A third of the way into Missouri’s regular season, the Tigers still seem to have the potential for a memorable season, even if that seemed in doubt after a surprising season-opening loss at Wyoming.
First, it hardly seems fair that the regular season is already a third of the way over, but that seems to be the way it goes. Offseasons go slow, and college football seasons seem to fly by.
But as for this season, Missouri (3-1, 1-0 in SEC play) responded to that tough loss to Wyoming just as you’d want a football team to respond. They rolled to a win over rebuilding West Virginia, won 50-0 against overmatched Southeast Missouri State, and then most impressive of all had a dominating defensive performance in a 34-14 win over South Carolina. The Gamecock offense in that game was like trying to build a sandcastle on the beach, only to have waves roll in to knock it down before really making much progress.
The Tiger defense has led the way this year, winning at the line of scrimmage and creating a lot of havoc for opposing offenses. Since the Wyoming game, Missouri has been pretty opportunistic on defense, creating turnovers, often at key moments. The Tigers scored two touchdowns on defense against South Carolina, one a heads-up fumble recovery in the end zone and the other an interception that was ran back the length of the field.
Missouri had a bye week last week, a good chance for the team, and enthusiastic Tiger tailgaters, to rest up. It’s also a chance to take a look at what lies ahead, and what could happen in the second two-thirds of Missouri’s season.
The Tigers continue their long homestead by hosting Troy on Saturday (3 p.m. on SEC Network), followed by the Homecoming game with Ole Miss on Oct. 12.
Missouri will be a considerable favorite in those two, and if the Tigers can get them, they’ll have a lot of momentum heading into road games at Vanderbilt on Oct. 19 and at Kentucky on Oct. 26. Vanderbilt has struggled, and a win there sets up a key game at Kentucky. It’s winnable, although the Tigers haven’t beaten the Wildcats in five years, since 2014.
But if Missouri clears that Kentucky hurdle, that sets up a massive game at Georgia on Nov. 9, after another bye for the Tigers. I get excited just typing about that game, if Missouri wins all its games between now and then, and if Georgia remains as good as they seem.
But the first step is Saturday against the Troy Trojans (2-2). Troy lost a shootout, 50-43, against Arkansas State on Sept. 28. Senior quarterback Kaleb Barker threw for 367 yards for Troy in the loss, and he threw for 504 yards in a loss to Southern Miss. He should provide another test for the Tiger defense, which has been up to all challenges the last three games.
Missouri should be able to get the win and set up a fun Homecoming week.