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Matter: Drinkwitz's play-calling role more common than you think

Matter: Drinkwitz's play-calling role more common than you think

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Ben Frederickson and Dave Matter preview Saturday's game, asking if the Tigers can rise up and make some magic this season, like the Aggies did when they upset Alabama.

Here are the highlights from our weekly chat with Post-Dispatch readers. 

Q: Are there any Power 5 football coaches who do not have an offensive coordinator? I ask this question because I don't think Coach D can be successful without one. The head coach of a DI football team must handle the press, alumni in general, big donors in particular, recruiting and any questions that come from the AD and the Campus. I don't think Drink can handle those issues, oversee the defense, develop an effective game plan, coach the QBs and call the plays from the sideline. He must learn how to delegate responsibility and authority and hold people accountable. He should let the OC develop the game plan and call the plays, knowing, of course, that he has the final say on the plan and each of the plays called.

A: You'd be surprised how many teams operate the same way offensively as Missouri.

All these coaches call their own plays and serve as de-facto coordinators. (They might have an assistant coach listed as coordinator, but that's just a title to justify a higher salary.)

  • Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M
  • Dan Mullen, Florida
  • Josh Heupel, Tennessee
  • Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma
  • Ryan Day, Ohio State
  • Steve Sarkisian, Texas
  • Mike Leach, Mississippi State
  • David Cutcliffe, Duke
  • Jeff Brohm, Purdue

That’s just a small sample off the top of my head. There are more.

Q: Dave, do you feel the football team is underrated, overrated or properly rated? I’ve seen you point out to fans that last year, Mizzou was closer to being 3-7 than they were to be 7-3 when you look at games. This year so far, comparatively, they’re closer to being 5-1 than a lot of people give them credit for against respectable teams in Boston College and Kentucky, but on the flip side, they really were playing with fire allowing North Texas and Central Michigan to be as close as they were late in the game, despite what the final score says. So, how do you interpret this team? For all the struggles they’ve had, they're a few plays away from being 5-1, but they’re also a few plays away from being 1-5.

A: They look to me like a .500 team. And I'm not basing that on the outcome of the games but based on their strengths and weaknesses. This team is good enough to beat bad teams (North Texas, SEMO, Central Michigan), flawed enough to lose to average/above average SEC teams (Tennessee) but also good enough AND flawed enough to play competitively against teams that are equal or slightly below/above in talent (Kentucky, Boston College).

The toss-up games were always going to define this season: Kentucky, BC, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas.

I always figured Mizzou would be a decided underdog against A&M, Georgia and Florida, and a decided favorite over Central Michigan, SEMO, North Texas and Vandy.

Win the latter, lose the former and win three of five toss-up games and you get to 7-5. Well, they've played three of the toss-up games and lost all three.

Only one outcome so far this year surprises me — just how badly Mizzou lost to Tennessee. Go back to my preseason prediction. Yes, I overrated the ability of this defense and had MU at 8-4. But I also expected the UK and BC losses. I thought MU would beat the Vols but wouldn't have been shocked by a close loss … 62-24 was shocking.

Q: The Tennessee game’s unexpected beatdown really scuttled expectations for a decent W-L record. In addition, the fans leaving — even before halftime — was a bad reflection on the program. Still, I think this team has enough talent to finish at .500 — better if they win Saturday. Based on your comments with Ben Frederickson, am I right that you expect the Tigers to be competitive vs. A&M? Man, do they need that.

A: It depends on which A&M team shows up. If it's the team that went toe to toe with Bama and unleashed all its playmakers, then A&M wins by three TDs or more. If that A&M team plays here Saturday, here's what happens: Mizzou's going to struggle to keep pace with the A&M running backs and the weapons Calzada has at receiver and tight end. Chunk plays galore. This is the most talented defensive team Mizzou has played this year — a huge challenge for the O-line. Bazelak will be under assault from the D-line and Mike Elko's blitz package.

Now, if A&M struggles to move the ball like it did against Colorado, Arkansas and Mississippi State, Mizzou can certainly keep it close as long as the offense stays ahead of the chains and doesn't live in third and long.

Q: You think Mizzou can win nine SEC basketball games?

A. That would be a .500 SEC record. Sure. Maybe. Hard to say. It's a mysterious team with all the newcomers. I don't think anyone can feel good about any prediction with this team considering all the new pieces. I don’t expect Mizzou to challenge for the SEC, but I don’t think they’ll be one of the worst teams in the league either.

