I mentioned the other day the impressive job Barry Odom has done holding his roster together in the face of tough NCAA sanctions that gave a free pass to transfer to every Missouri senior.
Even though the Tigers can’t play for the SEC championship, they still have a regular season to play and have some potential as a dark horse candidate to upset the expected order in the East.
For me, how far they go comes down to a couple of issues. One is psychological. Do they band together and ride that us against the world mentality to, say, a 7-1 conference record, something that would put them squarely in the mix for the division lead? Or do they face some early adversity and, with little to play for, crumble?
One hint about the answer to those questions comes with the second issue. Mizzou has got some schedule ($$).
In SEC play, the Tigers’ front-loaded schedule could mean they won’t face a ranked team until November. After facing South Carolina, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Vanderbilt as an appetizer, the main course arrives in the season’s final month with a trip to Georgia before hosting Florida. The good news is the Tigers precede the Georgia-Florida back-to-back with an off week to reload and get a little healthier. They’ll finish with Tennessee and against Arkansas in Little Rock.
It’s a favorable but unusual schedule that, after the opener in Laramie, features five consecutive home games before three consecutive SEC road games. In the East, any year a team dodges Alabama is a good year. But drawing annual rival Arkansas and Ole Miss as crossover West opponents makes for a fantastic year on the schedule rotation.
The early softness of their schedule reminds me a little of 2013, when Missouri was able to cruse into Athens behind a 5-0 start against unranked teams and build on the momentum with back-to-back wins over Georgia and Florida. I’m not saying history is about to repeat itself (I hope we never see another Georgia injury run like the one we saw that season), but take a look at the schedule and predict the number of losses Mizzou is likely to have when it returns to Georgia in November.
Probably don’t want to sleep on those guys.