I know Zoulogy has been starved for some college football talk ever since its inception, so here is my first official attempt to act like I know a lot about football. First up, here’s the schedule, complete with each opponent’s record in 2010.
Missouri’s Big 12 Schedule (2010 Records Included)
- Sept. 3: Miami (OH) (10-4)
- Sept. 9: @ Arizona State (6-6)
- Sept. 17: Western Illinois (8-5)
- Sept. 24: @ Oklahoma (12-2)
- Oct. 8: @ Kansas State (7-6)
- Oct. 15: Iowa State (5-7)
- Oct. 22: Oklahoma State (11-2)
- Oct. 29: @ Texas A&M (9-4)
- Nov. 5: @ Baylor (7-6)
- Nov. 12: Texas (5-7)
- Nov. 19: Texas Tech (8-5)
- Nov. 26: Kansas (3-9) (Game played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO)
Click the jump for more analysis and a predicted final record based on Mizzou’s football schedule.
Non-Con Challenge: @ Arizona State
Missouri’s non-con schedule as a whole doesn’t look all that fabulous, but it does contain a very interesting road game against Arizona State. The Sun Devils are an incredibly interesting team to look at, and are a sexy pick by many college football pundits to be a surprise team in the Pac-12 this season… that is, if they can learn to win close games and stay afloat in what looks to be a grueling regular season. In 2010, ASU was about as volatile as any accident you’ve ever experienced in high school chemistry. They beat certain opponents by ludicrous scores (42-0 against Washington State, 55-34 against UCLA), lost to certain opponents by ludicrous scores (50-17 against Cal), and lost a crushing amount of close games.
Last season the Sun Devils played five games that were decided by 4 points or fewer; they went 1-4 in those four games. Three of those games were decided by just 1 point. They lost 20-19 to Wisconsin, 31-28 to Oregon State, 34-33 to USC, 17-13 to Stanford, and ended the season on a high note by beating in-state rival Arizona 30-29 in two overtimes. For those of you that may not remember, all of those teams were ranked in the top 25 at one point or another during the season. Against the eventual national runner-ups, Oregon, ASU only lost by 11 points, 42-31, which by all means was something to be proud of against that ridiculous offense. To lay it out there: Arizona State was theoretically 13 points away from being 10-2, nationally ranked, and playing in a bowl game at the end of the season. That is all kinds of ridiculous, and soul-crushing for ASU fans.
Now, in 2011, Arizona State features a schedule that has only one non-BCS school opponent, and that’s the opener against UC Davis. After that, it’s Missouri, at Illinois, and immediately into the Pac-12 schedule in which the only thing to be happy about is that Andrew Luck and the Cardinal are not part of the schedule. If Arizona State wants to get some early love from the polls, they’ll definitely want to defend their home field against Missouri.
Early Prediction: Missouri stays close but falls to the Sun Devils. I would consider it a success if Missouri goes 1-2 in its first three road games (ASU, Oklahoma, Kansas State), and a small miracle if they go 2-1.
Likely/ Hopefully A Blowout: Western Illinois (and to a slightly lesser extent, Miami (OH))
Western Illinois is an FCS football team, and therefore I am obligated to pick this as the obligatory blow-out pick. It certainly would not be that surprising if the Leathernecks hang around for a bit, especially if the Tiger offense is still going through some growing pains, but a combination of stout defense and enough plays on offense should lead to a sizable victory at home. Losing would be around the level of when Ole Miss lost to Jacksonville State last season, and that Rebels team was fairly mediocre to begin with. A tough out against WIU may be an ominous sign for things to come. But, once again, that’s my main upset pick, so we have no reason to fear until the game is played.
As for Miami of Ohio, Missouri absolutely trounced the RedHawks last year by a score of 51-13, and only two of the Tigers’ seven touchdowns involved anything more than a hand-off from Blaine Gabbert (one passing TD and one rushing TD). This is another game that the Tigers could coast by on defense alone, but it would be nice to have a lot of confidence-building touchdowns from James Franklin and Co.
Prediction: Blow-outs. Just like the title suggests.
Gut Check: @ Kansas State
Missouri’s non-conference and early Big 12 season feature the toughest tests on the road. After Arizona State, the Tigers get their final presumed cupcake before heading down to Norman for a showdown with the pre-season favorite Oklahoma. After that loss (I’m going to go ahead and call it a loss) the Tigers then play a game in the Little Apple against K-State, a team that hasn’t done that well since beating up on Mizzou from 1993 to 2005 (and I mean that literally; the Tigers did not beat K-State from 1993 to 2005). Since then, Missouri has dominated KSU for five straight years by at least 17 points in each win.
K-State won’t be the national powerhouse that they were when they were beating the Tigers for over a decade, but this will still be a tough road game against a team that could finish over .500 at the end of the season. Also, this game will be more important to the Tigers seeing as this comes immediately after a horror of a Big 12 opener against Oklahoma on the road. The Tigers will have to prove their mettle against the Wildcats, or they could be staring 0-2 in the Big 12 (and possibly 2-3 overall) right in the face, with more tough games against the likes of Oklahoma State and Texas A&M right around the corner.