I turned in my SEC ballot this week for the AP preseason predictions. Here's how I voted:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. Alabama
  5. Auburn
  6. LSU
  7. Mississippi State
  8. Florida
  9. Missouri
  10. Ole Miss
  11. Texas A&M
  12. Vanderbilt
  13. South Carolina
  14. Georgia

Q: I watched the end of the Alabama-Texas A&M game last Saturday in which A&M fans stormed the field at the conclusion. The announcer said the Aggies would be fined $250,000. You said $100,000. Whatever the fine is, it is one of the most exciting ends to a football game when the underdog beats the number one team on their home field. The only time I can remember that happening at Faurot Field is in 2010 when MU upset number one Oklahoma. Hopefully Eli can work some magic in the near future to give MU fans a reason to storm field again.

A: In 2015, the SEC updated its policy with new fine figures. A school is fined $50K for the first offense (post-2015), $100K for the second offense and $250K for the third offense. This was No. 2 for A&M. It also happened in 2018 when A&M beat LSU in seven overtimes.

Prior to 2015, the SEC policy was $5K for first offense, $25K for second offense and $50K for third offense.

Mizzou fans stormed the field in 2013 (Texas A&M) and 2014 (Arkansas) when the Tigers clinched the SEC East both seasons.

Q: I believe Mizzou football finished the 2007 season (or began the 2008 season) ranked No. 4 in the country. In your opinion (and I realize this is total conjecture), do you think Coach Drinkwitz is the right head coach to get them back there? Why or why not?

A: I just haven't seen enough to say yes or no to that question. When the 2007 season kicked off, I don't think I could have reasonably said Gary Pinkel was capable of building a top-five team. Here's what Drinkwitz has to do to put Mizzou in that position, in no particular order…

  • Recruit/develop an elite quarterback. Great teams don't have average guys at that position. Is that Bazelak? Maybe, but he's not there yet. He's a top 25 QB nationally.
  • Recruit/develop dynamic playmakers at running back and receiver. The best teams have great skill at those positions.
  • Recruit/develop big, deep and talented lines on both sides of the ball. It's hard to win at a national level without NFL prospects on the line of scrimmage.
  • Recruit/develop impact defensive players who can change games with playmaking ability.

Defensive scheme doesn't matter. Just have a system that gets the most out of your talent.

Q: How would you compare where the team stands during the second year of Odom's tenure versus Drinkwitz (without COVID)? 

A: Well, I think it's fair to say the 2017 Missouri team had a more explosive offensive core: Lock, Crockett/Rountree/Witter, Moore/Hall/Albert O. I'd take that group over the current offensive nucleus.

On defense, man, I'd give the 2017 team a slight edge. Cale Garrett and Terez Hall formed a good linebacker tandem. Marcell Frazier was a better pass rusher than what we've seen from this D-line. Terry Beckner never lived up to the five-star ranking — thanks to two ACL tears — but he was probably better than any D-tackle on this team.

That 2017 team was barely competitive against Purdue and Auburn then got hot against a run of bad teams at the end.

I'd say this year's team has better young players in the program and committed for the future. But that's more about potential than anything else.

Q: How in the world is Texas A&M only favored by nine over Mizzou especially considering they're coming off their epic win over Bama and that Mizzou…is Mizzou? Goodness, that shockingly low point spread that A&M is favored by could alone be bulletin board material for the Aggies this Saturday!

A: I was somewhat surprised to see a single-digit spread, but consider…

  • A&M has yet to play a true road game. The Aggies played neutral-site games in Denver and Arlington, Texas — and didn’t play well in either.
  • A&M needed some fortunate calls to beat a bad Colorado team 10-7. (The Buffs are 1-4).
  • A&M was dominated physically by Arkansas and scored 10 points — against the same Hogs defense that gave up 89 points the last two weeks.
  • Mississippi State held A&M to 296 yards and 22 points — at Kyle Field!

The Aggies have been an underachieving, borderline bad team more this year than a good team.

Vegas sees this as a classic letdown game where A&M struggles to win comfortably on the road. Or, more accurately, Vegas expects that's how enough gamblers will see this game.

So, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see A&M scuffle around and struggle to put this Missouri team away.

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