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Keep Calm and Wear a Mask

All Aboard the Hype Train

Right-down-the-middle highlights. I do find it fascinating that they chose this opportunity as sort of a referendum on the year as a whole, showing clips from games all the way back to LSU. It does kind of feel, at least in a narrative sense, that last week was the climax of the season. After all, the Georgia game is likely a loss (sorry, see below) and the Mississippi State game feels largely unimportant... if only because it’s a game Missouri should win.

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean

As the Mizzou Football Twitter account said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

What the “Experts” are Saying

Whew. What a weekend, right? Missouri’s win over Arkansas wasn’t always pretty, but at the end of the day a win is a win is a win. There’s plenty to celebrate from the Battle Line victory, from Harrison Mevis’ thicc kicks to Larry Rountree turning the Hogs into pavement. But go ahead and highlight one thing that you think was a key to Missouri’s win that not a lot of people talked about.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: As early as the LSU game, Mizzou fans were ready to put both Keke Chism and Damon Hazelton out to pasture. Both grad transfers had mile-high expectations coming into the season, but failed to show anything of substance over the first four games. It got so bad at one point that Hazelton started riding the bench.

But against Arkansas, the potential we heard so much about came to pass. To be fair, Keke Chism had been percolating over the past few weeks, but he was nigh unstoppable against the Razorbacks, making NFL-caliber catches against good coverage. It’s probably time to start talking about him as Missouri’s best receiver.

As for Hazelton, his 2020 story embodies the adversity Drinkwitz talked about post-game. The transfer has dealt with drops, COVID-19 and a benching. But instead of packing it in, he bode his time. When he was called upon during the final drive, the former Hokie was a monster, and Arkansas had no answer for his combination of size and athleticism. Overall, Chism and Hazelton combined for 211 yards on 19.2 yards per catch. That’s 55 percent of Connor Bazelak’s total yardage on the day. If that’s not what you wanted out of the two before the season started, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Nate Edwards, Football Editor: I feel like there were many aspects that contributed to the win that have been well covered, so I’m going to go deep into the B-tracks to give you an answer. Barrett Banister had 6 catches on 6 targets against the Hogs with an 83% success rate. Here’s how they happened:

  • Q2: 3rd & 7, 9-yard catch
  • Q2: 3rd & 8, 9-yard catch
  • Q3: 2nd & 5, 6-yard catch
  • Q3: 3rd & 10, 8-yard catch
  • Q4: 1st & 5, 18-yard catch
  • Q4: 2nd & 11, 10-yard catch

When Drinkwitz was hired he talked about finding, “touchdown makers,” but what about first down makers? Those are important, too, and Missouri absolutely has one in Banister. Of Banister’s 31 targets he’s had 22 catches for a 51% success rate, and NINE of those catches have been on 3rd or 4th down where he converted. The dude isn’t as dynamic as his peers, but damn if he doesn’t keep the chains moving. Against Arkansas, it was absolutely imperative that he do so.

For his career, Banister has 57 catches for 540 yards and a touchdown. In two(ish) games against Arkansas, he has 14 catches for 132 yards, meaning this one opponent represents 24% of his catches and yardage. He must really love sticking it to his home state school.

Let’s talk recruiting. At the end of his presser, Drinkwitz mentioned that recruits are taking notice of Mizzou’s growth. One week ago, he backed that talk up by landing Isaac Thompson. How much has the program’s profile risen in Drink’s first year?

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: This is a subject I’m very interested in at the moment, and I plan on doing a deeper dive closer to National Signing Day. But the answer is quite obviously, “a lot.” Drinkwitz is gearing up to deliver one of the three or four best Missouri classes of the 21st century, and he had most of it wrapped before any football was played. The results on the field have been nothing but a boon to that success, and could pay off even more if you believe some of the rumblings in the Mizzou corners of the internet.

Nate Edwards: Substantially! From 2016-2019 the Odom staff landed 7 blue-chip recruits; three of which were holdovers from the Pinkel staff and two of which never made it on to campus. In their first true recruiting class of 2021 — aka not the salvage job they inherited for 2020 — the Drinkwitz staff have commitments from 4 blue-chippers plus the 4-star Thompson for 2022 (editor’s note: plus the Lovett commit this morning). So, simple math tells you he has already exceed the Odom staff’s ability to attract top talent. Now, teams don’t succeed with only the highly rated guys, you have to find and develop the 2- and 3-star guys as well. But he’s beaten Alabama head-to-head already for Ennis Rakestraw, beat the Tide again for Travion Ford and Ryan Hoerstkamp (barring a late flip), as well as LSU, Notre Dame, Iowa, and Florida State in other head-to-head recruiting battles. It’s not that this hasn’t happened before under previous head coaches but certainly not at this rate. I’m shocked that Drink has had so much success, so quickly, at freaking MISSOURI. I just hope the momentum is able to continue because recruiting well is fun as hell.

Ah yes, there’s actual football to discuss. This week marks the first time since Florida that Missouri is going to be a heavy underdog. Georgia has had a disappointing season, but is elite from a talent perspective. Are there any reasons to think Missouri has a puncher’s chance?

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: Yeah, and it’s the same reason any team has a shot at any game in any week — it’s 2020, and college football is weird as hell.

That being said, Georgia represents the third best team Mizzou will play all year, and they’re going to out-talent the Tigers by a substantial margin. That’s especially true now that they have J.T. Daniels running the show, and Missouri’s struggling secondary is going to have a monumental task in stopping him. Missouri’s defense (37th in SP+) and Georgia’s offense (34th in SP+) are evenly matched, but those numbers don’t tell the story of where the two units currently sit.

If there is a chance, it’s predicated on the hope that Missouri’s offense is trending upward. The Tigers hung 600+ yards on an OK Arkansas defense last week. Mizzou’s most talented wide receivers are starting to show up. Rountree and Badie are a force. And Connor Bazelak may go to his grave without ever throwing another pick. Georgia’s defense is the second best in the country (haha YIKES!), but Missouri still probably isn’t as bad as where they currently rank (94th). For there to be any chance of an upset, the Tigers will have to catch the Dawgs sleeping.

Nate Edwards: No.

I mean, can anything happen in college football? Yes, yes it can. But the Georgia we’ve seen for 80 percent of the year was without a quarterback. They now have an awesome quarterback. And while their defense is a bit dinged up, player to player, they far outclass what Missouri can put on the field. Missouri is going to have to generate 10 scoring opportunities — like they did against LSU and Arkansas — and average close to 7 points per trip in order to hang with a Georgia offense that gets to feast on a thin Tiger defensive line and a secondary without Jarvis Ware.

PICK ‘EM! Missouri opened as a 13-point dog, and the line has held all week. The Tigers have been good against the spread in 2020. Can they cover or, dare we say, win outright?

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Matejka: As much as I hate to say it, 13 points is probably a bit too close for the Tigers. As much as I believe the offense is better than 94th in the country, Georgia’s defense is still elite, even with injuries. The Tiger defense has probably peaked, and they’ll be missing Jarvis Ware and Tre Williams, one of the few dependable pass rushers on the defensive line before he left the team. Never say never, but there’s probably too much working against Mizzou for them to pull off the dramatic upset. It’ll probably be something like 34-16 Georgia by the time it’s all said and done.

Nate Edwards: I see Georgia getting J.T. Daniels plenty of passing opportunities in the 1st and 2nd quarters, going up by 17, then relying on their elite running game to coast to the end. Missouri has the ability to scrap for a half, but if Daniels is playing they’ll probably fall behind and get a late score to make it somewhat respectable. I’m thinking 38-14 Dawgs. Prove me wrong, please.