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Revisiting 2022’s “Count The ‘Ifs’”

Mizzou finished 6-7 so let’s see how many items on my preseason checklist the team accomplished!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before every football season I continue the tradition set by The Godfather Bill C. and come up with a checklist of accomplishments for the Missouri football team to complete. Some lead to a winning season, some lead to a 10-win season, and the best seasons of recent years check a lot more boxes than other lackluster seasons the Tigers have gone through.

Here’s a quick link to 2022’s list. But I will also address each point here and give my thoughts on whether the goal was completed or not. A lot of these can be a bit nebulous so your mileage may vary, which is fine! Let’s go point by point:

The following goals were laid out for Missouri to win 7 games in 2022

Arkansas v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

1. Brady Cook runs the offense like 2020 Connor Bazelak

And by “runs the offense” I meant a stat line that looked like this:

  • 67.3% completion percentage, 6.4 adjusted net yards per attempt, 45.1% passing success rate, 3.3% sack rate, 6 interceptions

Brady Cook - torn labrum and all - finished with this stat line:

  • 64.8% completion percentage, 6.2 adjusted net yards per attempt, 39.5% passing success rate, 6.4% sack rate, 7 interceptions

Some are closer than others but every single stat was worse than what Bazelak did during the funky 2020 season (which, I must say again, is a season that I put no significance into).

However - even with an understandable excuse - the exercise is not “make the excuse for why it doesn’t happen”, it’s to set benchmarks that successful teams hit and it didn’t happen this year.

Verdict: Fail

Kentucky v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

2. If the running back(s) maintain last year’s efficiency

Efficiency on the ground is the core tenant of Drinkwitz’s offense, and thanks to the NFL-caliber talents of Larry Rountree III and Tyler Badie, Mizzou’s success rate on the ground was 43.4% in ‘20 (72nd) and 44.1% in ‘21 (63rd). I had hoped that Nate Peat and Cody Schrader could - at a bare minimum - keep the success rates in that 43-44% comfort range that helps the offense go.

Reader: they did not.

Mizzou’s ‘22 rushing offense finished with a 41.5% success rate (85th). Blame the backs, blame the line, it doesn’t matter: the Tiger ground game stunk and was a determining factor in limiting this offense’s effectiveness*.

*to see HOW and WHY it stunk, read my breakdown on Eli’s lazy play calling.

Verdict: Fail

Vanderbilt v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

3. If the new receiving corps can bring any sort of explosiveness to the passing game

Under Eli Drinkwitz the passing game has been a flimsy necessity of the offense more than an actual weapon. You know how you have your collection of cutting knives that are all, conceivably, geared towards a specific type of cut or specific type of food? And how there’s one that you basically use for everything? Yeah...the ground game is Eli’s favorite knife. The passing game is the one that he has refused to sharpen since purchase.

However, with Luther Burden, Mookie Cooper, and Dominic Lovett as a potential starting three, I thought the passing game would at least feature some more explosive plays, after finishing 103rd in ‘20 and 116th in ‘21.

The ‘22 Tiger receiving corps finished 80th in explosiveness last year. Not great but, hey, way better than we’re used to! And, hey, it's finally a nebulous goal that they achieved!

Verdict: Pass

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

4. If an offensive line without Maietti and White maintains last year’s performance

As a reminder, Missouri’s offensive line had improved from ‘19 —> ‘20 AND from ‘20 —> ‘21. Here’s what that looked like:

  • 2020 (Powell-Delgado-Maietti-Cook-Borom): 44.8% opportunity rate/60.0% power success rate/18.4% stuff rate/3.6% sack rate/28.6% pressure rate
  • 2021 (Foster-Delgado-Maietti-Wood-White): 52.2% opportunity rate/74.2% power success rate/18.3% stuff rate/3.8% sack rate/23.4% pressure rate

There was obvious concern when Bence Polgar was ruled ineligible and Hyrin White was unable to recover from his offseason injury. But Marcus Johnson had been squeezing blood out of stone for two straight years and so we - or at least “I”, as I’ll openly admit - gave him the benefit of the doubt.

But here’s what Mizzou’s hodge-podge line ended up doing (I’ll list the final starters of the year for simplicity’s sake):

  • 2022 (Foster-Delgado-Tollison-Wood-Membou): 48.3% opportunity rate/59.5% power success rate/17.4% stuff rate/5.9% sack rate/22.8% pressure rate

Almost everything got worse, including the 116th-ranked power success rate. But, what do you expect when you lose two starters, the backup right tackle, and start a 287-pound freshman in the SEC?

