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.
We’re 33% through the Missouri football season, and so far the Tigers have lived up to their hype (with one notable exception)! How have the Tigers lived up to your expectations so far?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: Expectations are weird, man. That Wyoming loss was... yeah. But then the Tigers followed it up three weeks later by taking South Carolina to the woodshed. Seeing as those two games cancel each other out and the SEMO/West Virginia games are kind of a wash, I’ll say my expectations to this point are thoroughly met.
Brandon Kiley, Lead Football Writer: It’s weird, because in a lot of ways they’ve been exactly the team we thought they would be. But, you know, there’s also that glaring issue staring you in the face after what happened at Wyoming. Missouri is a good team. The Tigers have a solid quarterback, a good running game, talent at receiver, and a defense that’s starting to come together. And they seem to have a pretty solid football coach, too. Add it all up and you have a team that could finish the year with double-digit wins. That’s what I believed coming into the season, and it remains true today.
If only they didn’t have so many turnovers in week one.
Nate Edwards, Staff Football Analyst: Offensively everything is fine, but going into this season with all the Kelly Bryant hype and returning experience, I think we all wanted a little but more than just “fine”. The defense has had two poor plays, and otherwise, been absolutely excellent. I like this team a lot and have positive expectations for them going forward.
Tim Bussen, Staff Film Analyst: We’ve seen glimpses of the offense I expected: a strong running game and efficient passing attack. This defense has exceeded my expectations, absolutely shutting down the run and making plays on the ball in the secondary.
Mitch Hill, Podcast Host and Producer: Take out that exception, and it really has been great. The South Carolina win was dominant, which was something I enjoyed seeing. That win was needed and I think as the season goes, that Wyoming game will be a distant memory, and something that was a fluke and not who the team is.
Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: Missouri has rebounded nicely from the Wyoming loss, and that is all you can ask for. 3-1 through the first four games wasn’t what everybody expected, but I think it’s time to start to move on from Wyoming, because Mizzou has proved, at least for now, that game was a fluky result. Take away Wyoming, and this is a Top 20ish team at the moment, which they can still get there. All in all, Missouri hasn’t exceeded (yet), but they’ve met my expectations.
Ryan Faller, Columnist: I was confident this team would be undefeated through the first four weeks. If there were to be a blemish, I was 99% confident it would be because of another snake-bitten loss to South Carolina; the remaining 1% was retained in expectation of a soul-sucking loss to West Virginia, a la Purdue in 2017. A loss to Wyoming was definitely not on my radar.
Was it disappointing? Absolutely. But I think most of the vitriol over that loss has dissipated (or, at least it should have), especially with how well the team has played since.
The defense has been lights out and the offense has struggled to get going at times, which is a bit unexpected. Tell us: are you buying or selling stock on the offense and defense?
Josh Matejka: By nature of how stocks work, I’m selling on the defense and buying up all the offense I can find. That’s not to say I don’t think this defense is excellent. I just don’t think they’re a Top 10ish unit for the rest of the year — maybe more like Top 20. And as for the offense? Right now they’re 53rd in SP+. Look me in the eyes (you can’t, gotcha!) and tell me they’re not at least a Top 35 unit. They’ve had trouble with chemistry, but that can only get better as time moves forward.
Brandon Kiley: Offense - Buying stock. I’ll buy relative to where the stock seems to be for most Mizzou fans at this point. Kelly Bryant has played three games against FBS opponents. In those three games, he’s averaging 300 yards from scrimmage per game. The running game really seemed to struggle... Until they played the best run defense they’ve seen thus far last Saturday against South Carolina. I’m still bullish on the combination of Bryant, Tyler Badie and Larry Rountree III.
Defense - Selling stock. Again, this is relative to what we’ve seen thus far. I do believe Missouri is better defensively. Cale Garrett and Nick Bolton are one heck of a one-two punch at linebacker. The secondary is as good as we’ve seen under Barry Odom. But the defensive line still concerns me. This is a good unit, but I’m selling the group as one of the top three or four defenses in the SEC.
Nate Edwards: The defensive stock might be out of my price range at this point, but I’m buying in for sure. Four games in, they are at an elite-level of performance (check out my defensive piece for more info) in so many categories that — even with anticipated regression — this will still be an excellent unit. I’ll buy into the offense as well, especially since it’s an affordable stock. The line is new, the QB is new, and one of the three main receivers is new so, in theory, as the season goes on, the cohesion will improve.
