♫ Just left Faurot Field, dressin’ up formal ♫
The Tigers are playing on Veteran’s Day and absolutely showing out for the people in uniform.
This is, without question, the best look Mizzou has fielded this season. All black uniforms are always a winner, but combining them with a strong gold Block M?
In Case You Missed It...
- Both Eli Drinkwitz and Erik Link pointed to special teams margins as being key in the loss against Georgia. They’ll look to clean those up against Tennessee this weekend.
- Mizzou doesn’t have a lot of players on the injury report this week, but the ones who are could present some real problems in their absence: Luther Burden III is questionable to play against Tennessee, as is Realus George Jr.. Brady Cook is also listed as ‘probable,’ along with some other players.
- Tennessee, on the other hand, appears to be coming into Columbia with a relatively clean bill of health. Running back Jabari Small, offensive tackle John Campbell and defensive lineman Omari Thomas all sat against UConn, but will be available against the Tigers.
- Are you a fan of Jackass? Thank Knoxville, Tennessee, which forged one Johnny Knoxville himself.
- Perusing the UT alumni wiki, two very impressive names stand out in the literature business. Both Cormac McCarthy and Kurt Vonnegut are Volunteers, which explains why the former’s work is so desolate and the latter’s is so blackly humorous.
Keen eyes and long-time readers will notice something strange about this post. Did you catch it? I’ll give you a second to mull it over...
The header image for this here post is, in fact, recycled from my first season as the full-time Pregamin’ ward. I admit, it’s been a busy and stressful week at home — love to be fighting multiple illnesses, baby! — and my creative juices have been mostly saved for my day job. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of Pregamin’ so we’re going to practice a little environmentalism and reduce-reuse-recycle.
Speaking of environmentally friendly practices! I was having a hard time thinking of what sort of cocktail I’d want to pair with a game like this. I’ve done a lot of whiskey drinks and, fortunately for me, I don’t have any Tennessee whiskey in my pantry. So I turned to Bing’s AI chatbot to make me a recipe. It’s a service that’s served me well in the past, so I decided to give it another shot. Here was the specific prompt:
Make me a cocktail recipe inspired by the state of Missouri and named “The Missouri Tiger”
To my delight, Bing delivered a winner.
2 oz bourbon, 1 oz lemon juice, 0.5 oz maple syrup, 0.25 oz Campari, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, Lemon Peel for garnish
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into rocks glass.
I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous about the inclusion of maple syrup here. I almost swapped it for Turbinado syrup to bring something a little more tropical to the mix, but I decided to stand firm by the recipe the collective expertise of the internet and humanity gave me.
And I’m glad I did! While I don’t think the final color “resembles the Tiger’s fur” as Bing tried to suggest it would, what I’m left with here is an incredible variation on a Whiskey Sour with a whole lot of fun complexity. The Campari balances out the tartness of the lemon, while the maple syrup and bitters bring a lot of spice to the party. I’m really glad I went with some Weller bourbon here, as it’s straightforward, smooth palette acted as a lovely base for all the other flavors to springboard off.
I’d highly recommend “The Missouri Tiger” to you all!
Mizzou received plenty of praise for their performance against Georgia, even if the result didn’t go their way. Outside of “playing well against the two-time defending champs” what would you say Mizzou accomplished in Athens?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: Mizzou validated a lot of the work Eli Drinkwitz has done to the program at this point. I may be borrowing from the column I wrote a few weeks ago, but Drink’s process of improving the bedrock of young talent and supplementing it with aggressive moves in the transfer portal has raised the Tigers’ overall floor and ceiling significantly. And while it’s great to show that against teams like Kansas State and Kentucky, it’s even better to do so against programs like Georgia.
Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: The Tigers proved that they have some position groups that are equipped to match up with the nation’s elite, specifically at wide receiver, defensive back and defensive line. In years past, the stigma around Mizzou Football has generally been to pull in underrated prospects that become major contributors as upperclassmen, but the Tigers are now reaping the benefits of a raised level of recruiting in recent years. That showed on the field in Athens, where Mizzou players were actually able to win a handful of one-on-one battles against some of UGA’s best athletes.