Verdict: Fail

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

5. If the front seven can erase the chance of a repeat 2021

Here we go! Finally, a goal that clearly was accomplished! I don’t need to get into the advanced stats of why the 110th-best defense in the country benefited from all those defensive transfers in to improve to the 19th-best defense. Tip of the cap to D.J. Coleman, Josh Landry, Kristian Williams, Jayden Jernigan, and Ty’Ron Hopper for all their hard work.

Verdict: Pass

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 25 Arkansas at Missouri

6. If the corners don’t bring down the quality of the secondary

Oh, hell yes, we’re on a roll now! While we all thought that KAD and Rakestraw could tear it up as starting corners, we hadn’t really seen it happen yet, as KAD was a slot corner in ‘21 and Rakestraw missed almost the entire ‘21 campaign with injury. However, I’ll go out on a limb and say that having your top two corners combine for 24 passes broken up is much better than having your entire ‘21 defense combine for 26 passes broken up.

Verdict: Pass

That’s six items listed to get to a 7-win season, and the Tigers passed three and failed three in a 6-win season. That seems pretty on-the-nose, yeah? Especially since the defense passed all their requirements and the offense, clearly, did not.

But I also listed items that Mizzou needed to shoot for to get to a 10-win campaign! These weren’t benchmarks that were necessary to become eligible for a bowl game, they were more “bonus” items, or elevated play from specific units that could help win a one-score game and steal some extra wins to possibly get to 10. Let’s see if they came close on any of those:

The following goals were laid out in order to achieve a 10-win season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 25 Arkansas at Missouri

7. If Missouri has a star quarterback and he plays the full season

This one all depends on how you view Brady Cook, yeah? Is he a star-in-the-making who was limited by the whole “I don’t have an operational shoulder!” schtick? Or is he truly “mid” and the injury is just an excuse? We are heading into Year Four of the Drinkwitz regime and yet again we are very much unclear on who will be QB1 and how that gentleman will fare. If you had asked me on December 31st, I would have said Cook is clearly the guy going forward. But with the addition of an offensive coordinator and the portaling in of yet another blue-chip quarterback to add to the I’m not sure. Regardless, Mizzou had a quarterback play the entire season, but we have no idea if he is a “star”. In a pass/fail environment that’s a fail, but truly this is an “incomplete”.

Verdict: Fail

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

8. If the 2022 receiving corps is the 2006 receiving corps

You don’t need the stats to know this was absolutely not the case. But...come on, it’s me, I have the stats. Here’s 2006:

  • Chase Coffman - SO: 58 rec, 638 yards
  • Martin Rucker - JR: 53 rec, 511 yards
  • William Franklin - FR: 48 rec, 829 yards
  • Jared Perry - FR: 37 rec, 429 yards
  • Brad Ekwerekwu - SR: 32 rec, 430 yards
  • Tommy Saunders - SO: 25 rec, 271 yards
  • Danario Alexander - FR: 15 rec, 251 yards

And here’s 2022:

  • Dominic Lovett - SO: 56 rec, 846 yards
  • Luther Burden III - FR: 43 rec, 386 yards
  • Barrett Banister - GR: 44 rec, 457 yards
  • Mookie Cooper - SO: 26 rec, 297 yards
  • Tauskie Dove - SR: 16 rec, 240 yards
  • Mekhi Miller - FR: 8 rec, 130 yards
  • Tyler Stephens - JR: 5 rec, 54 yards

Obviously, Dave Christensen and Chase Daniel threw it around a lot more than Eli and Brady did, but even then the per catch numbers ain’t great and the raw production just wasn’t there this year.

Verdict: Fail

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 23 Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

9. If Freshman Luther Burden is Redshirt Freshman Jeremy Maclin

Another clear whiff but...c’mon, Jeremy Maclin is not some easily replicable performance. All of these items are “bonus” on top of the building block stuff listed above. Regardless, here’s what Jeremy Maclin did his first year:

  • 80 rec, 1,055 yards, 9 TDs / 51 rushes, 375 yards, 4 TDs/ 43 kick returns, 1,039 yards, 1 TD / 25 punt returns, 307 yards, 2 TDs

And here’s what Luther Burden did his first year:

  • 45 rec, 375 yards, 6 TDs/18 rushes, 88 yards, 2 TDs/12 punt returns, 151 yards, 1 TD

He wasn’t efficient but at least he was a touchdown machine! Here’s hoping he makes a similar sophomore leap that Dom Lovett did.

Verdict: Fail

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Vanderbilt at Missouri

10. If the offensive line levels up again

As previously stated, they very much did not. A freshman center was pressed into service way too early, the right side of the line was a constant source of reassignment, and the left side of the line didn’t really improve over what they had done previous years.

