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Early 2022 SP+ Projections: Missouri, the SEC, and the East

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An early look at the gauntlet that will be the 2022 season

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With the returning production for both offense and defense addressed, it’s time to see what Bill C’s magical SP+ machine spits out in regards to early projections for the 2022 season.

First, let’s see how the SEC shakes out:

Projected 2022 SP+ Rankings for the SEC

As a reminder, SP+ looks at your 5-year performance history, your 5-year recruiting performance, and your returning production from the previous year to compute the projected performance level. And while there will be some tweaks once this is rerun in August, this is a good starting point that will be mostly accurate heading into next year’s season.

BREAKING NEWS: the SEC is loaded. There are a few surprises - Mississippi State at 5th, LSU at 11th - but, for the most part, these rankings make sense. Which sucks because your Tigers are waaaaaaaaaaaay down there at the bottom at 13th in the SEC. Will they finish 13th? Eh, probably not. But given how the SEC recruits and performs, Missouri being 5.3 points better than the average 2022 college football team just doesn’t cut it when there are three teams that are 3 touchdowns better than average and more than half the damn conference is two scores better than the average team.

Here’s the SEC East broken out, just to really rub it in:

Projected 2022 SP+ Rankings for the SEC East

Again, these are projections based on recruiting, recent performance, and returning production. You can talk yourself into any of the rankings being wrong or how Missouri will overcome their disadvantages but, on paper, this is the starting point.

Now, luckily, this isn’t the 2020 COVID season so Missouri doesn’t just play 12 SEC games. In fact, they have four non-conference games to play...on top of, yes, a brutal SEC schedule. Here are the projected SP+ rankings for the 2022 schedule:

Projected 2022 SP+ Rankings for Missouri’s Schedule

Based on SP+ projections, Missouri’s most difficult opponents - from hardest to easiest - go like this:

  • Georgia (Week 5)
  • at Tennessee (Week 11)
  • at Florida (Week 6)
  • Kentucky (Week 10)
  • at Auburn (Week 4)
  • Arkansas (Week 13)
  • at Kansas State (Week 2)
  • at South Carolina (Week 9)
  • Vanderbilt (Week 8)
  • Louisiana Tech (Week 1)
  • New Mexico State (Week 12)
  • Abilene Christian (Week 3)

Let’s group those games into three buckets - favored to win, toss-up, and underdog:

Favored to Win

  • Louisiana Tech (Week 1)
  • Abilene Christian (Week 3)
  • Vanderbilt (Week 8)
  • New Mexico State (Week 12)

Projected Toss-Up

  • at Kansas State (Week 2)
  • at Auburn (Week 4)
  • at South Carolina (Week 9)
  • Arkansas (Week 13)

Underdog

  • Georgia (Week 5)
  • at Florida (Week 6)
  • Kentucky (Week 10)
  • at Tennessee (Week 11)

I hated this schedule when it came out but there are some things to like. First, all the games where Missouri will be expected to win are at home so that’ll be nice to see the Tigers win on the home turf. It’s also nice that the BYE week is halfway through the season and each six-game segment starts against one of the easiest teams on the schedule. However, I still think this schedule is set up to deflate the excitement for the season early and possibly kill the chances for a solid buzz around the program. Closing out the opening six-game salvo is on the road at Auburn, home for the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs, and on the road to a rebuilding (but talented) Florida team. It’s not hard to envision a three-game losing streak before the BYE which would be detrimental to the momentum built through the offseason; I’m not saying that they will lose three in a row, just that it’s well within the realm of possibility. But here’s the real kicker: there are four toss-up games that Missouri will have to win at least two of to be bowl eligible, and three are on the road with a great Arkansas team being the lone home toss-up. That’s killer. I would gladly trade a favored game from Columbia to the road in order to get one more toss-up at Faurot, but as it is, this young Tiger squad is going to have to steal a game on the road twice in order to become bowl eligible. Or, y’know, win a game from the Underdog column (of which, I can already tell, the comments will point to Tennessee and Kentucky and laugh at the “underdog” listing).

There’s a lot of time between now and September 3rd and teams - especially college football teams - are hardly consistent enough to perform to their paper standards. But this Missouri squad could improve a ton and far exceed their modest expectations and still only come away with 6 or 7 wins. Rebuilds are tough, trust the process and eat your vegetables.