EXT: FAUROT FIELD — MORNING
PREGAMIN’ lies at the 50, huddled in the fetal position. It’s hands are cupped tightly against its eyes, the shiver of cold and anticipation coursing through its body.
PREGAMIN: Can... can I open my eyes now?
PREGAMIN’ slowly unveils his eyes to the world, reddened from taught eyelids.
It’s over. The Tide have come and gone. PREGAMIN’ is alive. It rises slowly, brushing the blood and dirt from itself.
WELCOME BACK TO PREGAMIN’, FOLX! I SUPPOSE WE SHOULD SAY SOMETHING ABOUT LAST WEEK, BUT IT’S ALL BEEN SAID. IF YOU DON’T KNOW, CHECK THE MAIN PAGE. NOW YOU KNOW.
Anyway, it’s Week 2 of the 2020 College Football season, and our Missouri Tigers survived a date with the dreaded Crimson Tide. By all accounts, they actually seem to be improving, with no more news of COVID-19 outbreaks and a generally positive attitude pervading the fan base. So it’s time to take that energy and move forward.
SO TAKE OUT YOUR LEFTOVER FIREWORKS AND FIND THE NEAREST BLUE TICK HOUND DOG — IT’S TIME TO DOG-WALK THESE VOLUNTEERS!
Keep Calm and Wear a Mask!
- A Faculty Council is seeking more information about the University of Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard, supposedly because it’s not giving everyone enough information about the spread of the virus. So everything’s going great!
- The state is cutting overnight hours for the COVID-19 24/7 hotline. So everything’s going great!
All Aboard the Hype Train!
Oh, so we’re going back to highlight-heavy stuff? Sure... that’s fine.
So Fresh and So Clean, Clean
OH, MAN. SO MUCH TO DIG INTO HERE.
- This is the cinematic stuff that Mizzou’s media department has been doing lately and I’m so in. Incredibly impressive stuff.
- Lids are the same, which is nice. I like the diamond pattern.
- The white jerseys are the program’s best, and their best combo is with the black pant. Another nice touch.
- THE MIZZOU 4 CHANGE PATCH, HOW DO I GET ONE?
- Pretty slick of them to invoke the feeling of the Smoky Mountains by going to the Gans’ Creek Wild Area. Or is that Pinnacles? I’m pretty sure it’s the former.
What the “Experts” are saying:
- More Tennessee picks at Saturday Down South, though there’s some confidence Missouri can make it interesting.
- Everyone at Knox News is picking a Tennessee win, but there are some really tight predictions included.
- The Kansas City Star reports Mizzou plans on staying aggressive in it’s play-calling. Could that mean more Keke Chism?
- Rocky Top Talk is fairly confident in a Tennessee win, but has a lot of complimentary things to say about Larry Rountree, Kobe Whiteside and Nick Bolton!
In the words of our esteemed football editor (oh, you’re here, hi Nate!)... that wasn’t so bad! Of course, Missouri ended up on the wrong side of the W-L column, but there were some positives to take away. What gave you hope for the future in last week’s loss?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: Hope for the immediate future? That would be Missouri’s defense, which looked able to manage things fairly well when Alabama came back to non-godlike levels of talent. Trajan Jeffcoat was getting pressure, Nick Bolton looked like his 2019 self and the safeties were flying all over the field.
As for hope in the not-so-immediate future? Things weren’t spectacular on the offense, but there were clear signs of progress. Shawn Robinson got better and more comfortable as the game went along, as did Damon Hazelton and a bevy of wide outs. Larry Rountree III was good and Tyler Badie was his usual, slippery self. If Keke Chism becomes half the player we were teased with all summer and the offensive line can catch some health breaks, we might not be too far off from seeing a solid offensive product on the field.
Nate Edwards, Football Editor: You all have heard my takes on this enough for the week so I’ll keep it brief. I liked the offensive schemes that we saw, particularly the usage of Jalen Knox. I thought the 3-4/4-2-5 blended defense was a smart move and I like that the defensive staff is willing to be adaptable and innovative to put their best guys on the field. I’m glad the young cornerbacks are seeing the field, even if it means getting relentlessly picked on and exploited. I thoroughly enjoyed Coach Drinkwitz pushing to score at the end of the game and the team not quitting. And I really liked how thoroughly angry Larry Rountree III ran in his few touches. Did Dylan Moses actually get up after Larry steamrolled him into the ground? You can’t prove that he did!
Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: I really liked that Missouri didn’t just give up when the score was 28-3 at halftime. Sure, Alabama did have their second and third strings late in the game, but Mizzou played until the final whistle. The game really wasn’t that close as the 38-19 score indicated, but their effort last week bodes well for later in the season. Shawn Robinson also had a good game. It was a quiet 19/25, but all-around it was a solid performance. That can possibly give him some much needed confidence as the season goes on.
Every year, we re-litigate the, “Who’s Mizzou’s SEC rival?” debate, and we’re still far from consensus. But there is little doubt that Tennessee has emerged as a team Mizzou fans love to hate. Name two or three “rivals” you hold in your Mizzou-lovin’ heart (aka the teams you want to beat so bad it hurts.)
Josh Matejka: It’s true that no real rivalry exists, mostly because there’s not enough animosity or history between Mizzou and any other SEC teams. That’s not changing any time soon.
