It feels impossible that four games into the Missouri season, we’ve already run the gambit of sports emotions, a process we will here for after refer to as, “The Full Mizzou™.”
If the season were a movie [editor’s note: it is, please read The Revue] the Tigers would have already reached the pinnacle of Act 3. Almost all of Act One and most of Act Two — in which the hero(es) encounter an inciting incident and must seek redemption or adventure in the ensuing narrative beats — were accomplished within the disastrous Wyoming game. Back-to-back victories over West Virginia and SEMO offered proof of hope. It was all capped with a redemptive spanking of South Carolina. Wow! What a ride! I guess we can all go home now!
Hang on a minute, folks. We just reached the intermission. There’s a whole lot of ball left to be played.
Mizzou fans are intimately familiar with the peaks and valleys of football season, especially in the young career of Barry Odom. Only they’re used to seeing them stretched out over the course of 12 games, like a multi-course meal, easily digested within the span of several months. These first four weeks of the 2019 season have felt more akin to a Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Fortunately, unlike the first three years of Barry Odom’s career, there seems to be a significant amount of hope and reason to back that hope up. The Tigers may have already dropped their mulligan game and followed it up with three ass-kickings of a truly profound nature. You may argue, “Whoop-dee-do, Mizzou beat up on teams No. 45 and 74 in the SP+ rankings, plus an FCS team.” You may be right, person who still uses, “whoop-dee-do,” but take this as a counter: isn’t that what good teams are supposed to do?
This however, isn’t a referendum on how good the Tigers are; whether or not you think so, they are at the very least pretty good. This is the examination of a very real facet of Missouri’s history under Barry Odom led teams. In fact, it’s so real that Odom himself acknowledged it after Saturday’s win.
Odom: "I know I’m not very good coming off a bye. It’s well documented. I appreciate you all pointing it out."— Dave Matter (@Dave_Matter) September 22, 2019
Ah, yes. The bye week. Kryptonite of both Barry Odom and content managers everywhere.
Not that we need to spend a ton of time revisiting unpleasant memories, but let’s take a brisk stroll through the first three games off a bye in Odom’s head coaching career.
2016 at Florida: 14-40
Drew Lock goes 4 for 18 with 39 yards passing and two interceptions. Marvin Zanders (remember him?) had more passing yards in four attempts. To be fair, Missouri was not good in 2016.
2017 at Kentucky: 34-40
Despite 355 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions from Drew Lock, the Kentucky offense hangs 40 on Odom’s defense.
2018 at South Carolina: 35-37
Listen. When the ancient gods of rain, chaos and woe desire that you lose, even good football won’t win you a game.
Kidding aside, the bye week has not been kind to Missouri these past three years, further reinforcing the idea that Odom, for all his motivating prowess, has a tough time preparing his teams to play. The bowl record doesn’t help.
This year Odom has promised things will be different. He’s suggested that Missouri will prepare for the off week just like they would a regular game. You can fairly question the validity of that claim given that football is terribly violent and players (both injured and “healthy”) need time to recover. However, it’s undeniable that Odom knows the perception of his recent teams and is working to change it.
This year promises to be different in at least two major ways. Troy, despite their history of knocking off good teams who just so happen to be Missouri, is not as good as 2016 Florida, 2018 South Carolina or maybe even 2017 Kentucky. By this year’s measures, they’ll actually be the second best team the Tigers have played (66th in SP+), though Wyoming’s spot at 96 feels a bit high. Still, that’s 21 spots higher than the team they just thrashed a few days ago. Missouri will also have the benefit of the home crowd, a luxury they haven’t been afforded coming off of bye weeks over the past three years.
So as Missouri and its hopeful fans start the long trek to October 5, there are more reasons than ever to suspect that the version of the Tigers of the past three weeks is closer to reality than the one we saw in Laramie. At the very least, you can hang your hat on the fact that Barry Odom recognizes and acknowledges his flaws when it comes to the bye week.
So Barry, think of the fans when you’re in the midst of preparations this week. We’ve already experienced The Full Mizzou™ once this season. Doing it again would be potentially hazardous to our collective health.