Let’s get this out of the way: No, this isn’t the start any of us expected. Missouri comes out of its bye week with a record of 3-4. Three of the four “swing games” on the schedule were Kentucky, Boston College and Tennessee. The first two resulted in one-score losses on the road. The third resulted in one of the most humiliating home losses in program history.
The three wins on the season came against Central Michigan, SEMO and North Texas.
So, yeah. Not great. Certainly not what we were hoping for or expecting. And, aside from this weekend’s matchup against Vanderbilt, it doesn’t get a whole lot easier from here. The Tigers still have to travel to Georgia and Arkansas with another date against Florida. At least South Carolina’s on the schedule.
A bowl game seems out of reach. My focus for this season has shifted to what the current players mean for the future of the program.
With that in mind, I could be worth some time to check in on where some of the individual performers and the team as a whole stand as we come out of the bye week.
Let’s check in on the defense... Buckle in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Missouri’s passing defense has been better (statistically speaking) than you would expect. Opposing FBS quarterbacks are completing just 59 percent of their passing attempts against the Tigers, a mark which ranks among the top 40 nationally. Mizzou has also done a great job of coming down with interceptions. Their eight picks on the season ranks among the top 20 nationally, tied with teams such as Georgia, Tennessee and UCLA.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the good ends and the bad begins. FBS quarterbacks have been pretty darn effective when they do complete passes against the Tigers. Missouri’s FBS opponents have completed 96 passes this season. An astonishing 21 of those 96 completions have gone for at least 20 yards. Nine of those 96 completions have gone for at least 30 yards.
In other words, more than 20 percent of the completions against Missouri’s defense have resulted in an explosive play for the opposing offense. And roughly 10 percent of those passes have gone for 30+ yards.
When the Tigers are preventing the big plays, though, the passing defense has mostly been fine. Missouri is playing some young guys on the back end of its defense, and it’s gone just about as well as anyone could expect. Take away some of those big plays down the stretch and the passing defense could turn into a real strength for this defense.
Okay, I gave you good. Now for the bad. And, you guys, it’s really bad. Historically bad.
Missouri currently ranks 129th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards allowed per game (288) and rushing yards allowed per carry (6.2). Missouri’s opponents have run the ball 326 times. Of those 326 carries, an absurd 67 (!!!!) have gone for at least 10 yards. Yes, 20 percent of the carries against Missouri’s defense would gain a first down on a first and 10 play. That’s not ideal.
What’s worse is that 20 carries have gone at least 20+ yards against the Tigers’ defense, the most such carries against any power five program this season. The Tigers also lead power five teams this season in 30+ yard rushes allowed, 40+ yard rushes allowed and 60+ yard rushes allowed. Big ups to Northwestern & Virginia for somehow allowing more 50+ yard carries.
The Tigers have somehow allowed at least 275 yards rushing on at least five yards per carry against all four power five opponents they’ve faced this season.
Missouri’s defense is currently on pace to allow 559 carries to gain 3,450 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
The only power five teams to allow at least 3,450 rushing yards in the last 20 years are UCLA (2017), Texas Tech (2015), North Carolina (2015) and Northwestern (2002). Surprisingly enough, two of those teams actually finished the season with winning records. Texas Tech was able to overcome its awful defense with the second highest scoring offense in college football. I guess Patrick Mahomes will do that for you. North Carolina was able to finish ranked in the top 15 behind a top 10 scoring offense in the country, too.
Missouri, well, it doesn’t have a top 10 offense. Alas.
The worst Missouri rushing defense of the last 20 years took place in 2016. The Tigers allowed 2,800 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry. This year’s team is on pace to allow another 650 rushing yards on an extra yard per carry. This isn’t just bad. It’s historic.
There are no fixes. It’s likely to get better before it gets worse (oh, hey, Georgia). Hopefully the offseason brings immediate help through the transfer portal.
At least Vanderbilt is next on the schedule.