The Missouri Tigers begin this 2020 season in uncharted waters. Not only does the Eli Drinkwitz era begin with so much uncertainty, but their season opener will be unlike any other in recent memory.
While it sure is going to be a daunting task to face the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide with a prime-time kick on ESPN to begin the season, it just sounds a whole lot more intriguing than the alternative in having to play Central Arkansas mid-afternoon on the SEC Alternate channel (apologies, and no offense to them).
Playing a season opener against a conference opponent and a ranked foe? Yeah, that just doesn’t happen all that often.
The last time Missouri opened up the season against a conference opponent was back in the start of the Big 12 days — 1996 at Texas.
And since 1960 when their Big Eight era officially began, Missouri has played a ranked team to begin the season just eight times, going 4-4 in those such matchups. Here are the results:
1963: 23-12 loss to No. 6 Northwestern
1971: 19-0 loss to No. 19 Stanford
1975: 20-7 win at No. 2 Alabama (!!!!)
1976: 46-25 win at No. 8 USC
1977: 27-10 loss vs No. 4 USC
1978: 3-0 win at No. 5 Notre Dame
1996: 40-10 loss at No. 6 Texas
2008: 52-42 win vs No. 20 Illinois
Time to go over .500 in those, right? So, what exactly do these previous matchups mean? Oh, absolutely nothing. But it is a rare occurrence, so let’s enjoy whatever happens this game.
On Saturday night, Drinkwitz will be third Missouri football head coach in program history to begin the season against a ranked opponent.
In the @AP_Sports Poll era, @CoachDrinkwitz will be just 3rd @MizzouFootball coach to open his MU career vs. ranked foe, following Al Onofrio in ‘71 (L vs. #19 Stanford) & Warren Powers in ‘78 (3-0 W at #5 Norte Dame).#MIZ— Nick Joos (@JoosNick) September 17, 2020
Powers was the last Missouri head coach to finish his debut season with a winning record — an 8-4 mark back in 1978. And that was all after a 4-7 1977 campaign.
And boy, does that ‘78 schedule rival this season as the hardest Mizzou has ever played. The Tigers went 3-2 against five ranked opponents that year.
Can Drinkwitz become the 1978 Warren Powers? We at least get to find out.
The last time Missouri was a four-touchdown home underdog? The flea kicker game happened.
Can Shawn Robinson become Corby Jones? We at least get to find out.
Can Mizzou pull off the unthinkable upset? We at least get to find out.
Missouri gets the opportunity to play No. 2 Alabama on Saturday night. It is surely going to be better than not playing at all.