Writers, fans and others tend to use the "tale of two halves" to highlight two seemingly opposite events or trends. It's also the perfect descriptor to apply to Missouri's 2017 season on the college gridiron.
After a 72-43 fireworks show against FCS opponent Missouri State -- a game in which Drew Lock threw for 521 yards and seven touchdowns while the Tigers ran for nearly 300 more -- Missouri tumbled down the SEC standings by dropping its next five games. While some -- a 37-point loss to No. 10 Auburn and a 25-point loss at No. 2 Georgia -- were seemingly unavoidable, a 32-point home loss to Purdue really left a bad taste in the mouths of Mizzou faithful.
But after that loss in Athens, Missouri won six games in a row, scoring an average of 51.3 points per victory. That propelled the Tigers to a 7-5 record -- which arguably nobody saw coming after the horrid start -- and a date with Texas in the Texas Bowl in Houston.
Though the final game didn't go in Missouri's favor, hopes are still high in Columbia entering the 2018 campaign. Lock anchors the offense while the defense finished off the final seven games of 2017 allowing fewer than five yards per play (ninth in FBS in that span).
So which Tigers team will show up in 2018? The team that opened the season 1-5 or the group that rattled off six straight wins to close the regular season? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Missouri in 2018.
Missouri Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Missouri closed out the 2017 season on a tear, but surpassing last year’s seven wins isn’t going to be easy. Headlined by quarterback Drew Lock and some of the SEC’s top skill talent, the Tigers shouldn’t have a problem scoring points. However, the hire of Derek Dooley as offensive coordinator was a curious one, and the jury is still out on whether or not he can keep this unit performing at last year’s pace. Coach Barry Odom is handing off the defensive play-calling duties to Ryan Walters after this unit surrendered 31.8 points a game last fall. Tackle Terry Beckner is one of the SEC’s top defenders, but the Tigers have question marks at end and in the secondary. A schedule that features road trips to Purdue, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee isn’t kind.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Missouri plays the two best teams in the SEC (Alabama and Georgia) but also plays four of the five lowest-ranked teams in the league (according to the Athlon Sports' 130), and all four of those games are in the latter half of the season. The trip to Purdue -- a team that embarrassed Missouri last year -- will be a huge tone-setter for the key stretch in the middle of the season. Memphis is an intriguing non-conference opponent that is capable of winning in Columbia.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Barry Odom no doubt saved his job with that remarkable six-game winning streak last season but any progress we saw for the Tigers doesn't seem like it will carry over into 2018 after he hired Derek Dooley to be his offensive coordinator. There are some quality players like QB Drew Lock to build around but a coach still trying to stay afloat in the SEC hiring a guy who's never been an OC before is questionable at best. Depth overall on both sides of the ball will be a little better than past seasons and Mizzou will be feisty in just about every game on the docket but I'm not quite sure that translates in making the leap from average to good this year.
Juan Jose Rodriguez (@JuanJoseRG02)
Missouri's four biggest tests span 28 days with a bye week thankfully in between. Last year's national runner-up Georgia visits Columbia before the Tigers go on the road -- to the other Columbia -- to face South Carolina and then to Tuscaloosa to square off with Alabama. The stretch concludes with a tussle of Tigers when Mike Norvell and Memphis will square off with Barry Odom's group. If Missouri can start out 3-0 -- which will mean holding off a tricky Purdue squad -- and win one of those four, Tigers fans can set their sights on another bowl appearance in 2018.