After starting the season with a 1-5 record, the Missouri Tigers are in position to secure a bowl game with one more win, after turning their season around.
Aside from one loss, Missouri played well against its slate of non-conference opponents. In fact, the Tigers dominated their non-conference schedule, 192 to 76.
Since playing Connecticut, the Tigers went on a two-game tear, in which they outscored their SEC opponents 95 to 33. Now, one win stands between the Tigers and a post-season bowl bid.
Of course, there are those who try to detract from the Tigers’ recent string of success, stating things like, “This is the same team that lost to Purdue, 28-3.” That’s sort of true; this is the same season, but not totally the same team, or the same game plan.
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Against Purdue, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was terrified to make any use of the Tigers’ tight ends, and left receiver Emanuel Hall on the bench in favor of Dimetrios Mason, who has since departed the team.
Up until Mizzou returned from its bye week, the tight ends were largely forgotten, and quarterback Drew Lock was mostly airing the ball out on passing downs, while the Tigers failed to make good use of their running backs.
Ever since head coach Barry Odom burned – literally – the Tigers’ playbook from the first half of the season, the offense has played lights-out, while the defense has played with more inspiration.
Is this the same Missouri team as the first half of the season? If you’re an outsider looking in, then yes, absolutely, it is. But if for anyone who follows the program, it’s obvious that there’s a difference between this version of the Tigers versus that of the first four weeks.
Even after a close loss on the road at Kentucky and hanging 28 points on Georgia in Athens, the Tigers looked like a changed team. With the way Missouri has played over its last four games, it seems very likely that the Tigers could finish the season without a loss. Already, Mizzou has received a call from the Liberty Bowl.
For anyone who might be wondering whether Odom is worth keeping for a third season, my thought is, you always know what you have. The team never quit on Odom, so he certainly has the locker room support, and fortunately, athletic director Jim Sterk isn’t a reactionary that many of us became at the beginning of the season.
That’s not to say that the Tigers’ success will continue into next year – Missouri may, again, fall flat to start the season, but then they may also surprise us the way they’ve done this year, too. The jury can remain out on that until next year, so let’s just enjoy the immediate future.
With the Tigers having made an about-face on their season, the remaining question has probably been answered, especially with one more win, if there’s any uncertainty, since Missouri walloped Tennessee. I’m betting that Missouri keeps Odom around for at least one more year.