Tim Bussen: I‘ll pass on defensive stock for two reasons. The first is that, given their last three performances, the stock is soaring. I’m priced out.
I’m also concerned this group is going to struggle to get pressure from a four-man rush. (MY (very modest) KINGDOM FOR A PASS-RUSHING D END!) Therefore it will be difficult to play a lot of base defense against a team that can throw. On the other hand, becoming predictably dependent on blitzing is a dangerous game to play. O coordinators will take advantage.
Gimme a few shares of offense: I’ll give the Tigers a bit of a pass on their inability to consistently run the ball against Carolina. A significant part of that was human wrecking ball Javon Kinlaw. Dude’s an animal. I think they will eventually congeal.
Mitch Hill: I am all in on this defense. They answered the call after Wyoming. Sure SEMO and WVU are not World Beaters, but they handled South Carolina. As for the offense, it is what I thought it could be. KB has not done as much with his legs as I thought he would, but he has thrown the ball well. The O-Line is something I thought would dominate more than what we have seen, but they are coming along and as they do, that running game will get better and better.
Sammy Stava: I am buying stock on the Missouri defense. Why? As of this moment, Missouri leads the nation with four defensive touchdowns (three interceptions, one fumble). To put that in perspective, Mizzou had three defensive scores all of last season, and a lot of that has to do with the hire of David Gibbs. It’s early, and things can change – but this is showing that the Missouri defensive unit is clearly buying in. And I am still buying stock on the Missouri offense – while it may not be as high-powered in the post Drew Lock era, that ultimately is a good thing as a more methodical approach is certainly helping the defense not being on the field as much. Mizzou has scored 30 or more points in nine straight games (only behind Oklahoma and UCF) so the offense is still doing more than enough to get the job done.
Ryan Faller: The offense is about what I thought it might be, save for a few surprises at quarterback and receiver. I expected Kelly Bryant to run a little more than he has, but that may be a mere byproduct of Derek Dooley’s tutelage and scheme than anything else. However, if you asked Bryant, I don’t know if he would say he yet has 100% confidence in or perfect chemistry with any one receiver at the moment. I think that needs to change before the Tigers hit the meet of the schedule late next month.
Defensively, man, I have to give Barry Odom, Ryan Walters, and the rest of the defense credit for getting their act together after the season opener. I don’t know if this defensive unit, despite the gaudy statistics nationally, is elite, but it should and, I believe, will keep Mizzou in just about every game the rest of the season, with the possible exception of Georgia.
We knew early on that this roster had a ton of talent and a lot of it has shown thus far. Give us your early MVP ballot for the Tigers.
Josh Matejka: (1) Cale Garrett, and I really don’t think it’s that close. That touchdown against South Carolina may be the season-defining play. (2) Kelly Bryant. He’s been much better than people are giving him credit for, back-breaking TO’s notwithstanding. (3) Larry Rountree III. He’s on pace for another 1,000 yard season, and he really hasn’t even gone into high gear yet. What a monster.
Brandon Kiley: 1) Kelly Bryant - I’m not sure where this team would be without him. Who would be the quarterback? How much of a drop-off would it be? Has Bryant been perfect? Of course not. But he’s been pretty darn good. He’s on pace for more than 3,000 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions to go along with 400 yards on the ground. That’ll do.
2) Cale Garrett - I gave serious consideration to putting Garrett at #1 on this list. He’s been tremendous. Garrett has been an underrated player since the day he stepped on campus, but this year he’s not allowing himself to be underrated any longer. He’s not just making the routine plays. He’s making splash plays. What a tremendous season he’s putting together. It’s been a joy to watch.
3) Nick Bolton - I think you could make a case for a number of guys here, but I wanted to give some love to Bolton. He was a man on a mission against West Virginia, and he’s followed that up with two more impressive showings against SEMO and South Carolina. I could listen to arguments for Tyler Badie, Larry Rountree III or Albert O, but I feel like Bolton’s dominant performance against West Virginia should put him among the top three.
Nate Edwards: Cale Garrett is my MVP so far. He makes (almost) every tackle, he’s had two huge turnovers for touchdowns, and it just seems like he’s involved in every play, no matter where the ball ended up. However, I’ve also been the conductor of the “Tyler Badie for MVP” train since Week 1, and I’m not stopping yet. If a play absolutely, positively, needs to be made on offense, it’s Badie that’s making it so far.