Verdict: Fail

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

11. If Jeffcoat and McGuire make the Sam/Ealy leap

I guess I should have put McGuire and D.J. Coleman here, huh? The main point, though, was to have two defensive ends be super havoc-y to help re-establish the “D-Line Zou” brand and all the defensive fun that follows.

Michael Sam and Kony Ealy in 2013 combined for 75.5 tackles, 33 TFLs, 19.5 sacks, 8 PBUs, 1 INT, and 5 forced fumbles.

Isaiah McGuire and D.J. Coleman in 2022 combined for 88 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, 11.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Not bad, but that’s actually lower than the combine production of McGuire and Jeffcoat in ‘21.

So what did McGuire and Jeffcoat combine for this year? Not much better: 67 tackles, 16.5 TFLs, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles.

And, of course, all three of those dudes are gone. Let’s hope the Walker boys or Joe Moore can bring the thunder this year!

Verdict: Fail

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Arkansas at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

12. If Ty’Ron Hopper joins the Weatherspoon/Bolton pantheon

Hopper started the year on fire, consistently wrecking opposing offenses as a havoc-creating machine. That fire, however, was quenched as the year went on and the production - especially havoc - fell off a freaking cliff. However, let’s check in and see how his performance stacks against a few other notable linebackers:

  • Player A: 111 tackles, 15 TFLs, 4 sacks, 1 INT
  • Player B: 95 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2 sacks, 5 PDs
  • Player C: 89 tackles, 15 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 1 FF
  • Player D: 87 tackles, 16 TFLs, 3 sacks, 3 PDs, 1 INT, 1 FF

Player A is Sean Weatherspoon in his last year at Mizzou. Player B is Nick Bolton in his last year in Columbia. Player C is Blaze Alldredge in 2021. And Player D is, of course, Hopper. I’d say his ‘22 performance, even with diminishing returns, qualifies as an excellent season. However, I do not think it’s enough to cement his status as a legend just yet. Whether he enters “THE PANTHEON” after this season is an item to watch but, for now, it’s another “Incomplete” grade.

Verdict: Fail

Vanderbilt v Missouri Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

13. If there’s a #1 corner on the roster

Is there a valid argument to be made that there were two #1 corners on the 2022 defense? KAD and Rakestraw weren’t perfect - few college corners are - but they were productive enough to be a #1 corner on many other teams out there and, oh yeah, they both played for the good guys.

KAD logged more pass break ups and tackles than Rake did (and in one fewer game played!) but Rake also notched 3 TFLs and nabbed an interception (KAD had 0 in both categories).

Because a legit argument could be made for both, I’d say, yes, this was a pass.

Verdict: Pass

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV. 05 Kentucky at Missouri

14. If Martez Manuel channels Pig Brown

Here’s what Pig Brown did in 8 games during the 2007 season:

  • 70 tackles, 8 TFLs, 3 INTs, 1 FF

Here’s what Martez did in 12 games during the 2022 season:

  • 54 tackles, 6 TFLs, 1 FF

Oh drat, Martez didn’t have an All-American type season in his first year as Blake Baker’s STAR. Guess he’ll have to go make millions in the NFL anyway.

Verdict: Fail

15. “Astral Assistance”

This very much did not happen. Mainly due to the fact that Ohio State (30.7), Michigan (31.3), Alabama (33.3), and Georgia (37.3) were all 30 points better than the average college football team in 2022. Tennessee was close at 28 points better but the next highest after that was Penn State at 23.6. FBS college football, as a whole, was down in ‘22 but the four teams at the top were so far ahead that it didn’t really matter. The lone usurper - TCU - came in a 21.8 but sucked up all the “astral assistance” by going 6-1 in one-possession games and being selected for the Playoff despite losing their conference championship game. Did they deserve it? Yeah, at the time they did. Were the incredibly lucky? Yup, and it seems they hogged all the luck from other teams.

Mizzou almost beat Georgia on October 1st but had just lost to Auburn the week before so a win over the ‘Dawgs would have been a tiebreaker at best...and, of course, Mizzou turned around and lost at Florida the next week. But hey, at least they didn’t cash in good luck on a team that wasn’t going anywhere! Silver linings!

Verdict: Fail


Of these nine items necessary to get to a 10-win season Mizzou checked off one. That means, of the entire list, Mizzou achieved four of the 15 goals I laid out in a 6-7 season. That’s not terrible, right? To me that seems like overcoming some glaring weaknesses to win enough games to get to the postseason. Now, eventually I’d like to not see the team scrap and fight down the back stretch of the schedule, but bowl eligibility is bowl eligibility. I look forward to doing this exercise again this fall and see how the Tigers can match up!