Quentin Corpuel, Staff Writer: They proved that their rushing attack is legitimately legit. They were already legitimate, but Saturday’s performance on the ground further validated that Cody Schrader and Mizzou’s offensive line are playing at a nationally high level. The Tigers’ 151 rushing yards were the third-most Georgia had allowed in a game since 2020. Against a Tennessee squad whose offensive strength has completely shifted from the pass to the run this season, it’ll be a battle of two high-level rushing attacks on Saturday.
Sammy Stava, Staff Writer: Mizzou’s performance vs Georgia last week proved that they belong in the second tier of SEC teams behind UGA and Bama — and that’s still a really good football team but not at the elite level quite yet. The Tigers also showed that they aren’t intimidated in a hostile environment on the road. Overall, the ceiling for this team should be Top 10-ish and the floor is like a Top-20 ranking.
Now that the SEC Championship and the College Football Playoff are, in essence, off the table, what do you think a reasonable goal should be for this Mizzou team?
Josh Matejka: I’m tempted to say 9-3 is a respectable goal, but I think the ambitions of this team dictate that 10 wins and a New Years Six bowl are definitely within reach. The Tigers showed they were capable of playing with Georgia and were maybe a few plays away from knocking them off in Athens. If they play like that in their final few games, they’ll be in contention for one of bowl season’s prime slots.
Parker Gillam: A New Year’s Six Bowl is possible, but Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee will also be in the mix for that from the SEC, as well as potentially the SEC Championship Game loser. Thus, the room appears to be a bit too crowded for Mizzou to get into.
For me, I want to see this team in a Florida bowl game against a strong Big Ten team (PSU, Wisconsin, or dare-I-say Iowa) with an opportunity to prove itself as a rising program nationally. That would require a 3-0 finish to the year. [Editor’s note: me too. I want to go]
With how UT has dominated this series in the past two years (128-48), Mizzou should be more than motivated to exact some revenge against a UT team that is good-not-great. Florida is looking very beatable at this point considering how much the Gators keep beating themselves, but on the flip side, Arkansas will be scary. With a healthy Rocket Sanders and KJ Jefferson being the force of nature that he is, the Hogs could pull off a stunner to reach a bowl game in Fayetteville. Crazy things happen in rivalry games, but beating Arkansas for the second year in a row would put a cherry on top of a successful year.
Quentin Corpuel: This is what Mizzou fans could reasonably think:
Simply put, Tennessee is good, but inconsistent, while Florida and Arkansas have looked objectively worse than Mizzou. A double-digit win season is still very much in the cards.
Sammy Stava: It all hinges on this Tennessee game. A 10-2 record and an NY6 bowl appearance is still a reasonable goal. Let’s say that anything less than 9-3 would be a pretty big disappointment. I would expect this team to be playing in an NY6 or a New Year’s Day (Citrus or ReliaQuest) bowl.
Tennessee is known partially for its football team, but mostly for its insufferable fan base. Outside of the Vols and the one school to the west, which fan base do you hold special contempt for?
See you next year, Texas fans.
Parker Gillam: I grew up a member of that fan base, and I only rank Ohio State, Florida, Alabama and Texas fans as worse than them. So yeah, I agree, they can be as trashy as it gets in the SEC, although I have also met a plethora of great people within the fan base, so you can’t just put them all under one umbrella. [Author’s Note: Parker is one of the good ones.]
That being said, Alabama fans have annoyed me with how complacent they have become, which you can’t necessarily blame them for after they’ve become so used to winning. Still, at the slightest hint of a drop-off during a season, the fan base begins the rumors about the “beginning of the end for Saban,” or they’ll come after a QB personally and publicly, or they’ll demand that every coordinator be fired after two games. They’re just as bad as the Tennessees and Floridas of the world, they just haven’t had as much to complain about. It’s the peak of impatience and short-sighted behavior in college football, and there will come a day in which the Crimson Tide faithful will wish they were just worrying about if Jalen Milroe is capable of leading them to a national title.
Just ask Nebraska, Miami and Tennessee about their falls from grace and how they had to deal with newfound mediocrity (or worse). It’s not fun.
