So, how long are Associated Press voters going to hold the Wyoming loss against Mizzou?
I wrote off Mizzou, too.
After the Wyoming game, I completely dismissed any notion that the Tigers would be nationally relevant in 2019. Can you blame me? The Tigers allowed nearly 300 rushing yards to a 6-win Mountain West team and lost as 3-score favorites. Hopes of this being an “us against the world” season for the Tigers following the opening week dud were left in Laramie.
You’ll notice I said “I wrote off Mizzou, too.” As in, I wasn’t alone in assuming Barry Odom’s squad wouldn’t be Top 25 worthy after the opener.
Plenty of Associated Press voters wrote off Mizzou. That explains why at 4-1 coming off their 4th consecutive blowout victory, the Tigers are still unranked.
The question isn’t why Mizzou is unranked. We know that. It’s the Wyoming loss. The question is how long will it take to change that.
To be fair, that almost changed Sunday. Well, kind of.
Mizzou was the second team listed in the “others receiving votes” category, which means it ranks No. 27. Is there a big difference between No. 27 and No. 25? On paper, no. But would it matter a lot for Barry Odom, who has yet to play a regular season game as a ranked team since he took over in 2016? Absolutely.
(The Tigers were ranked No. 24 heading into the Liberty Bowl, but a loss prevented the program’s first Top 25 finish of the Odom era.)
There’s rightfully some skepticism about Mizzou, which has yet to beat a ranked opponent this year and has 1 such win in 8 games against Top 25 foes under Odom. In a way, the Tigers are doing what they usually do. That is, beat up on inferior teams and struggle against elite competition. And this is also the 3rd consecutive year in which Odom’s team rattled off a 4-game winning streak.
Those, however, usually come after Mizzou has already eliminated itself from the division title race. The Tigers are 2-0 vs. Power 5 opponents having outscored them 72-21. Clearly, though, that hasn’t impressed everyone.
Of the 62 AP voters, here was the breakdown on where Mizzou was ranked:
- No. 1-15: 0
- No. 16: 1
- No. 17: 4
- No. 18: 0
- No. 19: 0
- No. 20: 1
- No. 21: 0
- No. 22: 0
- No. 23: 2
- No. 24: 2
- No. 25: 2
- Unranked: 50
Here was the complete breakdown:
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) October 6, 2019
So yes, that’s 81% of voters who still don’t believe that Mizzou is worthy of being ranked. To be fair, there isn’t a single ranked team with a loss to a Group of 5 team. Every ranked team with a loss suffered that against another Top 25 team, including No. 24 Texas A&M, which has 2 losses.
In other words, it’s not like there are a bunch of ranked teams ahead of Mizzou with a loss to a cellar dweller.
This week, Mizzou will face an Ole Miss team coming off a blowout win of its own. The problem is that the Tigers’ next 3 games are against Ole Miss, Vandy and Kentucky, which are a combined 2-7 in SEC play this year. That’s not a chance for a “how-do-like-me-now” win before Georgia.
But at the same time, I tend do think the Tigers would get into the Top 25 if they beat Ole Miss and Vandy convincingly. That’ll be easier said than done without Cale Garrett, who was playing at an All-American level before he suffered a season-ending pectoral injury.
Here’s the good news. You don’t rank this high (in FBS) in these defensive categories just because of one player:
- Scoring: No. 10
- Run defense: No. 12
- Pass defense: No. 2
- Total defense: No. 2
For those who assumed Mizzou’s defense was a disaster after it allowed nearly 300 rushing yards against Wyoming, it’s been a complete turnaround ever since that Week 1 debacle. Nick Bolton looks like an All-SEC linebacker and Kobie Whiteside and Jordan Elliott are key reasons why that run defense has been so dominant since the opener (average of 36.8 rushing yards allowed in the last 4 games).
It’s not crazy to think that could continue even as they travel away from the friendly confines of Columbia. Well, maybe not at that pace, but why can’t Mizzou have a top 20 defense? And now that we know Kelly Bryant’s injury isn’t as serious as originally thought, what’s in the way of the Tigers creeping into the top 20 ahead of that Georgia game?
Winning 7 games in a row after Wyoming would certainly make Mizzou worthy of at least being ranked. I’ve got to think the vast majority of the 50 voters who didn’t put Mizzou in the Top 25 after Week 6 would come around by then. As brutal as that loss was, it was amidst some atypical circumstances. Playing a season opener in Laramie, Wyoming, it was essentially 1 bad (horribly bad) quarter.
In case you were wondering, Wyoming is now 4-1 and looks like a better team that flirted with bowl eligibility last year. Just sayin’.
That’s still not a good look for an SEC team. Nobody is making excuses for Mizzou, but that’s not a season-long death sentence from the Top 25. At least it shouldn’t be.
In terms of controlling what you can control after a loss like that, Odom’s squad has done everything in its power. Certainly it would’ve been able to expedite its return to the Top 25 if it blew out a ranked team, but that’s not the case.
For now, all the Tigers can do is put their heads down and keep winning games. Eventually, voters will look up and realize Mizzou is a much better team than what they showed in Week 1.