We have arrived at week four or — as it is better known this year — South Carolina Week.
Many of the questions Mizzou Football fans posed at the beginning of the season have been answered— from the state of the once-atrocious special teams units to Tucker McCann’s reliability as both a kicker and punter— to the role of Kelly Bryant at the helm of an offense with the potential to be as explosive. However, there are quite a few questions still in play this early in the season.
The Tigers enter SEC play this weekend for what many would consider the first true test of the schedule, and the state of the program is at an interesting crossroads. Following up a loss with two dominating wins does not set the tone for how the Tigers finish the season, but it puts them in a position to channel their momentum toward winning some big football games. At this juncture, every game should be treated with the same importance. The questions still remain, however — who is this team? What are they made of? What’s the main objective?
An argument many have posed in the past is the strength of Mizzou’s non-conference schedule, as sort of a way to get “easy” wins going into conference play. After all, you only need a few wins to be bowl-eligible.
The 2019 season differs in that respect, due in part to the post-season ban, along with the the fact that Wyoming chin-checked the entire program in week one with the win against the Tigers at home. Many, including the team itself, had high hopes with the addition of key individuals such as Kelly Bryant, and thought that the team had the potential to go undefeated. After a loss in its first game together as a unit, Mizzou Football (and its fans) found out that not only are they human, but even the most highly-touted and excitable programs still require work.
Where they should arguably be sitting — undefeated going into a favorable SEC schedule —is, in fact, encouraging. Should the NCAA come to terms with its idiocy and rescind the Tigers’ postseason ban, this team has the players, coaches, and will to assert themselves amongst the nation’s best. While they won’t make it there with an untouched record, they certainly have the pieces to create a multitude of problems for teams around the conference looking to solidify their own spots in the postseason.
Still, the program’s inability to remain consistent is concerning. One might argue that the style of play seen in a conference such as the SEC won’t bode well for a highly-touted quarterback who made his bed for three seasons in the ACC. Will his style of play translate into producing SEC wins, or will the remaining teams on the schedule have an answer? One might argue that we’ve seen shades of Brad Smith reloaded, even in his first few games, but can our newest field general adapt, using the weapons provided?
It was announced earlier this week on Instagram that Tucker McCann, with all of the pressure surrounding him to succeed and remain consistent, is officially the only FBS Kicker this century with 3 FGs of 40+ yards and 4 punts of 50+ yards in the same game. This is not a knock against former Mizzou kickers, but a testament to Tucker McCann’s versatility as a player at his position. Still, with the ability to win games, score points, and change field position, Tucker McCann’s added arsenal of kicks cannot speak for Mizzou’s overall playing ability in special teams. Taking McCann off the field... can Mizzou’s Punt Block/Return, Field Goal Block, and Kickoff Return teams make plays?
As with any football season, injuries are a concern, particularly for positions of importance. Thinking back to the 2010 season with Henry Josey’s knee, to now with minor injuries that briefly sidelined both Albert O and Kelly Bryant back in camp, Mizzou fans would be forgiven for feeling a bit “edgy.” Can Mizzou remain healthy enough to do something special?
Many look towards coaching, as they should, when it comes to the overall game plan, but are the Mizzou faithful able to decipher between a game plan’s intentions versus how that plan is executed? These concerns are warranted, particularly those who are not new to the woes of Mizzou past and present.
On the flip side, though, Mizzou has Barry Odom. In terms of putting together a special season, one must look at what Coach Odom has done, and what he consistently brings to the table. Since inheriting the program, Coach Odom has revamped his staff, adding major key faces on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. He has generated winning seasons, gotten Mizzou back to bowl game stature, and managed to lose not one single player in the midst of a post-season ban, which included the acquisition of the country’s top transfer quarterback. Odom has attracted the attention of some of the country’s best high school talent and verbalized his position as, “the guy who can get the job done and win football games.” Coach has done what he said he would do, even when the Mizzou Nation thought it took too long. He is unique in the sense that he has the ability to take what many see as nothing and turn it into something no one expected, without having to answer questions along the way. Coach Odom is not one to ask for permission, and he always has plans B through E in the works. We’ve seen this with his recruiting, his attitude, and primarily in how his players respond to him. They love the guy.
Odom has the potential to lead this team to a special season, simply because he said so and he meant it, with the college football world’s odds stacked against him. If the state of the Mizzou Football program is ever in question, he and the players certainly have the answers.