The Missouri Tigers have had an up-and-down season, which was somewhat expected when the 2018 schedule came out.
However, a Week 6 loss at South Carolina still stings, and things have changed dramatically in the SEC East since the start of the year. Now, Mizzou’s lofty preseason goals are going to be much harder to reach, but a homecoming blowout of Memphis last weekend certainly helped right the ship a little bit.
Still, coach Barry Odom’s Tigers are 4-0 against nonconference foes and 0-3 against SEC opponents. That has to change, obviously, if the Tigers are going to make a bowl game.
So, how will the rest of the year play out? Here’s how I see the Tigers’ remaining five games going:
Week 9 vs. Kentucky
The Tigers face yet another tough test this weekend when the 6-1 Kentucky Wildcats visit Faurot Field. Benny Snell Jr. is the SEC’s leading rusher, and the Wildcats have the No. 2 rushing offense in the conference.
However, it’s actually a decent matchup for Mizzou’s defense, as the Tigers are No. 7 in the SEC in run defense. The more concerning aspect of the defense is that they are last against the pass, giving up 287.4 yards per game.
The Wildcats, though, aren’t much of a passing threat. On average, they only attempt 19 passes per game — fewest in the SEC. Terry Wilson threw for 18 yards in a 14-7 victory over Vanderbilt last weekend. They’re also last in the SEC in passing yards per game, averaging only 127.3. I think Kentucky’s offense puts up significantly more than 18 yards through the air against Mizzou, but it’s not a priority.
Coming off last week’s rebound against Memphis, QB Drew Lock and the Tigers’ offense are feeling confident, and I think they pull off a surprising upset (even though they’re actually favored by 6.5 points) against the Wildcats.
Prediction: Mizzou 31, Kentucky 21
Week 10 at Florida
Coming into the season, this is a game I thought the Tigers could win, but let’s just say I no longer think that. The Gators’ rebuild is way ahead of schedule under first-year coach Dan Mullen, and they have legitimate SEC East title aspirations heading into this weekend’s game against rival Georgia.
The best thing that could happen from the Tigers’ perspective this week is that Georgia absolutely embarrasses the Gators and crushes their spirit, but I don’t see that happening. Even if Georgia wins, it should be a close game, and that spells trouble for next weekend.
Playing at The Swamp is never easy, and the Tigers consistently struggle to win SEC road games, so I think we can chalk this one up as a loss.
Prediction: Florida 38, Mizzou 24
Week 11 vs. Vanderbilt
The Commodores are the worst team in the East, and this is a home game for the Tigers. QB Kyle Shurmur doesn’t get the respect he deserves, but this should still be a fairly easy win for the Tigers.
Vanderbilt is 11th in the SEC in total defense and 13th against the run, so the Mizzou ground game should be able to control this one. Add in a few big plays from Lock, and this one could get out of hand early.
Prediction: Mizzou 44, Vanderbilt 20
Week 12 at Tennessee
For as exciting as I think the Kentucky game is going to be this weekend, Mizzou fans know that for every big win, there is an equal and opposite letdown. Beat Purdue on the road, collapse against South Carolina on the road two weeks later.
Beat a top-15 Kentucky team? Lose on the road to a rebuilding (but tough) Tennessee squad. That wouldn’t be too surprising, especially considering the fact that Jeremy Pruitt has the Vols playing pretty well.
We’ll learn a lot more about this Tennessee team Saturday when they take on South Carolina, but they’re much tougher than they were last year, and playing at Neyland Stadium is never easy.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Mizzou 24
Week 13 vs. Arkansas
Mizzou has won this Battle Line Rivalry game the past two years, but both have been one-score games. Therefore, even though Arkansas is the worst team in the SEC West, it won’t be easy for the Tigers.
Based on my predictions, the Tigers will have bowl eligibility locked up heading into this game, but getting the seventh regular-season win would be huge.
Arkansas won’t have much to play for (other than pride), so Mizzou should win again. Since it’s at Faurot Field, I’ll predict that this game is not as close as recent iterations of the rivalry game have been.
Prediction: Mizzou 37, Arkansas 27
Overall record: 7-5 (3-5 in SEC play)
If this is indeed how things play out, a decent bowl game could be in the Tigers’ future. The SEC could get three teams in the New Year’s 6 bowl games, as Alabama, LSU and the winner of the Florida-Georgia game will all be in great positions to play in elite postseason contests.
That leaves the SEC’s bowl slots askew. Currently, projections have the Tigers in the Liberty Bowl, Belk Bowl and Gator Bowl, mostly. Any would be good for the program.
And if the Tigers do manage to upset Kentucky and take care of business against Tennessee, an 8-win season could have them playing in a much bigger bowl game than normal.
The potential for a great season is still there — now it’s up to the Tigers to take advantage of their remaining opportunities.