I am so absolutely psyched for the beginning of football season. There is absolutely nothing better than this time of the year where everyone is optimistic and hopeful about their teams’ chances to succeed. I am no different. In fact, I’m inherently optimistic about a Missouri Tigers program that, at least recently, has given me few reasons to be optimistic. That’s what fandom is about.
After all, fan is short for fanatic.
However, at the beginning of the season, I think it’s important to define your expectations to get an accurate measure of success by the end of the season... So let’s do it!
Week One: vs Louisiana Tech
Thursday Night Football! Nothing like it.
Missouri opens up at home as a 19.5 point favorite on September 1st, against a Louisiana Tech team that has a brand new staff and not a whole lot of returning talent to it. Missouri figures to have a near sellout crowd for the primetime matchup, and considering the opponent, I think Missouri gets off to a fast start with all of the energy in the stadium and overwhelms a rebuilding Louisiana Tech team.
Score prediction: 51-21
Record: 1-0 (0-0)
Week Two: @ Kansas State
This is such a big test for Missouri. They’ll be on the road in what will be a hostile environment against what should be a very quality opponent. This will be the first real test for Missouri’s run defense against arguably the nation’s best running back. We will really find out how revamped that area of the defense is.
I do like Missouri’s offensive matchup, at least on paper though, and think they’ll be able to put up some points, but I think the K-State crowd and rushing attack ends up being too much to overcome.
Final Score: 41-38
Record: 1-1 (0-0)
Week Three: vs Abilene Christian
If this is even remotely close, we’re screwed this year. I fully expect to see Sam Horn get some tick in this game. This is a “get the young guys some playing time” game. Pick your score.
Final Score: 55-10
Record: 2-1 (0-0)
Week Four: @ Auburn
This is another important game, as well as a sort of homecoming for Coach Drinkwitz. Auburn was his first home, and where Drinkwitz saw the most success in his career. Though he’d never admit it, I imagine this game means a little something to him.
On the field, I’m honestly not that impressed with Auburn’s product. I don’t think they’re bad, per see, but they’re always dramatic and they tend to underachieve due to outsized expectations. The Tigers also have a week three matchup with Penn State, a game I project them to lose. By that time, I expect the chatter around that program to begin to pick up... Right in perfect time for Missouri to come to town!
This is a great “What have you learned?” game. This will be Missouri’s second road game in four games and I really think a close loss in Manhattan actually helps them in this game. They’ll have seen and experienced a road environment and made adjustments to find a way to secure the win. Missouri wins the game and the seat gets hotter and hotter on Drinkwitz’s former boss.
Final Score: 31-17
Record: 3-1 (1-0)
Week Five: vs Georgia
At this time, Georgia is probably still undefeated. Which is a surprise to none.
Missouri, though! They’re a surprising 3-1, with the only loss coming on the road to a now ranked Kansas State team in a close loss. The records themselves may convince people that Missouri has a legitimate shot to win the game.
Maybe it stays close for a minute, but in all likelihood... This won’t go very well.
Final Score: 41-14
Record: 3-2 (1-1)
Week Six: @ Florida
Yeah, I think Anthony Richardson is pretty good. I also think the Gators’ schedule before they play Missouri is pretty ridiculous and will have them worn down by the time Missouri comes to Gainesville. Utah, Kentucky, Tennessee are three of UF’s first four opponents, and directly afterwards are a home matchup with LSU and a road game at Georgia. It’s very easy to see Missouri getting lost in the mix.
I think by this time Missouri’s defense is rounding into form and they go down to Florida and upset (I say “upset” as a national perspective, because it ain’t surprising to us) the Gators.
Final Score: 27-20
Record: 4-2 (2-1)
Week Seven: vs Vanderbilt
I know the Commodores will likely be in the basement, but Clark Lea has done a sneaky good job in recruiting and has signed a couple of kids in the past cycle who figure to be long-term pieces in their future. This includes a four-star quarterback out of Georgia in AJ Swann. It may not show in the record, but I think Vanderbilt will have more talent on the field overall, and I think Lea can be a solid coach.
Still though, to describe Vanderbilt and where they’re at, I’ll steal a line from Fran Fraschilla: “They’re two years away from being two years away.”
Final Score: 34-21
Record: 5-2 (3-1)
Week Eight: @ South Carolina
I’m higher on South Carolina than most people are. Spencer Rattler is a legitimately good quarterback, and they have some weapons surrounding him. Also, Shane Beamer really is what everyone says he is. I also think Missouri is due for a letdown performance after what has been a pleasant early season surprise.
Final Score: 34-24
Record: 5-3 (3-2)
Week Nine: vs Kentucky
I’ve been pretty vocal about my suspicion of Will Levis and this Kentucky offense. The loss of Wan’Dale Robinson and Liam Cohen is going to be a huge factor. I do not believe Levis is a first round quarterback and I don’t know who he’s going to throw to who will replace Robinson’s production.
Even if I am a bit underwhelmed with their offense, Kentucky’s defense has been at least consistently solid. The Cats are always aligned correctly, they play as a swarm and they make plays on the ball. I’m really a fan of the way they play and the standards the defense is held to. Also, Mark Stoops... Pretty damn good football coach.
That said, Missouri and Kentucky are pretty equal in my eyes and Missouri is the home team. So, I’m going to lean towards Missouri.
Final Score: 21-17
Record: 6-3 (4-2)
Week Ten: @ Tennessee
I’ve racked my brain to find a way to make this go towards Missouri’s way, but I just can’t figure it out. Tennessee is just better right now. I don’t think this is some blow out kind of contest but I do feel like Tennessee wins this game pretty comfortably. I have no real statistics to support that opinion but I think that this Tennessee team ends up being pretty darn good and wins at least nine games.
Final Score: 35-24
Record: 6-4 (4-3)
Week Eleven: vs New Mexico State
The Mario McKinney/Xavier Pinson Bowl!
Seriously though, it should be a grade A ass-kicking where we get to see the young guys get more playing time. This should be a good game for some of these guys to grab some film.
Final Score: 55-7
Record: 7-4 (3-3)
Week Twelve: vs Arkansas
Arkansas comes to CoMo in the regular season finale and there figures to be a lot on the line for Missouri on Black Friday. 8 wins, a better bowl game and true progress towards the long term goal of building a contending program. That’s all a big deal.
However though, Arkansas has a killer at QB by the name of KJ Jefferson. He is extremely impressive from a physical standpoint and checks a lot of boxes from the mental side, too. He really can do a little bit of everything. He’s a natural thrower of the football, and a nice option in the zone read game. Jefferson is my dark horse pick for Heisman. (+12500!!)
Because of all of that, unfortunately, I have to pick the Hogs in a heartbreaker.
Final Score: 31-28
Final Record: 7-5 (4-4)