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Editorial Bored: Trying to find hope for the last four weeks

With the Tigers in the midst of their second bye week, we try to find some reasons for optimism heading into the home stretch of the season.

Missouri v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Welcome to Editorial Bored, a Rock M Nation roundtable getting you through the desert of the bye week by looking ahead to the rest of the Mizzou Football season.

There’s no other way to say it - barring another miraculous November run, this season looks to be a massive disappointment. We could spend all day diagnosing the Tigers’ issues, but give us one major factor that you think flipped this season.

Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: I think the single biggest factor the last two weeks has been the quarterback play. I don’t know what’s happened. Some of it is probably injury. Some of it is teams having more film of what Mizzou is doing with Kelly Bryant at QB. And it might be as simple as Bryant having a couple down games.

Regardless of the explanation, though, the QB play has to be better.

Nate Edwards, Staff Football Analyst/Editor: Receivers not being good as we thought they would be. Johnson and Albert O are proven entities at this point and Nance is a vet, but the sophomore crop of receivers have not lived up to the hype. The insistence on getting them involved has led to an inconsistent (at best) passing attack that has limited the Tigers’ ability to be effective on offense.

Ryan Herrera, Lead Football Beat Writer: The struggling offense. Through the first six games of the season, Missouri averaged about 39 points per game. Even in the Week 1 loss to Wyoming, the Tigers were still able to score 31 points. Missouri was 5-1 at the end of its five-game home stand, and the offense was looking like a well-oiled machine and provided a perfect balance to a surprisingly elite defense (just 16 points per game allowed).

Through the last two games, though, the offense has sputtered, essentially ending the team’s hopes at competing for the SEC East crown. The Tigers season points per game average has fallen to about 32 (scoring just 14 against Vanderbilt and seven against Kentucky), while the defense’s points per game allowed average has risen to 18. The offensive line hasn’t played nearly to the level it showed it could play against Ole Miss, which in turn has helped lead to drop in production from quarterback Kelly Bryant and the running back unit. If there’s one side of the ball that’s led to the downfall over the past couple of weeks, it’s got to be the collapse of the offense.

Missouri v Kentucky
Kelly Bryant has struggled mightily the past two weeks after putting together a strong early season stretch.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Let’s not be overly negative - there have been good things to take away from this season too. What are some of the positives you see from the Tigers?

Brandon Kiley: The defense is legitimately good! I know it didn’t feel that way against Kentucky, but that had as much to do with the offense as it did the defense. These last two games have reminded me of the 2015 season when Mizzou boasted one of the better defensive units in the country, but the offense was so poor that the levees were bound to break eventually. You can only ask your defense to go make a play so many times. At some point your offense needs to back them up.

Nate Edwards: The defense. My god, the defense is incredible. This is what we thought Barry Odom would provide from day one of his head coaching career. If the system is in place and they keep getting the right guys in there, this should be an excellent defense every year.

Ryan Herrera: The biggest positive has been Nick Bolton. He’s the one player on the team who’s been consistently great, and his numbers speak for themselves. A team-leading 73 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, four pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. If you just watch him play, you see how much he affects the game, how often he’s flying to the ball and disrupting opposing offenses. Losing Cale Garrett was a huge hit to the team, but seeing Bolton’s rise provides a lot of confidence in this defense moving forward.

Troy v Missouri
Nick Bolton has been more than capable of taking over for Cale Garrett, turning in a breakout season as a sophomore.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

As noted above, the season isn’t quite over yet. Missouri faces a tough road ahead, starting with games against Georgia and Florida. Do they have any hope of at least splitting those games to reclaim some dignity?

Brandon Kiley: It might be blind hope, but I do have some sort of hope that Mizzou can pull off the upset against Florida. It’s at home, Florida’s offense isn’t dominant and the Tigers will have an opportunity to take out some of their own frustrations.

It has the feel of a classic Mizzou win. The season is all but over, and just as fans are out the team finds a way to pull you back in for the next season. I don’t know how likely it is, but I wouldn’t surprised if this team is able to beat Florida.

Nate Edwards: Probably? Missouri always seems to have Florida’s number, no matter how each team’s respective season is going. Georgia plays a style that keeps opponents in the game, so if Missouri brings an A+ effort across the entire team, I suppose it’s possible to win. If they can tag one of these teams, I’m good with it, though I’d say Florida is the most likely victim.

Ryan Herrera: I don’t see them splitting those games. Missouri is playing its worst football at the moment, while Georgia and Florida are still top 10 teams in the nation. If there’s hope for the Tigers to split, though, it’s against the Gators. Missouri will visit Athens, Georgia, next week, and the team has pretty much proven it can’t win on the road. But the Tigers get Florida on Faurot Field, the place they’re 5-0 at this season. The Bulldogs are probably too tough a task to overcome, but having the Gators at home is when Missouri might have a chance.

Florida v South Carolina
The Gators are one of the best teams in the country, but Missouri could have a chance when they head back to Columbia.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Missouri currently sits at 5-3 with four games remaining - at Georgia, versus Florida, versus Tennessee, at Arkansas. What’s your updated record prediction?

Brandon Kiley: I started the season at 10-2. That’s out the window, obviously. My updated record prediction would be 7-5. I wouldn’t be stunned by 8-4. But I think 7-5 with losses against Georgia & Florida feels most likely at this point.

Nate Edwards: 7-5. Definitely a disappointing season but, hey, maybe one of those wins is a nice blue blood pelt to add to the wall.

Ryan Herrera: My updated record is 7-5. Missouri loses to Georgia and Florida but finishes out the year with wins over Tennessee and Arkansas. A far cry from the 10-2 record that I predicted, yes, but a bowl eligible record is at least respectable (though still disappointing at the same time).