Missouri football enters a month of a fractured calendar. With a 2023 season still worth celebrating, the bowl looming, and the hot stove underway, December is at once the past, present, and future of Missouri football.
The past: We should still make time to celebrate and appreciate this incredible 2023 season. Maybe re-watch a Mini Movie or two. You can even carve out some time in your busy holiday schedule to watch, say, the entire Tennessee or Kansas State games on youtube. Cody Schrader will find out soon if he takes home the Doak Walker Award. All-conference and All-American teams will continue to filter out, and Tigers will litter those lists. Savor it. Seasons like this don’t happen every year for Missouri.
The present: We, as fans, have that luxury of living in the past. For the team and the staff, they must buckle down and prepare for Ohio State. While 2023 is unequivocally a success regardless of the result of the Cotton Bowl Classic, it would still be a treat to cap off this campaign with a victory. The Buckeyes will be a tall order, and Missouri’s preparation, game plan, and execution will all need to be top-notch to win on Friday night in Dallas.
The future: December will end with one of the biggest postseason games in school history, but first it will shape the future of the Mizzou program. The transfer portal opens for all players today, December 4th – previously it had only been open to graduates and players on teams whose head coach changed. The Tigers have already lost some depth pieces and non-contributors, and now fans and the staff must hold their collective breath to find out if any expected starters intend to leave, as well.
The portal taketh away, but it also giveth. Drink and staff will now balance bowl preparations with evaluating and courting free agents. Throw in re-recruiting your own roster and a holiday home life, and this month will be a slog for the staff. (To quote Don Draper:”That’s what the money is for!”) Yes, it will be a tiring month for the coaches and an exciting one for fans, but ultimately December is an opportunity to cement how we view the past, and how the program performs in the future.
Quick thoughts on Ohio State: This is the perfect bowl opponent: a helmet program disappointed in how their season ended. Motivation and opt-outs could be an issue for the Buckeyes, but not for Missouri. If you lose to Ohio State, that’s fine – they were a top-5 team all season; you’re supposed to lose to them. If you win? It’s the cherry on top of an incredible season.
It appears that opt-outs will not be a problem for Missouri’s depth chart. If there are any candidates they would be: LT Javon Foster, LB Ty’Ron Hopper, DL Darius Robinson, and CBs Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw. These are the best NFL prospects, and Hopper and Rakestraw both finished the season on the shelf. But the early quotes from the clubhouse indicate the team will be a full go for the matchup — would you expect anything different from a team led by guys like Cody Schrader and Robinson?
Eli Drinkwitz says he expects to have all of his #Mizzou players available for the Cotton Bowl, barring injury-related absences, including seniors.— Eli Hoff (@byEliHoff) December 3, 2023
He adds that MU players who intend to transfer can still play in the Cotton Bowl if they want.
Early indications out of Columbus are also that all Buckeyes will suit up, but that will likely change. Missouri has good draft prospects; Ohio State has blue-chippers. Missouri has a chance to exceed even their wildest dreams; the Buckeyes are limping to the finish line after failing to meet their 2023 goals.
There is newness to the matchup, as the teams have not met since the late 90s. Missouri’s lone win in the series came in 1976, and was a memorable moment for Missouri lore: it gave us the MIZ/ZOU chant:
Especially because of a fateful bus ride during the 1976 football season. On a trip back to Columbia after beating the Buckeyes in Columbus, the cheerleading squad and Marching Mizzou members were trying to figure out if Mizzou could have a catchy call and response similar to Ohio State’s.
“We were seriously arguing about what type of response would work when suddenly a guy named Cedric Lemme, a Mini-Mizzou band member said, ‘Hey, why don’t you guys try MIZ / ZOU?,” Bushyhead recalled. “It was like a giant light-bulb went on — that’s it!”
It took a few games for MIZ / ZOU to catch on, but once it did history was made.
Maybe those of us making the trek to spend New Year’s in Dallas will have a similar school-defining moment.