Mizzou heads into its bye week with a 2-3 record, and Tigers fans have to love what they’re seeing from first-year head coach Eli Drinkwitz.

Before the season, one might have seen a possible 0-5 start. But the Tigers found ways to upset defending champ LSU and Kentucky, a team they hadn’t beaten in the previous 5 tries.

Considering Year 1 for Drinkwitz is happening during a global pandemic, pulling off those 2 wins at home and finding the quarterback of the future in redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak has to excite the fanbase.

With the first half of the schedule out of the way, let’s take a look at the back end of the slate, one which doesn’t look nearly as brutal as the front. Here are 3 thoughts on what’s next:

Does Drinkwitz have another home upset brewing?

Next up for Mizzou is a home contest on Saturday against Georgia, who will be fresh off losining to Florida in the Cocktail Party.

No one needs to be lectured about the Bulldogs defense. It’s really good, and it went into the weekend leading the SEC in scoring (16.2 points per game) and yards per play (4.53). Although there are injuries to some of Georgia’s starters on that side of the ball — including Richard LeCounte, who was involved in a traffic accident recently — it’s just another game against one of the best teams the SEC has to offer, which isn’t new to Mizzou.

But, this game has the makings of an upset win for Mizzou.

While the Bulldogs defense is one of the best in the country, the offense is not. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has put doubt in Georgia’s fanbase in recent weeks with his mistake-filled play. Coach Kirby Smart knows Bennett isn’t it, and he will lean on the run game against Mizzou like he did against Kentucky last week.

Tigers defensive coordinator Ryan Walters has experience in game planning against run-heavy attacks — just look at the Kentucky game, when Mizzou held the Wildcats to 95 rushing yards and 4.3 per carry. Mizzou has the players in the trenches to withstand a steady dose of runs, led by linebacker Nick Bolton, box safety Martez Manuel and defensive end Trajan Jeffcoat, the tackles-for-loss leaders in the clubhouse.

Of course, the Tigers will need to tackle better than they did against Florida. But Georgia won’t be suiting up Kadarius Toney and the Gators’ skill talent anytime soon.

If Mizzou can find a way to muck it up in the trenches on defense and make it an ugly game, the Tigers can be within shouting distance in the fourth, which is all you can ask for.

Could Mizzou win out after the Georgia game?

After Georgia, if Tigers fans squint, they can see a 4-0 finish. How likely is that? Not very, but the point remains: The contests against South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are all winnable.

In Mizzou’s first 5 games, only 2 seemed winnable on paper — LSU, because they had been upset by Mississippi State, and Kentucky, because despite their SEC-best rushing attack and stout defense, the Wildcats are one-dimensional on offense.

Alabama, Tennessee and Florida were all considered unwinnable games, at least to me. When the Tigers played the Vols in early October, Bazelak wasn’t yet QB1, and Mizzou’s defense was still trying to find its footing. The loss to the Gators was disappointing, and although Mizzou historically plays well at The Swamp and Florida hadn’t played in 3 weeks, did many actually think the Tigers were going to shut down an offense with NFL-caliber talent for 4 quarters?

Mizzou’s defense catches a break, kind of

The Tigers have played 3 of the top 5 offenses in the SEC already in Alabama (47 points per game), Florida (42) and LSU (35). That’s a rough go of it for Walters and his guys.

But the next 5 offenses Mizzou’s defense will play aren’t as potent. Georgia ranks 8th in the SEC in yards per play at 5.52, while South Carolina is 7th (5.6), Arkansas 10th (5.13), Mississippi State 13th (4.75) and Vanderbilt 14th (4.41).

Those offenses will still pose challenges, no doubt. But at the end of the day, Mizzou’s defense has to be breathing a sigh of relief that it’s not defending the skill positions of the Crimson Tide or Gators.