Brian Phillips, my current favorite writer, was questioning fans in Stillwater for wanting Mike Gundy’s head after two mediocre seasons. I have to agree that they should hold off to bringing the ax to Mr. “I’m a man; I’m 40” for at least a couple of seasons.
Two years ago, I wanted Gary Pinkel fired. My rationale was that I’m tired of coming up just short and that it might be time for a change … well, unless he delivers one of those magical seasons. Low and behold, last year, the Tigers only have one loss in the regular seasons (admittedly a total gut punch to South Carolina at home) — wins include: stomping Georgia on the road and ranked Florida, Texas A&M and Ole Miss teams. Mizzou played in the SEC title game in just the Tigers second year in the best college football conference in the nation and actually played Auburn pretty tough for three quarters. If they had the playoff last year, Mizzou might have been in the running for one of those spots, probably not because I think there were a few one loss teams that year but I think a two-loss team might make it this season.
I’m going to put my disclaimer here, we can easily lose to Arkansas. We play them the day after Thanksgiving, which is kind of a funky situation. The Razorbacks are a team we have not played and they just blasted two ranked SEC West teams. Still, the fact that Mizzou is in the situation that we could go back to the SEC title game two years in a row is mind boggling, considering we lost our top three receivers, our top two defensive lineman and our best corner from the previous season.
Gary Pinkel is the best coach in Mizzou history and it’s not even close. Here is what Tiger fans can expect every year:
- The Tigers will have a dominant defensive line. I believe this trend goes back to Ziggy Hood. Mizzou churns out lightning fast lineman — Aldon Smith begot Sheldon Richardson who begot Michael Sam and Kony Ealy who begot Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Having a good defensive line basically ensures that you will have a good defense every year. It’s a lot easier to contend with a good defense.
- The Tigers will produce at least one NFL player each season. From the 2013 team, Ealy was drafted the highest but EJ Gaines plays regular minutes for the Rams. From the disappointing 2012 team, Richardson has been a beast for the Jets and Zavier Gooden plays for Tennessee. From the 2011 team, Michael Egnew was the only guy to get drafted (and the history of Missouri tight ends in the NFL is not good). From the 2010 team, Aldon Smith, when not having problems with the law has been a world beater for San Fran and Blaine Gabbert, uh well he was drafted in the top 10. From the 2009 team, Sean Weatherspoon, who when healthy is one of the best linebackers in the league. The 2008 team produced Maclin, an all-pro caliber receiver, Hood, who was an NFL starter and William Moore, who is one of the better defensive players for the Falcons (he has been good in the league, but that descriptor does not say too much). So in the six drafts, only 2012 was the outlier. Hey, high school recruit, you want to play in the NFL? Missouri’s a pretty good place to be.
- Especially, because of those players, only a handful were high level recruits. The only five stars were Gabbert and Richardson. On defense in particular, Mizzou develops players. I’ll use Aldon Smith as an example. People knew he was a freak athlete when he arrived in Columbia, but he was super skinny, which is why he was a three-star recruit. Pinkel and staff redshirted him a year and just yoked him up in the weight room. He was virtually unblockable after that.
- On top of a great defensive line, the defense will have at least two other high quality play makers. That might actually be an understatement. Michael Scherer and Kentrell Brothers are at the very least extremely competent college linebackers. Braylon Webb, Kenya Dennis and Josh Gibson have all been pretty good in the secondary. I really like Dennis.
- Mizzou will have at least two quality offensive play makers. This year it’s the running backs — both Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough. Last year it was the three wide receivers — Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington.
I was ready to punt this season after the DGB fiasco. At the time, I wanted us to keep him and just let his transgressions play out. Now, I wonder if the karma gods are rewarding Mizzou for letting him go (I really hope he leaves for the NFL without ever playing a down for Oklahoma). He’s a bastard if he actually pushed that girl down a flight of stairs.
All of this is predicated on Mizzou beating Arkansas but I want to throw out a couple of scenarios. Alabama is not the force of nature it was two years ago. It’s offense is young and just not as talented. If they win the Iron Bowl, which they could easily lose, could Mizzou’s defense keep the Crimson Tide down enough for the Tiger offense to capitalize.
In the case that Alabama loses the Iron Bowl and Mississippi State beats Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, hasn’t it seemed like everything has worked out pretty much perfect for the Bulldogs this season? I think they might be due for a big stumbling block game.
Regardless, if Mizzou makes the SEC title game, they’ll be the team with A. a chip on its shoulder and B. nothing to lose. Even more than making the SEC title game in consecutive seasons, the perfect F-you to the conference would be to play spoiler to one of the SEC west powerhouses.
Again, I have Gary Pinkel to thank that the Tigers are even in this position.