve actually seen Barry Odom’s teams bounce back relatively well after tough losses, at least over the past couple of seasons. After losing to Wyoming to open this season, Missouri came back out and took care of five straight opponents pretty handily. Looking back at last season’s heartbreaking loss to Kentucky, Odom was able to rally the troops and knock off a high-powered Florida team in Gainesville. And though 2017 featured a string of bad losses in the first half of the season that dropped the Tigers to 1-5, Odom got his players back on their feet and they went on to sweep the rest of their regular season games (albeit against easier competition down the stretch). We know Odom will do a good job getting this team to shake off last week’s loss, but can he help his team figure out how to win on the road? That might be where I lack confidence in Odom at the moment.

Ryan Faller: I’m not sure what to make of this trend that seems to pick up steam and legitimacy every season. It’s mind-boggling, and it’s also maddening as hell. And the thing is, the only thing more inexplicable than these random, ugly losses to seemingly inferior teams is the way in which Odom pulls his team off the deck.

This season, we sort of got the strong start that has eluded Odom in his tenure, but we’ve also been subjected to these losses that make you want to dropkick your TV. I think I speak for the entire fanbase when I that if we can sidestep the bad losses, we’ll take our chances the rest of the way.

In this case, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Odom rallies the team to an impressive win Saturday to spark another late-season surge. Whether that’s me just being a cockeyed optimist or logical based on past events, I don’t even know anymore.

Kentucky isn’t great... but we’ve seen how Missouri plays against not great teams on the road. What are two big things the Tigers need to clean up to get their first road win on the year?

Brandon Kiley: For one, they have to figure out how to limit the quarterback run game. I don’t know if that’s a scheme thing or what. But running quarterbacks have been a consistent problem for Mizzou over the years. So, that’s a good place to start given the fact that Kentucky’s starting quarterback was a wide receiver by trade.

Another thing they need to do is get Larry Rountree going again. He’s had a really uneven season. Some of that is on him, some of it is on the offensive line, some of it is a credit to the defenses he’s gone up against. Regardless of the blame, Rountree is an important figure in this offense who needs to get going and this is an opponent he should be able to take advantage of. Kentucky has allowed at least five yards per carry and multiple rushing touchdowns in every conference game this season. The only Power 5 teams that allow a higher yards per carry average on the season than Kentucky are Vandy (ugh) and Kansas State. This should be a get right game for Rountree.

Ryan Herrera: The two biggest areas of improvement need to be on the offensive line and on special teams. The offensive line just about had its worst performance of the season against Vanderbilt. They continuously allowed pressure from a team that didn’t go into that game with an imposing pass rush, and they failed to open holes for the tailbacks to run through. This offense will only go as far as the line will take it, so the five up front need to play near the level they played at against Ole Miss for the Tigers to pick up their first road win.

And then there’s the special teams, where Missouri just needs improvement all around. First, the punt return unit needs to figure out how to pick up yards. The unit hasn’t been the same without Richaud Floyd, who went down with a hamstring injury against Troy. In the two games since, Johnathon Johnson has muffed a punt that led to a Rebels touchdown, and Cade Musser has racked up a grand total of 16 yards on four punt returns. The offense didn’t show much of an ability to move the ball against the Commodores, but it certainly didn’t help that the Tigers couldn’t get Bryant and Co. good field position.

Also, considering Missouri lost to Vanderbilt by just seven points, McCann’s missed field goals were beyond crucial. Even the two field goal attempts that counted would’ve brought Missouri within a point had McCann made them, and the offense would’ve only had to shoot for field goal range instead of the end zone on its last possession. And McCann’s shank that didn’t end up counting would’ve been an extra three points, putting Missouri up two and giving the defense the opportunity to make stops with the lead instead of trailing on Vanderbilt’s last possession. McCann has been tremendous punting the ball, yes, but his main job for years has been kicking field goals, and he needs to be consistent in that area.

Ryan Faller: Stop being stupid. Don’t get targeting penalties, stop jumping offsides when your nose is six inches away from the football, don’t be lazy with your feet and hold people, etc. Penalties are going to happen, but last week was horrendous. Limit the penalties. That’s one. (yikes)

Two, the offense needs to wake the hell up and show some life. Last week was sad. Uninspired, lethargic, uninterested are probably underestimating how the offense looked at Vandy. The O needs to punch Kentucky in the mouth early and often, and that starts with the line, which I think we can all agree has been a major disappointment.

And where are the receivers? Surely, Vandy’s DBs aren’t all Deion Sanders.

PICK ‘EM! Over/under (45.5), score and MVP.

Brandon Kiley: I’ll take Mizzou to win by a final score of 27-23. So that goes over the point total for this week. For my MVP, I’m going with the boring pick of Kelly Bryant. If the Tigers are going to win this game, he’s going to need to make some plays. I suspect he’ll be up to the task after a disappointing performance last week.

Ryan Herrera: I’m predicting the under, a 27-13 Missouri win and Larry Rountree III picks up the game’s MVP.

Ryan Faller: I have the same feeling now I had the week leading up to the Florida win last season. And that’s good.

Over. Mizzou, 38-16. MVP: Rountree (put this game on your shoulders, young man)