Which Big 12 opponent would you most like to see Mizzou play in 2020? It’s a question you probably haven’t thought much about. I don’t blame you. It was nothing more than a hypothetical question as recently as a few months (weeks?) ago.
Suddenly it feels like more than a hypothetical.
There’s been buzz in recent days about a new scenario that could save SEC one non-conference game for each SEC team’s respective schedule this season. There are some obvious choices. Games like Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Florida vs. Florida State, Tennessee vs. Oklahoma, LSU vs. Texas, Ole Miss vs. Baylor, Kansas State vs. Vanderbilt, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Louisville vs. Kentucky and Auburn vs. North Carolina are no-brainers to keep on the schedule. Those matchups also present a trend that could be followed if the league goes this route.
The matchups all feature SEC teams facing off against an ACC or Big 12 foe. You following my drift here?
The Tigers don’t currently have any power-five opponents on their non-conference slate. BYU could fit into this criteria, but if the league wants to restrict travel this season, that could also present some issues of its own.
Either way, it seems possible - and maybe even likely - Mizzou has to find a new non-conference game, and that game would likely come against a Big 12 opponent. Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Kansas State are off the board. The rest of the Big 12 is up for grabs.
Three teams in particular stand out as intriguing opponents for the Tigers if this opportunity presents itself.
1) Iowa State
There are certain teams that seem to consistently exceed expectations. Iowa State is one of those teams under Matt Campbell. It’s not always pretty, but they tend to get the job done. The Cyclones are coming off a disappointing season if you only look at their 7-5 record, but it gets more impressive if you dig a bit deeper. Three of those five losses came by a combined four points against Iowa, Baylor and Oklahoma... Who themselves combined to lose a total of five games during the 2019 regular season. That’s quite impressive.
So why would I want to see Mizzou play a team that has every reason to believe it was better than its 7-5 record a year ago, returns its starting QB, star RB and 65% of its 2-deep on an imposing defense?
Because I want to see what Eli Drinkwitz can do opposite Matt Campbell. Campbell’s early years at Iowa State are instructive for why we shouldn’t have exceedingly high expectations for Drinkwitz in year one. The Cyclones went just 3-9 in Campbell’s first season as head coach. However, they’ve won 8, 8 and 7 games in the three years since, and were ranked in the top 25 at some point in each of those three seasons. It’s the first time Iowa State has found itself ranked at some point in the season in 3-straight years since the late 1970’s.
Quite a transformation. So, yeah, I would like to see how Drinkwitz prepares his team to play against one of the best young coaches in the country. It would likely result in a loss, but it would also result in some teachable moments, which really aren’t so bad.
You probably expected to see kansas on this list somewhere. Nope. Not for me. We’ll see that soon enough. I’m not particularly interested in watching Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie run all over the Jayhawks in front of a crowd at 20% (maybe?) capacity.
Instead, I’m going with a game that provides a number of subplots. Mizzou running backs coach Curtis Luper goes against his former boss at TCU. Tigers quarterback Shawn Robinson has an opportunity to get revenge against his former team.
And maybe most importantly, the Tigers get the opportunity to play a team from the Dallas-Fort Worth area Drinkwitz is actively recruiting as one of his main areas of emphasis. How much does that stuff matter? Probably less than we make it out to. But if the game is in Fort Worth, it gives the Tigers an opportunity to check in on some of the kids they’re recruiting. If the game is in Columbia, it’s the perfect opportunity to invite those kids to a game (if that’s allowed at that point). TCU is also a middling team that loses more than half of its starters, which could provide another opportunity for a win on the schedule.
3) Oklahoma State
I know, I know. Another likely loss. You’re probably throwing your hands up right now wondering why in the world I would want to see the Tigers go up against Mike Gundy, Chuba Hubbard and an Oklahoma State team that returns 90% of its two-deep depth chart from a year ago.
It’s really this simple: For the off-chance of an upset.
Gundy hasn’t exactly made himself look like a hero in recent weeks and months. I wouldn’t mind seeing Drinkwitz get a win over the Joe Dirt head coach, however unlikely it may be. The likely loss is worth it for the opportunity to spoil Gundy’s season.