Last week, despite winning the game, the majority of Mizzou fandom felt a little doom and gloom. The Tigers beat Vanderbilt, but it was a dreadful second half and they had to hang on just to squeak out a win over the lowly ‘Dores. Needless to say, skidding to three straight losses and then following that up with an uninspiring win over Vanderbilt didn’t cure any ails.
So when Mizzou turned their sights to the other Columbia, morale wasn’t very high. In fact, if you listened to the Dad Pod this past week you might have concluded the Tigers were in trouble. South Carolina had entered the top 25 after winning four straight games, including big wins over Texas A&M and Kentucky. They had found something that worked and were beating supposedly good teams. Beating good teams while Mizzou was losing to bad ones. At least that’s what we thought.
But collegiate sports have a way of being wonky and weird. What’s true one week isn’t always true the next. At least when you’re talking about the very soft middle of a league like the SEC. Winning games in the SEC will typically get you ranked like it did for South Carolina. They beat Kentucky, who we thought was good. But UK has only beaten Mississippi State and Florida. MSU’s best wins are against Texas A&M and Arkansas. Florida has beaten Utah and Missouri. Arkansas has beaten Cincinnati and Auburn. All of these teams have other wins but they’re over the likes of Bowling Green, Missouri State, Miami of Ohio, and Charlotte. Not exactly murderers’ row.
This isn’t me trying to convince you that Missouri is good.
I still think they’re close to being good, but not good yet. But the difference between Mizzou’s version of being mediocre, or bad, or inconsistent — whatever phrase you want to include for this 2022 team — and being a borderline top 25 team is clearly not that much. They’re likely only a few more friendly bounces away from at least getting Top 25 votes, even with their stinker win over Vandy. That’s how narrow some of these margins can be.
With the way Missouri is playing defense, they’re at least coming into each game equipped with a chance to keep things close. And while Brady Cook and the offense has looked hapless at times, when the Tigers can run the ball effectively it takes the pressure off Cook and can allow him the time he needs to make deeper throws. Which is something he’s pretty good at.
That version of the Missouri offense isn’t great, but it’s effective. And good enough to win games.
Right now being 4-4 is a whole lot better than 3-5, because it means the goal for the rest of the year may still be to reach a bowl game, even if that seemed unlikely last week. The win over South Carolina makes that all the more achievable because only Tennessee looks like the kind of team who you probably can’t beat. While there’s just one certain win left on the schedule (that’s the New Mexico State game), neither Kentucky or Arkansas look unbeatable.
The Wildcats just got bounced hard by Tennessee, and look like they’re sputtering a bit. The defense is good, but like Missouri their offense has struggled. Quarterback Will Levis has been banged up, and his offensive line isn’t keeping him clean in the pocket. The Wildcats are still a top 25 level team in SP+, but having the game at home could give the Tigers the edge they need. If you’re able to beat Kentucky, and then take out NMSU, you’ve got a bowl game.
Then suddenly, in a season which felt lost just a few weeks ago, is back on track.
The goal was never to be an elite team this year, but to gain some experience for younger players and hopefully play in a bowl game. All those things are still on the table. We’ll see which Missouri team shows up next week.
Other SEC Scores:
- Georgia (1) 42, Florida 20
- Tennessee (3) 44, Kentucky (19) 6
- Ole Miss (15) 31, Texas A&M 28
- Arkansas 41, Auburn 27
- Alabama (6) — bye
- LSU (18) — bye
- Mississippi State — bye
- Vanderbilt — bye