Photo courtesy of mutigers.com
Which is the biggest news in the State of Missouri? The Chief's Travis Kelce dating Taylor Swift, or Mizzou's 4-0 start? Even though I don't pretend to think anyone, or thing is bigger news than Taylor, I'm going to focus on Mizzou's 4-0 start to the season.
It's fair to say that excitement for Missouri football has been on a steep uphill climb since the last second upset and exhilarating win against K-State. After all, this is Tigers best start in almost a decade, when Gary Pinkel still patrolled the sideline. With the win against Memphis last weekend, MIzzou is now 23rd in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll.
The news could even get more promising when the Tigers face Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville. There's a decent chance of being 5-0 by the time they return to Columbia. Not that Vandy can't win this game. It can. Remember in 2019, when Mizzou came rolling into Nashville with a 5-1 record and a 22 rating in the polls? The 1-5 Commodores took out the Tigers 21-14, and thus started the beginning of the end of the Barry Odom era.
Nevertheless, it's hard to see Mizzou losing to the 2-3 'Dores, whose only wins are against Hawaii and Alabama A&M. Mizzou's win against Memphis, seemed to show the Tigers are immune to taking an
opponent for granted.
What's changed with this team since last year? Let's take a look.
Now be honest, were you Team Brady, or Team Sam before the season started? I never saw an official poll, but I would say a poll would've been close.
This is now Brady Cook's team. No doubt. I believe he has always had the coaches on his team, now he has the fans.
What's changed? Cook can now hurl the ball down field and connect with his receivers. We've seen the evidence of this starting with the South Dakota game and topping off with Cook's 76-yard hurl to Marquis Johnson on Saturday.
Mizzou currently leads the SEC with 10.63 passing yards per attempt. In passing yards per game, Mizzou is 6th in the conference with 281.8 yards per game, besting the likes of Alabama and Tennessee. Moreover, Cook has thrown only one interception thus far in 2023(CORRECTION-Bardy Cook has not thrown an interception this year. It was Sam Horn).
Luther Burden III.
If you've watched any of the games this season, Burden's value to this offense is immense, and irreplaceable. Whether it's creating additional yards on a screen pass, his athletic ability to separate himself on a pass route, or just his ability to catch a pass. Luther can do it all.
Currently he is third in the SEC in receiving yards with 504 yards, which has already surpassed his 2022 yards. Since last year his yards per catch have improved from 8.3 to 15.8 and he has already 32 receptions after 4 games compared to 45 total receptions in all of 2022.
A quietly developing rushing attack?
In case you haven't noticed, Cody Schraeder leads the SEC in rushing. Let me repeat that, Cody Schraeder leads the SEC in rushing with 403 yards. His 6.20 yards per attempt is 6th in the SEC. The other workhorse for the Tigers is Nathaniel Peat who is averaging 4.2 years per carry.
It's only 4 games into the season, and probably shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. Just the same, Mizzou total rushing yards of 608 is 7th in the league, and yards per game of 152.00 is also 7th.
Is Kirby Moore making an impact on the offense?
Kirby Moore was hired in January to be Mizzou's new offensive coordinator and quarterback's coach by Eli Drinkwitz. Is his presence beginning to be felt?
With the obvious improvement in Mizzou's passing game and evidence of boost in the rushing attack, how much can it be credited to Coach Moore? At this point, he deserves at least a fair share.
One of the biggest concerns that needed to be addressed from last year was the penalties on the offensive side of the ball. At least initially this year, the trend seems to be going in a positive direction. In 2022, Mizzou averaged at 63 yard per game in penalties, most of it being on the offensive side. In 2023 thus far, it's only been 46 yards per game.
Additionally, turnover ratio is much improved over 2022. The Tigers had a -2 turnover ratio last year, where in 2024 the ratio is currently at +2.
Still, there's work to be done.
The Memphis game, much like the Middle Tennesse game, should've been put away sooner. The Tigers went 0-8 on third down conversions, and the defense allowed three fourth down conversions which led to two Memphis scores.
Seven penalties ruined one offside kick and killed other drives. Also, Mizzou's game management came into question at the end of the 2nd quarter when it looked like they were on the move for a touchdown. There seemed to be some confusion on the play calling, and the Tigers blew through their timeouts. Eventually Mizzou had to settle for a field goal.
These various malfunctions kept the Tigers from putting the game away and allowed Memphis to keep the game closer than it should.
Mizzou got away with these issues against Middle Tennessee and Memphis, but from here on out, the SEC will be unforgiving.
Even so, this team has itself in a position to win 8, maybe 9 games. I was hoping for 3-1 at this point, we got 4-0. If the Tigers can take care of business against Vandy, then 9 looks very achievable.