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A Fan’s Notes: Ranking Possible Bowl Opponents

Usually this is a recap of the previous football game, but the last one was delightfully boring. So instead of looking backwards, let’s take a look into the future instead, shall we?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 11 Tennessee at Missouri Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ten wins! It looks good on you, Missouri. Eli Drinkwitz did what Eli Drinkwitz does, he had his team well-prepared and ready to go against an SEC peer program. For the twelfth time this season, the Tigers walked on the field with the full belief they would win, and for the tenth time, they did.

The Tigers will get one more shot to add to the tally in the postseason, most likely a New Year’s Six Bowl. Let’s turn this Notebook over to talking about bowl game scenarios. Usually in this space on Monday I recap the week that just happened with some observations, and notes and nuggets. I don’t think there is much to talk about from that Arkansas game – Missouri kicked their butt, plain and simple. The triumphant season was capped with a coronation. I have no energy to break down how the backups played in the fourth quarter or Zapruder film the brawl or write more words of effusive praise about Cody Schrader or Luther Burden III. (There has been, and will continue to be, plenty of that).

So instead, let’s rank likely bowl opponents, in order of most desired matchup. I considered three main factors. Firstly, there’s the actual football matchup, and if the game will be winnable. Not much fun in watching our guys get pantsed by a superior opponent. Secondly, there is the draw of the opponent – let’s get someone worth watching, that the CFB world respects. Lastly, as usual, there is vibes. Nothing scientific, just if I want it or not!

1) Penn State – The Nittany Lions, despite playing in an erector set stadium, wearing uniforms that look like the first step in the design process, never beating their chief rivals, and having the most horrifying widespread abuse scandal in sports history, are still a beloved figure in the eyes of the college football universe. Gross. Maybe because they pretend to have invented the white t-shirt. I dunno.

Any team on this list is going to be a tough matchup on the field; that’s the caliber of opponent Missouri has earned. But James Franklin’s outfit might be the most beatable – they are like a way better version of Tennessee, a team Missouri handled. They are physical, with a pair of excellent running backs, with a cannon-armed quarterback who they don’t really trust to attack downfield. This would be the optimal opponent in terms of respected program and winnable game.

The Action Network Power Ratings projected spread on a neutral field: Penn State -2.

2) Ohio State – You are not going to find a more attractive helmet matchup outside of the SEC than Ohio State. Well, maybe Notre Dame. Ohio State is a damn good football team, but maybe it will be disappointed to be in whatever non-playoff bowl it gets shuffled off to, after a third straight failure to beat Michigan. Ideally the team’s motivation for this game would be low, and their roster depleted as stars like Marvin Harrison Jr, TreVeyon Henderson, and JT Tuimoloua sit out to prepare for the NFL draft. If not, it could get dicey for Missouri against one of the sport’s best rosters.

TAN PR projected spread: Ohio State -9.5.

3) Washington – The Huskies would be a fun matchup because both teams and fanbases would be thrilled with the caliber of season they had. Yes, Washington would have some disappointment because it would mean they let the Pac-12 title game and a playoff berth slip away, but overall they will be overjoyed to celebrate a perfect regular season and Heisman hopeful quarterback. Unfortunately, it would be a bad matchup for Missouri on the field. We have seen how good passing teams can have their way with the Tigers. The defense would have a hard time keeping up with Michael Penix and his talented receivers – especially since Mizzou’s two most obvious opt-out candidates are the starting cornerbacks. But, Washington’s defense is the worst of all of these major programs, and the game would likely be a shootout and a showcase for Burden and Schrader.

TAN PR projected spread: Washington -5.5.

4) Oregon – This game might actually get rough. Oregon is really, really good. Dan Lanning has brought the kind of SEC physicality and trench play to Eugene that Mario Cristobal promised, He has done so without compromising good offensive production. Oregon is excellent on the lines, explosive on the perimeter, and has a veteran quarterback steering this ship. But, losing to them would not sting the way some of the other losses would, and you would get to see one of the best mascots in sports ply his trade. Missouri would probably lose, but it would be fun.

TAN PR projected spread: Oregon -10.

5) Florida State – Florida State has a ton of high-level talent, but if they missed the playoff, how many of those guys would suit up? A Florida State without Jordan Travis, Trey Benson, Jared Verse, and Keon Coleman suddenly becomes a lot more beatable. On the other hand, this would be one of the most painful teams to lose to. FSU fans will relish any chance to rub it in the face of the big bad SEC, even though our Tigers are still the new kids in the league. The idea of losing while having to sit through the deplorable chop chant for four hours is downright excruciating. Luckily, this matchup is extremely unlikely to happen.

TAN PR projected spread: Florida State -0.5.

6) Tulane/Liberty – Playing the Group of Five representative would be a bummer. Yes, it gives you the best chance at a win, but you want to play a premiere opponent. Playing a Group of Five opponent is a “lose-lose” scenario because if you win, well sure, you were supposed to beat them, and if you lose, hahahaha omg you lost to a Cinderella. Ugh. Both teams have really good quarterbacks, high level skill position players, and funky option-based offenses that will have their bowl opponent in hell for sixty minutes. Plus, America will be rooting against you. Ugh, it just all sounds miserable. You want to catch a flashy program playing down, not an underrated team playing up. No thank you.

TAN PR Projected Spread: Missouri -10.5 vs Tulane

TAN PR Projected Spread: Missouri -13 vs Liberty.

7) Texas – The Horns are low on my list for a couple reasons. One, we just played them in a bowl, we just played them as conference mates, and we will start playing them again as conference mates really soon. Two, they’re really annoying, just, like, in general. Three, I think this would be a terrible matchup for the Tigers – they have a Georgia-like combination of incredible trench talent with explosive playmakers at perimeter. Strictly from a football perspective, this team and Oregon are the two that I think would give Missouri hell.

TAN PR projected spread: Texas -4.

8) Oklahoma State — I don’t need a third bowl in a decade against these guys. Can’t we play someone else? Ollie Gordon against Cody Schrader would be a fun “out of nowhere running backs” storyline, and the game would be winnable. But otherwise, let’s see someone new, please.

TAN PR projected spread: Missouri -6.

9) Iowa — Dear god, no. Please, no.

TAN PR projected spread: Missouri -12.

Well, that’s my feelings-based list. Where is your heart pulling you? I am so thrilled that we get to have this kind of discussion about the team, and I am looking forward to celebrating this season in person as I plan to make the trip to the bowl game. Hopefully the Tigers can cap it off with their eleventh victory of the year.