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I was probably a bit overly optimistic about this Mizzou football team. The defense was new, the quarterback had the ability to run, and Luther Burden III - combined with a more experienced Dominic Lovett - was enough to get me excited. So, yeah, I thought the team had a real chance to win seven games.
This team has fallen short of reaching anyone’s lofty preseason expectations. That’s not to suggest this season has been a failure. It hasn’t. Not yet, anyway. The Tigers needed Nathaniel Peat to hold onto the ball as he crossed the goal line in order to beat Auburn. They made things a whole lot more interesting than any of us anticipated against Georgia. They were a couple bad Brady Cook interceptions away from a potential win in The Swamp.
Alas, they lost all three games by one score and find themselves siting at 2-4 midway through the season.
This was probably the reasonable expectation. Heck, it’s what Nate Edwards said repeatedly on the Beyond the Box Score podcast and I tried to tell him why he was wrong.
Narrator: He wasn’t wrong.
I was optimistic. But I think for most, a reasonable expectation was for the Tigers to finish the season with at least six wins and an ability to compete and keep games close in the losses. The competitive fight has taken place. But it’s time to see some more wins.
Beating Louisiana Tech, Abilene Christian, Vanderbilt and New Mexico State is the bare minimum. Finishing with four wins and a few “what-if’s” doesn’t earn any sort of morale boost. That would be a failure. This season needs to end with at least five victories, at a minimum. Yes, that means pulling off an upset. That’s how this works! I understand the schedule this season wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t the gauntlet it was cracked up to be.
K-State and Georgia are very good. Kentucky and Tennessee are going to be incredibly tough tasks. But that’s only four games on the schedule. Missouri also faced the 42nd and 36th best teams nationally in SP+. The Tigers still have tests remaining on the schedule against the 33rd, 34th, 93rd and 125th best teams, respectively, in SP+. Beating teams in the 30s or 40s should not be a bridge too far. Not in year three of Drinkwitz’s program.
You don’t have to look far for an example of a team doing exactly that. Illinois, despite a game-manager at quarterback and limited passing options throughout their offense, has started the season 6-1 with wins over the 28th, 35th and 10th best teams in SP+. Bret Bielema took over a worse situation than Drinkwitz, and he did so a year after Drink was hired. Bielema is winning exactly the way he said he would, behind a dominant running game and a suffocating defense.
It’s time for Drinkwitz to start showing some of that same progress. I’m not asking for a win at Tennessee. Heck, I’m not even saying this team needs to win against Kentucky. But can they beat Vanderbilt, South Carolina, New Mexico State AND Arkansas? Is that too much to ask? Such a finish would show clear signs of progress both in-season and also year-over-year.
Have my expectations changed since the start of the season? Yup. I thought this team had a chance at seven wins. I still believe they did. But that’s off the table now. I now expect them to win five games, but I hope they get to at least six. It seems like most of you agree with me, or are even more pessemistic.
Yiikes, only 15% of you think they can reach bowl eligibility. Here’s to hopin’.