Bernie: In An Odd Sort Of Way, Barry Odom Is The Ideal Coach For Mizzou Football.

Mizzou lost its fifth in a row Saturday night, sputtering through another uninspiring performance in a 24-20 loss to Tennessee.

As I said on my radio show Monday, I don’t know what else to say about Missouri football. I mean, the facts are rather depressing — but the mediocrity and negative direction seem to be just fine with a lot of folks who care about the program.

And that makes Barry Odom the ideal head coach for this program.

Low standards, low expectations, settle for what’s comfy.

Don’t you  even dare  to be great.

Really, it’s a perfect fit.

A fan base, administration and media pep squad that provide such generous backup for Odom are doing exactly what we’d expect, given this program’s (mostly) sorry history.

And this is why sticking with Odom makes sense.

Hey, winning isn’t everything.

Especially when that geyser of rich SEC money is flowing into Mizzou.

I guess the willingness to be happy-happy-happy about Odom says something about the collective inferiority complex surrounding the MU program. And it may say something about the institution’s lack of commitment in aspiring to build a great program.

In fairness the vastly upgraded south end zone looks terrific, and the project represents a belated and welcome ambition to get MU football up to speed. But it won’t pay off unless the team generates excitement and a demand for seats and suites.

So many Missouri fans and seem resigned to this perpetual mediocre-average existence with Coach Odom.

And that is disappointing in so many ways, given the success of Gary Pinkel. Not that Pinkel was, say, Bear Bryant. But he pulled Mizzou football out of complete and numbing irrelevance, won a helluva lot of games, and put the program back on the map.

Pinkel hasn’t been retired for long — only four seasons — but Missouri football is gradually sliding back into the bad old days … the dark days … before Pinkel came along.

This attitude of acceptance — hey, we’re Mizzou, we can’t do any better than this, we can’t be great, so what do we expect? — is part of the problem.

This reluctance to think big — hey, who are we going to hire as coach, anyway? We can’t get anyone better, so what’s the use?  — doesn’t help.

As a Mizzou fan I’d laugh at this, but it actually saddens me.

And keep in mind that I was fine with the Odom hire. Defended it, actually. But at some point in time, the record is the record, the clear trend is the clear trend, and that factual reality overrides long-ago optimism, hope and forced rationalizations.

It’s strange, though … at this point, I just don’t care all that much.

Keep Coach Odom if that’s the call. And if he returns in 2020, then I’ll hope for a turnaround.

And if the turnaround doesn’t come, I’m sure there will be plenty of people rallying around the coach.

Again.

Mizzou is gonna Mizzou.

Best of luck to everyone.

Here are a few new facts, and some updated stats, after Missouri’s flop against the Volunteers:

1. Coach Odom’s “real” record near the end of his fourth season — minus the automatic wins over FCS blood donors — is 20-25. That includes only the games played against FBS competition.

2. According to CFBstats.com, Mizzou with Odom is 4-23 against FBS teams with winning records. In the 14-team SEC, only Arkansas (3-26) is worse than Missouri vs. FBS winning teams during Odom’s time as head coach, which began in 2016.

3. All other SEC East teams have fared  better than Mizzou’s poor 4-23 mark against winning FBS squads — including Vanderbilt (8-21), South Carolina (8-21), Tennessee (12-19) and Kentucky (12-15.) As a pragmatist, I no longer expect Missouri to keep up with SEC East leaders Georgia and Florida. But Mizzou should be able to hang (at least) with Vandy, SC, Tennessee and Kentucky.

4. And when you see Vandy and South Carolina sitting there with twice as many wins than Mizzou against winning FBS teams … and Kentucky and Tennessee having three times as many victories against winning FBS teams … really bad.

5. By the way, Odom has a 6-10 record (combined) against Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. That includes a combined 3-9 vs. Kentucky, SC and Tennessee. Hey, at least Odom is 3-1 against Derek Mason and Vandy.

6. Odom has a 12-19 record in SEC games. That ranks fifth among the seven SEC East teams, and 10th among all 14 SEC teams.

7. Odom’s 12 SEC victories came against conference opponents that had a combined .272 winning percentage in league play at the end of the season.

