Welcome to Editorial Bored, a weekly Rock M Nation roundtable getting you through the desert of summer by looking ahead to the coming year in Mizzou Sports.
The offseason is more than halfway finished, and Missouri’s roster — along with their opponents — is set. Given what we know about the Tigers and the rest of the conference, give us your general impressions on the 2019 schedule.
Pete Scantlebury, Football Editor: It probably sets up as well for Missouri as any year since 2013. There’s a decent-but-not-daunting non-conference schedule, manageable cross-division opponents (Ole Miss, again, and Arkansas), and then the toughest divisional games are mainly at home, save for Georgia and Kentucky. Baseline, this sets up for an eight-win regular season, but really, the goal has to be double-digit wins in the first 12 games. Missouri goes a month and a half without a road game (8/31 at Wyoming and then 10/19 at Vanderbilt); it very well could be 6-0 before it has to head to Nashville. Very few of these games are gimmes, but Missouri — at least at this point — should be favored in its first seven games to start.
Mitch Hill, Podcast Producer and Editor: Plenty of people have said it, but the schedule really does set up favorably for Mizzou. You other SEC West Opponent is Ole Miss and that is at home, which always helps. West Virginia is your bigger Non-Conference match up and they have a new coach, a new quarterback, and question marks on their defense as well. You do not have to play the traditional powers in Alabama, LSU, or Auburn this year. Your most difficult opponent is Georgia and we know they have quarterback that will more than likely be selected in the Top 10 in the NFL Draft after this season. All in all, my general feel on this schedule is a lot of optimism. You are returning a ton of talent, Kelly Bryant will add a new dimension to the offense, and the young players you have seen promise from are a year older.
Josh Matejka, Editor: The optimist sports fan in me — recently revived by the STANLEY CUP CHAMPION ST. LOUIS BLUES — says this is a schedule that screams opportunity for Barry Odom’s team. Obviously they get six of their first seven games at home, and even the road matchup is against Wyoming, who is projected at 92nd in the S&P+ preseason rankings. But even when they go on the road, the Tigers get a nice progression from Vanderbilt (not great) to Kentucky (better, but beatable) to Georgia (very tough), and should be able to build on each performance, especially with a few wins mixed in. After that stretch, you get a nice little recovery patch at the end, with a home date with Florida and should-be-wins against Tennessee and Arkansas. There are at least 8 must-wins and potentially 12 can-wins with the way the schedule shakes out.
One thing to remember though — and this is the pessimist coming up for air — is that this schedule could also become a slippery slope into disappointment. Say Missouri drops two games in the early going. All of the sudden, those should-wins become please-god-we-have-to-have-this wins. A schedule like this comes with high expectations, which means disappointments will leave little margin for error.
The schedule would appear mostly favorable for the Tigers this year, but the SEC always provides some challenges. Name one or two match-ups that could be potentially troublesome for Mizzou.
Pete: Kentucky and South Carolina. Let’s just stick with those two until Missouri proves it can beat them — and recent history hasn’t been kind to the Tigers with these two opponents.
However, I’ll go one step further and say that the Ole Miss game, while presenting a manageable opponent, strikes me as troublesome. We all know the kind of offense Matt Luke runs in Oxford, and those type of HUNH spread offenses have not been kind to Missouri under Barry Odom. By the time these two teams meet, if Ole Miss has a competent replacement for Jordan Ta’amu, that could be a difficult one for the Tigers.
Mitch: Georgia at Georgia will never not be troublesome. Like I said above, Georgia is a very good football team, and they have a ton of talent on top of being very well coached by Kirby Smart. Athens is a difficult place to play and if Mizzou is rolling, that game (without looking at other schedules) could very well be in prime time, which adds a little extra juice to everything. South Carolina is also another one just because for whatever reason, the battle of the Columbias is always a tight one. Mizzou is looking to get revenge for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory last year so they should come out on top, but I do have my eye on it.
Josh: The first obvious contender is South Carolina. Missouri, for whatever reason, has been snakebit against the Gamecocks for the past few years, with several of those losses looming large in the, “What if,” database of our collective consciousness. What if Andrew Baggett makes that field goal? What if Damarea Crockett’s long touchdown is upheld? What if a monsoon doesn’t hit in JUST THE THIRD DAMN QUARTER?!?! South Carolina will be good again this year, but like years past, the Tigers should have enough talent to come away with a win. Obviously, though, that’s easier said than done against the pests out of the lesser Columbia.
Let’s not over-complicate the second... it’s Georgia. The Bulldogs are good at literally everything, and it’ll take an extraordinary effort to topple them.
The Tigers’ schedule is built in stretches, from a five-game home stretch through September and October to the three-game road trip that follows. Give us the most important three-game stretch for the 2019 Tigers and explain how it would make or break their aspirations for a memorable season.
Pete: It’s the three-game road stretch against Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Georgia. If Missouri is improved on both sides of the ball this year, then baseline expectations should be 2-1 in that stretch, with the loss to Georgia. 3-0 means Missouri is finding itself in potentially a 2013-type year. But 1-2 or -- gasp -- 0-3 means there’s unexpected regression that could spell doom for the rest of the year. Missouri absolutely has to find a way to beat Kentucky (and South Carolina) this year, but that match-up against Vanderbilt strikes me as a potential look-ahead game, just based on the opponents that follow.
I didn’t include Vanderbilt in the second question, however, because I think Missouri matches up well against the Commodores; I think it’s the circumstances of the game that should give people pause.
Mitch: Kentucky, Georgia, Florida. There is no need to remind anyone what the Kentucky game was like last year, but it happened and it left a bad taste. You do have a bye week going into Georgia, but in all reality Mizzou should be 6-1 or 7-0 heading into this 3 game stretch. After you get to play the Bulldogs, you come home to play Florida and there’s some bad blood brewing there; Florida likes to talk a lot, and Mizzou likes to score a lot on the Gators. You come out of this stretch 2-1 or 3-0, you are 8-2, 9-1, or EVEN 10-0 and looking for a season that ends with double digit wins. Is that optimism? Sure. But why not have a lot of it this Summer? Mizzou is awaiting the ruling on the NCAA appeal and once that is done, hopefully with a favorable outcome, it will be about maximizing this team’s potential. This season could be a memorable one, and if you want to be the best in the East you have to beat the best. Having someone like Kelly Bryant leading the charge is a great start.
Josh: There are a few potentially good choices in this schedule, but it’s hard to overlook the stretch that starts with homecoming: Ole Miss — Vanderbilt — Kentucky.
College football presents no guarantees (ever), but it’s pretty fair to expect that the Tigers will come into homecoming at 5-0. That South Carolina game is potentially troublesome, but the Tigers will have a lot of motivation to shake those demons and put their season in potentially rarefied space. Even at 4-1, though, the last few weeks of October allow for the Tigers to potentially vault into contention for an SEC East championship, assuming of course that the NCAA penalties are overturned.
There shouldn’t be any scenario where Missouri goes 0-3 in this stretch — absolutely none. Really, the minimum expectation should be 2-1. You’re splitting games against two good-but-not-great teams with an opening road trip against a Vanderbilt team that can be a nuisance, but is still very beatable. The Nashville trip allows Missouri to ease into the road portion of its schedule before facing a depleted Wildcats squad the next week. And while Ole Miss may be the best team you face in this stretch, losing a homecoming match up in the most hyped season of the Barry Odom era could signal disaster.
Finally, it presents an opportunity to bank a few conference wins before the Georgia-Florida back-to-back. If Missouri can find a way to win all three of these games to add onto a 4-1 or 5-0 record, they’re riding high into Athens to give the Bulldogs a potential upset bid. Even if they can’t pull it off, though, they’re still coming back home with only 1 or 2 losses and a potentially special season still on the table.
On Tuesday, we asked y’all on Twitter which game you were most nervous about this upcoming year. Here are the results of that poll.
#POLL! Ahead of a post we’re running Friday, we want to ask y’all: which game on @MizzouFootball’s 2019 schedule are you most nervous about? Chose a game other than the three we named? Let us know why!— ROCK M NATION (@RockMNation) June 18, 2019
Let us know in the comments if there are any other games you’re keeping an eye on through the summer!