Is this Missouri’s year?

I’ve seen a fair amount of buzz about Missouri being a darkhorse candidate in the SEC East, including a couple of pundits who have suggested the Tigers will have Georgia on upset alert when the two meet.  Some of the buzz is over Drew Lock likely to be one of the conference’s top quarterbacks; some of it comes from Mizzou’s sizzling 2017 regular season finish.  Me, I can’t quite bring myself to buy in, for reasons Matt Melton does a good job of explaining here.

Back around Columbus Day, you probably could have gotten decent odds that Barry Odom would not be coaching Missouri in 2018. After an uninspiring 4-8 debut, the Tigers were 1-4 in his second season with their lone win against an FCS opponent. Overall, the Tigers had three victories against FBS teams and just two conference wins under Odom’s guidance. The Tigers would lose their next game against Georgia, although they were somewhat competitive against the eventual national runners up, scoring 28 points against a stout Georgia defense. Following that defeat to the Dogs, Missouri would not lose again (in the regular season), pulverizing their last six foes by an average of 30 points per game! Their regular season finale against Arkansas was close, but the other five wins all came by at least four touchdowns. So Missouri is naturally an SEC East darkhorse heading into 2018 right? As the esteemed Lee Corso might say: Not so fast, my friend.

Missouri was quite dominant in their last six games of 2017, but let’s pause and consider the quality of opponent. The Tigers won non-conference games against Idaho and Connecticut, two teams that combined for seven wins in 2017. In addition, the four conference opponents the Tigers slaughtered did not sniff the postseason. Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt combined for a 5-27 SEC record with three of the wins coming against each other (Florida and Vanderbilt over Tennessee and Florida over Vanderbilt). Outside of Arkansas, the Tigers did not struggle to put these teams away, but this is about as easy a closing slate as you could ask for in the rugged SEC. Contrast this with Missouri’s five-game losing streak. That quintet of teams all qualified for the postseason, with Auburn and Georgia winning their respective divisions. South Carolina won eight regular season games and both Kentucky and Purdue eked out bowl eligibility. If you change the sequencing by swapping say Tennessee with Georgia or Idaho with South Carolina, the narrative of a hot finish is not nearly as strong.

… In a more formidable SEC, Missouri will have the luxury of tempered expectations. The Tigers do bring back a talented quarterback, but lose their offensive coordinator as well as their leading rusher and receiver. Derek Dooley was brought in to be the new offensive coordinator and his hire does not inspire the utmost confidence. 2017 was the worst season for both Florida and Tennessee in a generation, so the window for a real breakthrough under Barry Odom could be slamming shut. Betdsi currently has Missouri’s over/under win total at 6.5. On the surface, this seems low considering how the Tigers finished the 2017 season, but upon further examination of the schedule and the dearth of quality teams the Tigers faced after mid-October plus the fact that Florida and Tennessee (and even Vanderbilt) are unlikely to be as bad as they were in 2016, this number seems right on the money.

Two things here.  First, it’s struck me for a long time how well Missouri manages its schedule.  If you’ll recall, the Tigers built up a ton of momentum in 2013 by running through their first five games against weak opposition, before rolling through Georgia and Florida en route to a division title.  Last year, the easy stuff was back-loaded.  (To be fair, nobody knew in advance Florida and Tennessee were going to be that bad.)

The 2018 schedule doesn’t appear from here to have a stream of layups at either end, though.  The first two games are against cupcakes, but game three is a trip to Purdue and then comes a run of Georgia, at South Carolina and at Alabama, before facing a good mid-major team in Memphis.  The schedule finishes with five straight conference games and Missouri must travel to both Florida and Tennessee during that stretch.

Add to that giving Derek Dooley, of all people, his first crack at an offensive coordinator position.  Missouri has some excellent talent on that side of the ball, but expecting a smooth transition under a new coach who’s changing schemes seems like a bit of a stretch.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I have a hard time seeing how all that adds up to much improvement over last season’s seven wins.

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42 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

42 responses to “Is this Missouri’s year?

  1. UGA is 5-1 verses the Tigers, since Mizzou joined the conference. Couple of tight games, including the 1 point win away – two years ago. With this said, games are about match ups. We’ll have a young secondary and they’ll have a veteran QB.
    But I fully expect Georgia to go ‘run over’ this team, much like they did last year. The O-line will actually be better and with a stronger group of receivers, Georgia should dominate this game.
    Similar score to last year, except Missouri will not get as close as they did in the first half of last year’s.
    These are Kirby’s players now… That relentless mindset we say a year ago, will be there again this year, except with a (albeit younger) more talented team than last years.

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  2. Brandon

    Drew Lock is for real pretty good. They’ll score some points, especially if our secondary is still going through a learning curve. I am hoping SOD gums their offense up though, which is probably a pretty solid bet. We should be able to line up and run over them on defense though. As long as we don’t have a bunch of turnovers we should be okay. Every season, every team is different, 30+ years of watching this sport has taught me that, so I’m not one to bank wins or losses in May.

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  3. Russ

    With Josh Heupel still there, yeah they have a chance. With SOD there, not a chance. Locke should have turned pro.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bill Glennon

    They can’t stop the run, and they don’t run the ball well. That’s all you need to know.

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  5. 3rdandGrantham

    Mizzou’s last 3-4 recruiting classes have ranked in the 40’s, and aside from a few nice pieces here and there, they just don’t have the talent or depth to even sniff coming out on top in the SEC east baring something totally bizarre. And Dooley running the OC up there is a real head scratcher, and pardon my cynicism if I don’t see him being all that successful in a role he has no experience in.