8. Eight of Odom’s 19 SEC losses have been against teams that finished the season at .500 or worse in SEC action.

9. Mizzou is 6-15 on the road (plus neutral sites) over the last four seasons. Compared to other SEC East members that’s slightly better than Vanderbilt (5-17) but not as good as Tennessee (7-13), South Carolina (8-15), Kentucky (10-12), Florida (14-11) and Georgia (20-7.)

10. Missouri has failed to take advantage of a relatively cushy schedule. Especially this year, with the pastry shelves delivering all sorts of goodies during a five-game home stand that propped up the  Tigers to the point that — I’m embarrassed to say — I fell for the hype. Again. Anyway, the Tigers’ annual crossover game  against a West division SEC team is played against Arkansas, which is absolutely horrendous. This year Missouri’s other SEC West opponent was Ole Miss, which is 7-14 vs. FBS teams over the last two seasons. That includes an 0-12 ledger vs. FBS winning teams.

11. Other teams in the SEC East are locked into annual rivalry games vs. SEC West members that present greater challenges. Examples: Tennessee faces Alabama every season. Georgia plays Auburn each year. Florida is locked into an annual game with LSU. Kentucky has an annual game against Mississippi State; the Bulldogs are lousy this year but are still better than, say, Arkansas. South Carolina’s annual crossover game is against Texas A&M, which is 17-14 in SEC play over the last four seasons.

12. Among the seven SEC teams, Missouri since 2016 has played the fewest games (11) vs. teams ranked in the AP Top 25. Georgia (17) has played the most games vs. ranked opponents over the last four years, followed by South Carolina (16), Tennessee (15), Florida (13), Vandy (12) and Kentucky (12.)

And  this, which kind of bugged me:

Last week Odom took credit for having a better record than any Mizzou coach since Warren Powers during their first four seasons on the job. The boast was sorely lacking in context, and ignores the starting point of each coaching regime.

In this exercise, I’ll just limit the comparison to Odom and Pinkel.

As mentioned earlier: after Saturday’s loss to Tennessee, Odom is now 20-25 vs. FBS opponents. In his first four seasons at Mizzou,

Pinkel was 20-25 against FBS opponents in his first four seasons.

Same record. But in his first four years Pinkel has more games (12) vs. ranked teams than Odom (11.) Pinkel also had Mizzou ranked in the Top 25 for a total of six weeks in his first four seasons; the Tigers have been ranked for two weeks in four seasons under Odom.

Odom gets edge over Pinkel in bowl games over the first four seasons as coach, 2-1. And that could be 3-1 by the end of the week. There are more bowl games now compared to Pinkel’s early years, but that shouldn’t be held against Odom.

But there’s a huge difference.

Pinkel inherited a program that had endured a blight of 15 losing seasons over a 17-year stretch. The futility cost four coaches their jobs: Powers, Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith. Over the 17 seasons MU went to two bowl games and won 33.8 percent of its 186 games.

Odom inherited a program that had won 61.8 percent of its games under Pinkel over 15 seasons. In his final 13 years, Pinkel won 67 percent of his games, had 11 winning seasons, took the Tigers to 11 bowl games, and was ranked for a total of 83 weeks over that time.

Pinkel’s accomplishments as Mizzou’s coach included two top-five finishes nationally in the season-ending AP poll, a No. 1 ranking in the nation late in the 2007 season, and consecutive SEC East titles in 2013, 2014. Coach Pinkel had 39 Mizzou recruits and players drafted into the NFL. Eight were first-round draft selections, with six second-rounders and four in the third.

Pinkel — diagnosed with cancer, a crisis that he kept private  — struggled to a 5-7 record in his final season, 2015. But that slip didn’t define the state of the program. Mizzou had plenty of talent in place for Odom’s first season in 2016  including returning quarterback Drew Lock.

Any sane person would agree that Pinkel took over a program that had spent a good part of two decades as a laughing stock and an embarrassment.

And that Odom took over a program that had established an extensive record of success — topped by an invitation to join the SEC — over a long stretch of time. Pinkel’s entry phase at Mizzou was immensely more challenging and difficult than Odom’s launch at MU.

Again, don’t mind me.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie