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The next four games are the most important of Missouri’s season

Tigers have bowl mania on their mind.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The next four games against the Blue Raiders, Kentucky, South Carolina and Vanderbilt should be considered the most important game of the season.

Lose any of the next four, and it’s likely the Tigers will be watching bowl season rather than participating in it in Barry Odom’s first season.

“There’s six games left so obviously we’d like to go 6-0,” Alec Abeln said. “But yeah sure, the next four games are probably ones we should probably win.

“Big picture, obviously, there are a lot of goals we had that aren’t that realistic right now, but the goal this week is 1-0, next week will be 1-0, the next week will be 1-0, and that’s enough for us.”

Abeln said that it’s important to give the seniors on the roster a chance to play one more game. While that would be an appropriate way to send out multi-year, high-level contributors such as Michael Scherer and Aarion Penton, the potential bowl game experience would be very beneficial to young players, particularly the true and redshirt freshmen.

Missouri would get the benefit of approximately 15 additional practices plus a 13th game, which would pay dividends to players who haven’t received enough repetitions throughout the regular season. It would also give the coaches on staff as much time as they can get with the players.

These discussions have been openly taking place within the Tigers locker room. As long as the focus and determination is present through the next month, Missouri can go 3-1 and possibly 4-0.

“Bowl eligibility is absolutely on our mind. I love talking about goals and having open conversations. They know what's out there,” Odom said.

After the upcoming four game stretch, the Tigers travel top SEC East contender Tennessee and welcome Arkansas on Black Friday. The Tigers need four more wins to get to six and a bowl game. The margin for error is as slim as it can be.

"I want to win them all. That's not gonna happen this year,” Odom said.

The promise that Missouri showed at the beginning of the year has been quickly evaporating.

The offense looked somewhere between competent to dominant during the Eastern Michigan, Georgia and Delaware State games, and the idea was that, at some point, the defense would likely return to its elite form from last season after struggling early on.

After a 40-14 loss to Florida last Saturday, it’s clear that the two units are heading in opposite directions. The offense looks lost and the defense looks somewhat refocused.

Now the Tigers stand at a crossroads heading into Saturday’s Homecoming contest versus Middle Tennessee. Before the year, this was penciled as simply a Missouri win, but now it’s the most important game on the season.