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    • dawgtired

      Mizzu benefitted in the SEC early due to the honeymoon and no one taking them serious, not to mention coming in at a time when the SECE struggled. I don’t see them threatening again until they can take a step up in recruiting. They are out there in no-mans land and it’s hard for the rest of us to feel the kinship or rivalry. I’m not necessarily against them being in the SEC but it’s just weird.

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  6. Mayor

    No way Mizzou even goes to a bowl with SOD as OC. He’s the kind of assistant that gets his HC fired.

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    • dawgtired

      Agree. Even if SOD had or has the mind for OC, there are learning curves with each new job, especially the first time title. He will be learning double and most likely through trial and error. Not a good recipe for success.

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    • Brandon

      Sons of coaching legends often seem to fall in that category. See also Schottenheimer, Brian.

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  7. PTC DAWG

    For some reason, it bothers me that we have to play Missouri every year. It just ain’t right.

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    • Sides

      They should be in the west. If they played TxAM, Ark, and LSU every year then it would make sense for the SEC. It seems easy to flip Auburn to the east. UGa would get their yearly rivalry game and Auburn/Bama can be cross division rivals. Tennessee would lose the Bama series but I doubt they would complain right now. This would also even the balance of power in the east/west.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ChiliDawg

        No. Letting Tennessee get off the hook for playing Alabama every year wouldn’t be right. Let them suffer.

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        • Brandon

          I’d rather move Tennessee to the West and Auburn to the East, that would have made more sense to start with.

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          • Why? Knoxville is actually in the eastern time zone. If they were going to move anyone, it should have been Vandy.

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            • Brandon

              AUB-FLA used to be a big rivalry too, that would be yearly again. Also GA could have Ole Miss back as our cross-divisional rival which would yield GA it’s more traditional regular slate of AU, FL, MISS, VANDY, UK, and SC (I realize SC wasn’t SEC until 1992 but we still played them about every year before that anyway back to integration). Everybody else would rotate. I also think the BAMA-TENN rivalry, like GA-AUB would benefit in regular intensity if they were divisional opponents. When I was a kid (80’s) I couldn’t have told you who I hated more between FL and AUB, now it’s FL for most folks unless you live in the Columbus-LaGrange area. Hell, I actually hate Tennessee worse than Auburn now most years, most unnatural.

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        • Hunkering Hank

          Man FUCK UT

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      • PTC DAWG

        I ain’t thrilled about the Chickens being in the SEC either… but at least we have a little history with y’all.

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    • Exactly. We gotta play those clowns, who care more about basketball than football, and don’t get to play our traditional rival across the lake who also happens to be a current national power…which would make for classic matchups. What a joke.

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    • KCDawg34

      It works for me as I live two hours down the road in Kansas City, so every other year I get to host some old friends and enjoy the Dawgs without catching a flight.

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    • “For some reason, it bothers me that Missouri is in the SEC. It just ain’t right.”

      Fixed it for you. 😉

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    • DoubleDawg1318

      I hated conference expansion when it happened and still do. Send TAMU and MU back to the big 12.

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  8. The fact that it’s on the road is the only thing that really concerns me. Mizzou was a paper tiger last year. They waxed every bad team they played and got waxed by any decent team they played.

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  9. UGA '97

    Yep not buying it but certainly would love them need to knock off USC and/or Florida at their houses. Saban is not looking forward to Lock.

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  10. paul

    No. It’s not Missouri’s year. That’s my prediction.

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  11. Otto

    How has the Mizzou DL recruiting been they were beetter than most of the Big12 and competitive early in their time in the SEC. They were young from what I remember. I don’t see them beating UGA but the race for 2nd (SC being the favorite but a face plant for Boom would not be unprecedented) and certainly 3rd in the East is wide open.

    I don’t understand the SOD hire at OC. I could see him being a position coach and recruiting coordinator but not OC.

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  12. ASEF

    Dooley as OC at Missouri has a Tony Franklin/Scott Loeffler feel to it, doesn’t it? Looked good on paper.

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  13. ChiliDawg

    We’re gonna see takes like this all Summer. With Georgia being the clear favorite in the division, everyone is going to be looking for a dark horse and trying to go against the grain. Similar to the yearly “could ____ challenge Alabama for the West” discussion over there, we get to read the same stories. It’s a brave new world, fellas.

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  14. HVL Dawg

    I heard an ESPN scribe give a talk last week. He’s picking eUSC for the east. He says it’ll be decided the 2nd game of the season.

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  15. D.N. Nation

    UGA had a 94% win expectancy in that Mizzou game, with a 90% percentile offensive performance. (Context: Rose Bowl’s ridiculous offensive output was 93%.) I was at Sanford for that game and while everyone was a little flummoxed about getting beat deep a few times, it wasn’t really a game at the half and was absolutely in the bag by the mid-3rd.

    So, eh.

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    • Macallanlover

      Correct, two home runs back to back before halftime. Mizzou had HR potential and burned us with it, game was never in doubt, imo. Glad their OC left, he was definitely a scheme we don’t want to face every year. Had Odum been able to field a decent defense either of his 2 years as HC, Mizzou would have been a contender in a below par East. UGA sweated that game out two years ago, needed a 4th down conversion and a Mizzou turnover at the end. I wouldn’t take them for granted, every bit as worried about them as I am SC.

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  16. DoubleDawg1318

    I’m not picking anybody but Georgia to win the East. That said, I think Mizzou is a candidate for an upset pick because of Lock and the fact that our defense will be really green at the beginning of the season.

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