Tim Bussen: (1) Kelly Bryant: He’s made a few head-scratching mistakes, but he drives this offense with his ball distribution and rushing ability. (2) Cale Garrett: Tackling.Machine. (3) Tyree Gillespie: He’s here because he, as well as Joshuah Bledsoe, has turned a position of concern into a defensive strength. He’s been a playmaker.
Mitch Hill: Cale Garrett, because of course. His counterpart Nick Bolton has been everywhere, and then it has to be Kelly Bryant. As he goes, the team goes. KB for MVP.
Sammy Stava: I’ll go with QB1 in Kelly Bryant. Through four games, Bryant is 82/126 (65.1% completion), with 1025 passing yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. Outside of a couple of costly turnovers, Bryant has been everything Mizzou fans have hoped for and he has definitely exceeded my expectations so far this season. On the defensive side, I’ll go with two — Cale Garrett and Nick Bolton. Garrett and Bolton have combined for four of Missouri’s seven forced turnovers this season as they have certainly been embracing the “takeaways = victories” rallying cry.
Ryan Faller: 3. Jordan Elliot (For me, he’s a calming presence in the middle of that defense, which allows those around him to play more freely)
2. Cale Garrett (He’s the true leader of the defense, and the guy’s everywhere; his cerebral TD against USCe epitomized his Tiger career)
1. Kelly Bryant (It’s gotta be him, simply because I don’t know if Mizzou has a skillset close to his anywhere on the roster at quarterback)
Before the season, most of us were picking the Tigers to win 9 or 10 games. Given what we’ve seen so far, what is your revised prediction for the Tigers’ final record?
Josh Matejka: I went with 10-2 in the preseason, and unfortunately I have to knock that down to 9-3. I don’t think 10 wins is out of the question, but that means you’re asking the Tigers to go 2-1 against Kentucky and Georgia on the road and Florida at home. I still think the Tigers drop two of those three, even with all the backup quarterbacks.
Brandon Kiley: I’m going to stick with 10-2. It’s bullish, no doubt. But my prediction before the season was as much a vote of no confidence in the SEC East as it was a vote of confidence in Missouri. I think this is a talented roster with a good coach. I honestly think I can only say that about 2 or 3 teams in the division. And the cross-division matchups are Ole Miss & Arkansas? Yeah, that’ll work. The only game I don’t expect Missouri to win on its schedule is at Georgia. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers are either favored in 7 of their remaining 9 games, with the one other outlier being Florida. I’m just not buying into the Gators. Not with that offense.
So, 10-2 it is. It’s what I said before the year and I’m sticking with it.
Nate Edwards: 9-3. One more stupid loss, lose to Georgia, win the rest of them. Also the bowl ban is going to stick so there’s no opportunity for a 10th win :(
Tim Bussen: I said 10, now I’ll say 9. Kentucky and Florida both look solid. You could make a case that both teams got better when their starting quarterbacks went down. I’ll say the Tigers drop one of those two. And they can’t hang with Georgia.
Mitch Hill: I still do not think Florida is good, and that’s the only toss-up on the schedule. Going into Georgia will still be tough, but I am still riding with 10 wins. Tigers will be 10-2, it is just one of those losses is not to who many thought it would be to.
Sammy Stava: In our season predictions post, I predicted Missouri to go 9-3 with one more loss outside of Georgia and Florida. I didn’t expect that loss to be Wyoming, obviously. Though I am still sticking with my 9-3 prediction, but the margin for error is now pretty slim. The schedule still remains plenty favorable for Missouri the rest of the way outside of Georgia and Florida, and I expect the Tigers to use that as an advantage.
Ryan Faller: In my season-opening piece, I jostled between 10-2 and 9-3, and I see no reason to deviate from that now. With momentum building, I can see this team winning seven of its last eight, but I just know there’s going to be a bump in the road somewhere, which would still make for a fine season. In my heart, I want to believe in a stunning upset in Georgia — and I think that game will be closer than most think — but I can’t do it.
That said, I think Mizzou loses to the Bulldogs and either Kentucky or Florida, though they’re plenty capable of beating both. This puts Mizzou at 9-3 to end the season. By then, we should know the program’s postseason fate. Let’s hope the NCAA does the right thing and cuts these kids a break for doing absolutely nothing wrong.