Quentin Corpuel, Miami (FL) supporter who really appreciated the lovely reminder about UM’s fall from the top: I’d have to agree with Parker here. A core value I’ve held throughout my life is to be thankful. I’m sure many Alabama fans hold that same core value, but a lot of others don’t seem to (at least when it comes to supporting their football team).
I remember talking with an Alabama beat writer at the SEC men’s basketball tournament in Nashville this past season when Mizzou played the Crimson Tide in the semifinal. He said that the 2022 season (the one where Nick Saban’s crew went 11-2 with a blowout win over Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl) was miserable for Alabama fans. Yuck.
Sammy Stava: Arkansas fans belong in this category. Illinois Basketball fans as well.
If you’re Eli Drinkwitz, how do you motivate your team to finish strong after the disappointment of last weekend?
Josh Matejka: Need some bulletin board material, Drink? Point to the fact that Tennessee is the Vegas favorite! Something to prove, week after week.
Parker Gillam: He doesn’t need to. This team is as self-motivated of a group as I have ever seen in my short time on this Earth, and they will continue to exhibit the 1-0 mentality just like they have throughout this season. There’s just too many veterans playing their final college games for this team to fold.
In every game, they’ll have reason to come out with their hair on fire.
Against Tennessee, I’ve previously talked about how the Vols have beaten Mizzou by a combined score of 128-48 in the past two meetings. Nobody has scored more against a Blake Baker-coached Tiger defense, and Josh Heupel has thoroughly enjoyed running it up on his former employer. Personal revenge, SEC East implications and a potential New Year’s Six berth will on the line on Saturday. That’s more than enough motivation.
Against Florida, the Gators grinded out an ugly win over Mizzou last year. Revenge will also be a factor in this game. On top of that, it will be senior day for a who’s-who of players on the Mizzou roster, and the environment at Faurot should be special for the final home game of the year.
Against Arkansas, it’s bragging rights against an insufferable fan base. Enough said.
Quentin Corpuel: Nothing different than to re-emphasize the same goal that they’ve had every week throughout the season: go 1-0. Dwelling on the past makes the future less fruitful. A stupendous season can still be achieved; letting one loss linger in the mind could very easily prevent that.
Sammy Stava: I don’t think Drinkwitz needs to motivate these guys. These players still know what’s ahead of them and they should know that they’re still a really good football team. Yes, the missed opportunity vs Georgia stung — but this team should still come out with confidence on Saturday and feed off the home crowd energy.
Tennessee is weird and inconsistent this season, but they’re still pretty good. Which Mizzou player or unit do you think will be key to the Tigers getting back in the win column?
Josh Matejka: It would behoove the defensive line to have another stellar game against the Volunteers. Mizzou’s front seven was all over Georgia last week, making it supremely difficult for Carson Beck to get comfortable. Joe Milton is a different type of quarterback, but if the Tigers can consistently get in his face, they’ll put the game on his shoulders. And despite his evident talent, I don’t know that he’s ready for that sort of pressure.
Parker Gillam: If you can somehow contain UT’s three-headed monster in the backfield and create push against that strong offensive line, then that puts all of the pressure on Joe Milton to win this game, which is just what Mizzou wants.
That will come down to the front seven. Tennessee ranks among the best in the nation in yards before contact on running plays, so generating some penetration up front from the defensive tackles and linebackers will be key. If Jabari Small, Dylan Sampson and Jaylen Wright are being hit within two yards of the line of scrimmage, then UT’s offense will struggle. If not, we’ll likely see a repeat of when the Vols ran for 458 in ‘21.
Quentin Corpuel: If the front seven can thwart Tennessee on early downs, that’ll be huge. Getting Tennessee into third-and-long will force Joe Milton to throw the football; while he can throw it very far, his accuracy has been erratic. He’s completed over 82% of his passes over the past two games against UConn and Kentucky, but a road contest against a Mizzou defense that’s strong at all three levels presents a strong challenge. If the Tigers can force Tennessee into as many passing downs as possible, that’ll make the Vols more predictable, which could lead to some turnovers.
Sammy Stava: The defense needs to start improving on third down success. Individually, Brady Cook will need a bounce-back game and play mistake-free football in order for the Tigers to win this one.