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Mizzou Football vs. Interim Coaches: An Investigation

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How often has Missouri faced a team with an interim coach and how successful have they been?

NCAA Football: Clemson at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that South Carolina fired Will Muschamp on Sunday night — meaning that former Colorado State head coach and Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is the interim head coach — it got me thinking: how often has Missouri played a team under the guidance of an interim head coach since 2000? And how well have they done in those situations? Simple premise, fairly simple answer. Assuming I haven’t missed any, let’s take a look at Missouri’s record in these matchups:

2007 Arkansas Razorbacks - The Cotton Bowl

Cotton Bowl
It’s 2020 and Tony Temple just scored again
Photo by Sharon M. Steinman/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Missouri - Gary Pinkel (7th year) - 11-1 (7-1) - 12th SP+ (4th Offense, 51st Defense)

Arkansas - Reggie Herring - 8-4 (4-4) - 17th SP+ (24th Offense, 29th Defense)

Houston Nutt finished the 2006 season with 10 wins, a SEC West title, and three amazing NFL-caliber running backs in Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones, and Heisman-trophy finalist Darren McFadden. His 2007 Razorbacks were favored to repeat as SEC West champs and McFadden anticipated to finally win the Heisman in Gus Malzahn’s run-oriented offense. However, the Razorbacks lost two division games early in the year - essentially making a division title impossible - and thanks to local scandal involving his handling of quarterback Mitch Mustain and a possible affair with a female news anchor, Nutt resigned after the three overtime 50-48 upset of eventual national champion LSU.

Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring was given the interim title as the Hogs headed into the Cotton Bowl. If you’ve been on this site at all in your life you’re familiar with the absolute detonation Missouri delivered to an uninterested Razorback squad, winning 38-7.

2011 North Carolina Tar Heels - The Independence Bowl

2011 Independence Bowl
Frank the Tank
Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Missouri - Gary Pinkel (11th year) - 7-5 (5-4) - 23rd SP+ (17th Offense, 41st Defense)

North Carolina - Everett Withers - 7-5 (3-5) - 45th SP+ (31st Offense, 55th Defense)

Butch Davis is best known for stewarding the Miami Hurricanes through their excellence of the late 90s, but he also did a helluva job turning around North Carolina from 2007-2010. Unfortunately, Davis had some help in that turn around thanks to some academic fraud and improper benefits given to football players from sports agents. So, on July 27th, UNC fired Butch Davis right before the start of fall camp and promoted defensive coordinator Everett Withers to the interim coach position.

The Tar Heels had several NFL talents on the roster and were benefiting from a robust Top 20 ranking in their five-year recruiting classes; however they had lost three one-score games, were destroyed by a still-building Clemson squad, and were shut out by NC State. Regardless, they came into the Independence Bowl as heavy favorites against a Tiger squad that had gone 2-3 in one score games as well.

Led by James Franklin’s 142 yards on the ground - and an incredible 10-14 on third down - the Tigers racked up 337 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns in a 41-24 victory. Despite Bryn Renner’s 317 passing yards the Heels could only muster 36 yards on the ground and turned the ball over twice.

2016 LSU Tigers - Ed Orgeron’s LSU Debut

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 01 Missouri at LSU
Remember when Missouri actually beat LSU that was cool
Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Missouri - Barry Odom (1st year) - 2-2 (0-1) - 70th SP+ (54th Offense, 85th Defense)

LSU - Ed Orgeron - 2-2 (1-1) - 5th SP+ (41st Offense, 2nd Defense)

Les Miles seemed like he was made out of Teflon, escaping more booster coups than any head coach before or since. However, after a last-second-victory-turned-defeat-via-time-mismanagement against Auburn - one of the many annoying staples of the Miles era - LSU’s administration finally fired Les and promoted an enthusiastic Cajun defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron.

Ed O had a successful stint as USC’s interim head coach in 2013, coaxing a 6-2 finish for a dysfunctional Trojans squad, but given his disastrous run at Ole Miss where he went 10-25 over three years, he was never considered a true head coaching option. Missouri wasn’t very good, but given Orgeron’s rep as head man — and the fact that star running back Leonard Fournette was benched due to ankle issues — many thought Missouri could give LSU a run for its money.

Instead, some dude named Derrius Guice ran for 163 yards and three touchdowns in his first start and the Bayou Bengals smashed Missouri to pieces, 42-7.

2017 Florida Gators - Feeding The Streak

Florida v Missouri
Larry Three Sticks with the old 33
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Missouri - Barry Odom (2nd year) - 3-5 (0-4) - 28th SP+ (24th Offense, 61st Defense)

Florida - Randy Shannon - 3-4 (3-3) - 34th SP+ (51st Offense, 33rd Defense)

Jim McElwain’s first two years in Gainesville featured 19 wins, two SEC East Division titles, and the 2015 SEC Coach of the Year award. Yes, he had lost to Alabama in both championship games and had found a way to lose to Michigan twice, but overall, he was getting Florida back on the right track after the degradation of the program under Will Muschamp. Then, on an October 23rd press conference, he alluded to death threats that he and his players had received and when the university began an investigation, McElwain was unable to provide any additional details or proof. The school was considering firing him for cause but let him coach the Georgia game. After an embarrassing 42-7 loss in the Cocktail Party, Florida administrators went ahead and gave McElwain the boot.

Former Miami head coach Randy Shannon, Florida’s defensive coordinator at the time, was promoted to the interim head coaching job and was immediately tasked with going against a Missouri squad that had three wins: one against an FCS team and two teams that ended up going FCS in the near future (Idaho and UConn). Unbeknownst to Shannon and the Gators, the Tigers were in the middle of a six-game winning streak and Florida was destined to be victim #3. Drew Lock threw for three touchdowns, Larry Rountree III added three touchdowns on the ground, and Barry Odom got his first victory over Florida, 45-16.

2019 Arkansas Razorbacks - Bye, Bye Barry

Missouri v Arkansas
Remember when Arkansas was super bad?
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Missouri - Barry Odom (4th year) - 5-6 (2-5) - 39th SP+ (90th Offense, 17th Defense)

Arkansas - Barry Lunney, Jr. - 2-9 (0-7) - 108th SP+ (105th Offense, 88th Defense)

You all remember this one.

Chad Morris had a ton of success as Clemson’s offensive coordinator and revitalized SMU’s program in two years but couldn’t impress the money at Arkansas and had a nasty habit of blaming players for his mounting one-sided losses. After getting stomped by Western Kentucky - led by a quarterback who was pushed out by the Razorback staff - Arkansas fired Morris, making him the only Arkansas coach to have never won a conference game nor win a game against P5 competition.

Special Teams Coordinator Barry Lunney, Jr. was given the interim tag for the last two games, getting demolished by LSU and then losing to Missouri 24-14. It was maybe the most uninspiring rivalry game we’ve seen in a while: a demoralized Razorbacks squad hung with a talented but checked out Tiger team and Barry Odom was fired the next day.

Conclusion

Missouri is 4-1 against interim coaches since 2000. Two of those were in bowl games, three were conference games, two were road games, and four of the guys promoted to interim were defensive coordinators. In four of the matchups, Missouri was the better ranked team according to SP+ and they won all four.

South Carolina will be at home with an offensive coordinator getting promoted who has previous head coach experience. As of right now Missouri is ranked 76th in SP+ while South Carolina is ranked 80th. We’ll see how this game goes, but at least you now know that - in the past 20 years, anyway - Missouri has a pretty good track record against interim head coaches.