The Missouri Tigers have been nothing short of disappointing, this season. In the hopes of a turnaround, could their first SEC win come this weekend?
Sometimes, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Such is the case for fans of the Missouri Tigers, who have been let-down since the second week of the regular season.
I don’t have the ability to statistically deduce that Missouri will win this weekend, but my gut instinct says that the Tigers can’t stay bad, forever.
There’s no question that Missouri has talent on offense, but for whatever reason, it has been a non-factor since Mizzou’s blowout win over Missouri State. Call it bad decision making, poor coaching, or a lack of execution – it’s all played a part in the Tigers’ lackluster start.
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There are any number of reasons why Missouri will lose to Kentucky on Saturday, but there are also reasons why the Tigers could pull off a close win.
As ridiculous as his mistakes have been, quarterback Drew Lock is still one of the SEC’s top passers. Statistically, he’s terrible (at this point), but he showed last year that he can put up numbers.
If Lock can get out of his own head, and take what the defense allows him, he can, at the very least, manage a safer game than when he tries to force the ball into strong coverage.
Play-calling can also improve, and in so doing, if offensive coordinator Josh Heupel makes better, more consistent use of the Tigers’ running backs, then the result could keep Kentucky’s defense respectful of Missouri’s backfield, which in turn will allow Lock to make a little more use of his receivers.
Speaking of receivers, Lock should spread the ball around more, which he’s tried to do, with little success. If Heupel can involve the Tigers’ big-bodied tight ends in more third down situations, then it should allow Mizzou to convert more on third down.
Missouri also has an NFL-sized offensive line. If the offensive linemen can limit their mistakes and draw fewer penalties, then the Tigers will be able to stick with a scheme that allows them to give the running backs more carries and use safer passing plays.
The defense remains a work in progress, but up front has shown an ability to be disruptive to opposing quarterbacks. Missouri’s run defense isn’t tops in the league, but it can force the Wildcats into more passing situations.
That said, the defensive secondary is going to have to show up. With six weeks into the season, there’s really no excuse to not show any improvement. “You’re either ‘getting it,’ or you’re not.” If players aren’t getting it, then that’s okay – sub someone else in.
Missouri knew, coming into the season, that the defensive secondary was its weakest point, but that in no way excuses the rest of the team for making the same mistakes and errors that it drew last year.
There are plenty of teams who have won games with a weak secondary; the Tigers shouldn’t feel as though they’re the exception.
Finally, if all of those pieces come into play, then I think Missouri will feel pretty good about its chances of either earning a close win, or taking a close loss. I’d prefer the win, I really would, but even a close loss would be better than the losing end of blowout performances we’ve seen over the past few weeks.
Kentucky is 4-1 (1-1 conf.), and in all likeliness, the Wildcats are licking their chops for what they anticipate will be an easy win. If they come in overconfident, and Missouri hits the ground with a few good plays, then that could be the momentum shift that the Tigers are looking for.