Missouri’s 53-28 loss at Georgia on Saturday night dropped the Tigers to 1-5, their worst record through six games since 1992. Mizzou likely won’t win five of its next six contests to qualify for a bowl game. But can the Tigers win more than three games, the amount that 1992 team finished with in coach Bob Stull’s fourth season?
Before the season, Georgia — which is 7-0 for the first time since 2005, when it won a Southeastern Conference title — looked like the toughest team Missouri would play this season. Something less predictable: That the rest of the SEC East would be so bad.
Mizzou is one of three teams in the division without a conference win. The other two, Vanderbilt and Tennessee, are on Missouri’s upcoming schedule. So the Tigers should have a real chance in each of their final six games, which include next weekend’s homecoming game against Idaho and a road game at Connecticut.
Let’s take a look the rest of Mizzou’s opponents, none of whom should scare the Tigers. Of course, the Tigers don’t seem to intimidate their opponents, either.
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Oct. 21, vs. Idaho (2-4, 1-2 Sun Belt)
In MU coach Barry Odom’s first season, Missouri lost its homecoming game to Middle Tennessee. That was embarrassing for the Tigers. Losing this game would be worse.
Idaho’s two wins this season have come against FCS-level Sacramento State and South Alabama, which sits in the middle of the Sun Belt standings.
Missouri’s struggling secondary should be talented enough to contain Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan, who has completed 58 percent of his passes against FBS opponents and not thrown for 300 yards once this season. But Linehan is a four-year starter who has played Power Five opponents before, so he won’t be intimidated.
Oct. 28, at Connecticut (2-4, 1-3 American)
Drew Lock’s newfound deep ball connection with Emanuel Hall should flourish against the Huskies. Connecticut has the country’s worst pass defense in terms of yards allowed per game (392.5). In their four losses, the Huskies have given up an average of 49.5 points.
Connecticut has no standout playmaker. Senior Bryant Shirreffs, who was 17 of 26 passing for 156 yards when these teams played in 2015, spreads the ball around to seven receivers who have each caught at least 12 passes this season.
Nov. 4, vs. Florida (3-3, 3-2 SEC)
The Gators next play Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., so they should come into their game in Columbia with a three-game losing streak.
Florida began as the preseason No. 17-ranked team but has faded recently with losses to LSU and Texas A&M. Two of the Gators’ SEC wins, over Tennessee and Kentucky, were one-score games.
Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks beat out two quarterbacks with starting experience to win his job. Coach Jim McElwain pulled him in the third quarter of Florida’s season-opening loss to Michigan but has kept him as the starter since. He has thrown for more than 200 yards just once this season and has three interceptions to go with three touchdowns.
Nov. 11, vs. Tennessee (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
The Volunteers barely beat Massachusetts and let Georgia shut them out in a 41-0 loss in Knoxville. So things aren’t great for Butch Jones. Fans are calling for his job, and his team goes to No. 1 Alabama next weekend.
Who will quarterback the Volunteers when they come to Columbia? After a bye week, Tennessee gave redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano the start over junior Quinten Dormady, but Guarantano completed less than 55 percent of his 42 pass attempts in a home loss to South Carolina this weekend. Tennessee scored just three first-half field goals against the Gamecocks.
Tennessee has allowed the fewest passing yards per game against conference opponents, so Mizzou will need to run the ball effectively, something it failed to do against Georgia. Luckily for the Tigers, Tennessee has surrendered an average of 242.8 yards per game on the ground, worst in the SEC.
Nov. 18, at Vanderbilt (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
The momentum the Commodores built with a 3-0 start that included a win over Kansas State is now gone. Vanderbilt has lost four straight games, the latest of which was a 57-35 game at Ole Miss. The Commodores and the Tigers are tied for the worst SEC record.
In its SEC games, Vanderbilt has given up an average of 347.25 rushing yards, and a passing defense that appeared stout early — K-State completed 10 of 28 passes and threw two interceptions against Vandy — has softened. Conference opponents have completed 64.7 percent of their passes against the Commodores and thrown for eight touchdowns without an interception.
For Vanderbilt to win, junior quarterback Kyle Shurmur will need to play more like the guy who completed 71 percent of his passes in Vanderbilt’s three wins. In the team’s three losses, he’s completed 45.2 percent of his pass attempts.
Nov. 24, at Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC)
Will this be Barry Odom’s last game as Mizzou’s football coach, or a game that helps Missouri’s build momentum heading into Odom’s third season?
Arkansas’ only wins this season have come against Florida A&M and New Mexico State. The Razorbacks’ have lost three games by 21-or-more points. Their starting senior quarterback, Austin Allen, missed the team’s 41-9 loss at Alabama this week because of a shoulder injury. Coach Bret Bielema said Allen could miss more time but should be back this season.
Receiver Jonathan Nance could cause problems against Missouri. He had 100-plus-yard performances against Texas A&M and South Carolina. But he was practically invisible against Alabama, which held him to one catch for three yards.