I’ll start by saying I have no emotional ties to the University of Missouri. I didn’t attend the school, didn’t grow up in this state and I’m actually still a couple of years away from saying I’ve lived half my life in the Show-Me State. So perhaps, I’ll be able to bring a little perspective and share my theory to Missouri football fans from an outsider’s view as to why there is a lack of respect directed towards the team.
Yesterday, SEC Media made their predictions on where they thought each team would finish. Missouri was not picked to win the Eastern Division. Were you surprised? They were picked third behind, 7-6 Tennessee and Georgia who is picked to win the division. Before last season, after winning their first Eastern title, the Tigers were not expected to repeat. After a 5-7 debut, nobody dreamed the Tigers could compete. Yet each time, Missouri proved the doubters wrong by winning an SEC division. While still shocked, SEC media wrote off the early success to a “down” Eastern Division with all the talent in the west.
Today, the All-SEC team was announced by the media. This includes offense, defense and special teams. This includes first team, second team and third team selections. In all, 78 positions available…Missouri had two players named to the list…and they were third team selections. Kentrell Brothers, who is the SEC’s top returning tackler and Evan Boehm, who has started 40 straight games and was a a First Team Freshman All-American by College Football News at left guard in 2012. That was before he volunteered to switch positions and learned how to play center. That’s it! Just two spots out of 78. The same number of players as Kentucky and fewer than Mississippi State, who was picked for last place.
That’s just a quick snapshot of the disrespect fans feel is paid to Missouri. A team that has more wins with Gary Pinkel than Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, the same amount of wins as Mark Richt and Les Miles and just one fewer than Steve Spurrier in the three years that the Tigers have been a member of the SEC.
I’m not even sure Spurrier has much respect for Missouri. At his press conference this week, he paid a backhanded compliment to Pinkel’s program.
“They do a super job. They really maximize the talent they have…and their offense does enough to win. Yeah we have that little trophy that we call “The Battle of Columbia’s.” They got it last year, scored two at the end on us. It’s a nice little rivalry.”
Words like maximize, or get the most out of what you have, that little trophy, nice little rivalry. At least one division rivals doesn’t respect Missouri to give them their due credit. To the HBC, Mizzou is nothing more than the little engine that could.
Before the SEC, Missouri had no fewer than eights wins a season in the final six years in the Big 12, finishing with an average of 9.3 wins per season.
They rack up wins, they go to bowl games, they’re sending players to the NFL and they’re getting drafted in the first round. So, where is the problem? Why is Missouri not respected?
They don’t win enough big games. Yes, they’re putting up big win totals, but they’re not getting the big W’s. Plain and simple. Outsiders look at the Missouri Tigers and say yeah that’s great, you’ve averaged nine wins since 2006 and have won four division championships, but you’re 0-4 in conference championship games and you’ve lost those by a combined scored of 201-97 (an average of 50-24).
From 2004 to the Tigers final season in the Big 12, they went a combined 5-12 against Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas…the powerhouses of that conference. Since their arrival in the SEC, Mizzou is just 4-5 against Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, they biggest division foes.
I understand the frustrations of being left out of the national talk, but they can’t lose 34-0 at home to Georgia, two weeks after an embarrassing loss to Indiana. Beat the Bulldogs or even score some points and people forgive the Hoosier hiccup. Don’t blow a 17-0, 4th quarter lead at home to South Carolina for your only regular season loss. Don’t go 2-3 against ranked teams in ’08 (by the way the ranked wins over #20 Illlinois and #22 Northwestern…the losses? #17 OSU, #1 Texas and #4 Oklahoma) and don’t lose to Oklahoma twice in the same year like ’07.
Since that ’07 season, the Tigers are 14-22 against Top 25 teams.
Missouri has had some big wins, and the program has come a long way since the days of Woody and Stull, but not enough…at least to the outsiders.