But in the time Mizzou has occupied the SEC, I’ve been swayed by the likes of Tennessee and Arkansas. Both are historically good programs with not much to show in the past 20 or so years — at least, no more than Mizzou — whose fanbases are perpetually convinced that they’re one recruiting class or coaching hire from being “back.” Not to mention, both programs like to hold themselves up as SEC gatekeepers, despite having a combined 4-10 record against the Tigers, with a combined 0 division championships to Missouri’s two.
Nate Edwards: Beating Tennessee is funny because their more vocal fans become so incensed that their darling gem of a football program could possibly lose to some carpet-bagging pretender of a program like Missouri, but I don’t see them as rivals yet.
However, there’s nothing better than beating South Carolina. The games are usually pretty close, and as far as SEC East programs go, they are the closest peer program that Missouri has. Beating them doesn’t necessarily mean that Mizzou is having a good year, but it does make me much happier when we grab that W. Between the close games, the off-the-field dust ups, the similar historical profile - and even the same city name - South Carolina is the closest thing Missouri has to a true SEC rivalry. Kentucky is the other team that I love to beat simply because it doesn’t happen. Since November 1st, 2014, I have gone from single to married, bought a house, seen the birth of my child with another on the way [editor’s note: congrats, Nate!], gone from Rock M lurker to Rock M football editor, gone through two presidential election years and experienced a pandemic... all while Kentucky has steadily beaten the hell out of the Tigers. I don’t put a lot of stock in finding joy in the outcome of football games, but I will honestly say that whenever/if Missouri beats Kentucky again in football I’ll probably weep for joy.
Sammy Stava: Give me South Carolina and Kentucky. I always thought Arkansas was going to turn into some legitimate rivalry, but it just hasn’t. While beating the Razorbacks is fun, it just doesn’t mean a whole lot season-wise since they’re in the SEC West. Meanwhile, South Carolina and Kentucky are arguably the two most important almost every year. It was good to get the South Carolina monkey off their back after Kelly Bryant and company beat them last season, but the struggle with Kentucky remains. It’s so frustrating, aggravating, and annoying. That losing streak needs to end really, really, soon.
Tennessee is officially “back” after being ranked in the Top 25 to start the season, but the Volunteers struggled mightily against the fighting Muschamps in week one. Still, Tennessee is a tough challenge for this Mizzou team. What needs to happen for the Tigers to walk away with their first win of 2020?
Josh Matejka: I’ve got some confidence in Missouri’s defense, as facing a QB like Jarrett Guarantano seems much more manageable when you’ve got Nick Bolton and Devin Nicholson patrolling the middle of the field. The real key will be Drinkwitz’s offense finding some traction. The Volunteers’ defense swallowed up South Carolina’s running backs last week, but got scorched by burner Shi Smith to the tune of 10 catches and 140 yards. Enter Jalen Knox? If Mizzou can get the junior involved all over the field, that will open things up for Damon Hazelton and Keke Chism, along with Missouri’s stable of talented running backs.
Nate Edwards: Tennessee has a forced youth-movement thanks to COVID quarantining and it’s unclear who will be back for this week. However, if the secondary from last week shows up again this week, then the key will be Shawn Robinson uncorking some bombs to Hazelton and Chism to open up the passing game. Jalen Knox and Larry Rountree should find some success on the ground if the passing game is going, and Robinson just needs to make sure he doesn’t try to hero-ball his way through third downs. Defensively, the safeties need to bracket Josh Palmer and make Velus Jones or another of the receivers beat them. Jarvis Ware will hopefully be back so that he can one-on-one other receivers away but the corners are the clear weakness that the the linebackers and safeties need to assist with. If the D-Line wants to replicate their second-half Alabama performance against Tennessee, I’d highly encourage that as well.
Sammy Stava: Obviously, Missouri didn’t have enough to beat Alabama last week as expected. They’ll have a chance against Tennessee, but the Tigers will need to play a clean game. No penalties and no turnovers will give Missouri a legitimate chance to win this one with a much more manageable contest. Also, scoring first – and creating a big defensive turnover wouldn’t hurt.
You know the drill. Who’s winning this game? And name your pick against the spread, you degenerate gamblers!
Josh Matejka: I’m kicking myself for not putting money on last week’s game, as I was confident that a scrappy Mizzou team wouldn’t get massacred in the first game of a COVID-19 season. As of Tuesday afternoon, though, the Vegas line is Tennessee -11.5, which is much harder to predict. Tennessee looked mediocre against South Carolina, and I think Mizzou is going to be a tough out against teams who aren’t Alabama.
As much as I want to pick the good guys and swim in some Voluntears, though, I can’t do it. Tennessee isn’t Top 25 good, but they’re better than Missouri right now. This could easily be a close game that’s within one score in the dying minutes — but Mizzou will make one too many mistakes. UT will capitalize and cover late.
Nate Edwards: As of Thursday morning the spread is holding steady at Tennessee -11.5 and, folks, I am confidentially taking the points. The Tennessee offense isn’t built to rack up 40+ on anybody, and if their defense trots out the same guys as last week, then the Missouri offense should find some opportunities. I am jumping full bore onto the, “just cover the spread,” victories for Missouri so, while the Tigers don’t win, they keep it within 10.
Sammy Stava: I hate to say it, but I still can’t predict Mizzou to win a conference road game against a ranked opponent quite yet. The Tigers aren’t there, and Tennessee has won seven straight games. I do however think this is a one-possession game entering the fourth quarter. Missouri covers the spread, but falls 28-21 in an encouraging performance.