Prediction: It’s close the whole way, but Missouri leaves Manhattan with a hard-fought win.
Upset Pick: Oklahoma State
If there was one opportunity for the Tigers to pull off a huge, awesome, most-similar-to-the-Oklahoma-game-last-year kind of upset, it would most likely come against the Cowboys, who are fresh off of one of their best football seasons ever.
In terms of poetic justice it would make tons of sense. In 2008, Missouri was fresh off one of its best seasons, and they went into the new year of college football ranked in the preseason top ten. They rolled their way to 5-0 record, and then were stunned by Oklahoma State in Columbia, final score 28-23. While the Tigers would still have great season, they finished 10-4, lost to their toughest opponents in mostly embarrassing fashion, and also were nut-punched by a Kansas team that was doing even worse given their expectations and final record.
So it makes sense that the other OSU, fresh off its best season in recent memory, would come to Missouri with a national ranking, a good-to-great record (honestly, if the Cowboys were undefeated coming to Columbia, with a home win over Arizona and road victories against Tulsa, Texas A&M, and Texas would be pretty impressive, and a little detrimental to Missouri’s chances), and then losing a nail-biter to a young Mizzou squad still looking to answer a few questions. Sure, this would be a home victory instead of the road win that the Cowboys pulled off, and it’s easier to just use the “similarities” card to pick an upset that is still very unlikely, but it’s the best option I can pick. The only other real options are road dates with Oklahoma or Texas A&M, and possibly the home game against Texas Tech. And this is only if the Tigers manage to be an mid-to-upper-tier team in the Big 12. So I’m going with what should be a raucous, sold-out game against what should be a great, nationally ranked opponent. Sue me.
Prediction: Missouri pulls off the uber-close upset of the week, and it’s the best win of the year for the Tigers.
Admiral Ackbar’s Patented “It’s a trap!” Game: Kansas
To me this is a no-brainer situation. The Tigers, with their over-.500 record, face off against the Jayhawks, with their under-.500 record, and it is immediately assumed that Missouri wins by at least one touchdown. Instead, Kansas reels off long touchdown runs by James Sims, and James Franklin or one of the running backs fumbles the ball, and KU picks it up and scores. Whether or not Missouri comes back to tie or take the lead, Kansas pulls off the end-of-the-year upset and gets to celebrate like the bastards they are, making fun of how awful the Tigers are, despite still have the worse record. It’s just like whenever a lame Mizzou team beats a great KU team in basketball, except I’m on the other end of the spectrum and it sucks.
There are plenty of other opportunities for the Tigers to be “upset” against the likes of Kansas State, Baylor, or Texas, but K-State and Baylor will be road games against decent-to-good teams (I really wouldn’t be surprised if Missouri lost to either team, or possibly both, especially in Baylor’s case) and Texas is a home game against team with tougher quarterback issues than the Tigers. In the end, the logical pick is the arch rival game, even though a home loss to Texas may seem more plausible. When you put Kansas and Missouri against each other, as always, records and expectations and stats all go out the window. Hopefully Mizzou will win anyway.
Prediction: Begrudgingly, I’ll say that Missouri wins, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if we lost a tight one (or blowout) to the Jayhawks. I’d just be incredibly pissed off.
Here is my way-too-early prediction for Missouri’s results and final regular season record…
Wins: Miami (OH), Western Illinois, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas
Losses: Arizona State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Baylor
Predicted Final Record: 10-4 (that’s being pretty darn generous)
Toss-Up Games: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas
In all, the layout of the schedule is fairly even, with an about even amount of easy stretches and brutal stretches. The first five games of the season will be especially huge if Missouri plans on doing things like getting ten wins, competing for a good bowl game, and possibly even staying over .500. There are so many games that could be considered toss-ups that I had a hard time not putting a few teams on there (Arizona State in particular). If you determine toss-ups to be 50/50 games, my predicted record for Missouri could go anywhere from the 10-4 record above to 4-10, which is probably a prediction only for the bleakest of fans.
Missouri is a team that is being predicted by many to finish in the top half of the conference, usually being put around 4th place in the pre-season power rankings, and are also a dark horse pick to compete for the regular season championship. All of these is presuming that the Tigers get great play out of their experienced defense, the deep roster of running backs takes some of the workload off of James Franklin, and Franklin himself lives up to expectations. In short, Missouri’s season is full of questions that can only be answered by their play on the field, and that’s why I’ve strayed away from a lot of the “expectations” stuff in for football. I think Missouri will be fine this coming season; I doubt they’ll compete with the likes of Oklahoma for a regular season title, I doubt they lose that many games to the weaker opponents, but there is obviously room enough for the Tigers to dwell in the basement.
I don’t have the answers, I just have a blog that I can use to guess them, and I’m guessing that the Tigers will be relatively fine next season. I’m just realistically preparing for a possible up-and-down season, and also a possible season of many letdowns. All I can do is sit back, watch it unfold, and hope for the best.