Eli Drinkwitz and Jeff Hafley are both in year two at their respective programs. We’ll find out Saturday which team is further along in its rebuild.
Certain games in a season take on an outsized importance. Sure, each game counts the same in the win or loss column, but we all know that’s not actually true. Some wins carry more weight than others just as certain losses certainly carry more weight than others.
We know this to be true as Missouri fans, because we’ve been on both ends of the spectrum in recent years. When the Kim Anderson era started with a loss at home against UMKC, it was crippling. When Missouri beat LSU at home last year, it was awe-inspiring.
That momentum is meaningful, whether it be in the positive or negative direction. Mizzou football carried a ton of momentum into this season. A win on Saturday could help boost it once again.
This is a matchup of two similar teams going through an inflection point as a program.
Boston College’s five most recent recruiting classes ranked 66th, 71st, 57th, 63rd and 32nd nationally, according to Rivals. Mizzou’s five most recent recruiting classes ranked 49th, 39th, 34th, 54th and 20th, respectively. If you average those classes out, it’s the 58th most talented team in the country going up against the 39th most talented team.
Mizzou is a slightly more talented team, but it’s close enough that the talent gap could be mitigated a bit from BC’s home-field advantage. The resulting game is, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing non-conference games for Mizzou in recent years.
The Tigers hold a 7-7 non-conference record against power five opponents (not named Illinois or Arkansas) dating back to the 2000 football season. Only twice has Missouri lost such a game and gone on to finish the regular season with a winning record (2014, vs. Indiana and 2017, vs. Purdue).
That 2017 matchup against Purdue could prove instructive for this particular matchup.
Let’s turn back the clock to that Purdue game, shall we? The Tigers were in year two under head coach Barry Odom. They beat Missouri State 72-43 (woof) in the first week of the season. They lost in blowout fashion at home in week two against Deebo Samuel and South Carolina. Things weren’t exactly heading in a positive direction.
The Purdue game was Odom’s opportunity to get things back on track and prove to fans that he was capable of winning swing games on the schedule.
There’s a reason the game was viewed as winnable. Purdue was 1-1 at the time with its only loss coming in the first week of the season against Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. Not a bad loss, by any means. Jeff Brohm was in his first season as the Boilermakers head coach and he was flipping back-and-forth between two different quarterbacks.
The Tigers entered that 2017 game against Purdue as a 5.5-point favorite in Vegas. The game ended with the Tigers losing 35-3. It was among the most deflating losses of the Barry Odom era. Purdue had come to Columbia and completely dismantled Mizzou. One game gave Purdue fans hope they found the right coach to turn things around. It put doubt in Mizzou fans’ minds that Odom would be able to do the same.
The consequences of this Boston College game aren’t nearly as drastic for Eli Drinkwitz. He’s instilled more confidence in his first year-plus on the job than Odom ever did. But the potential boost from a win should be similar to what Brohm felt at Purdue.
At the time I’m writing this column, Mizzou is a 2.5-point favorite at Boston College. Vegas views the Tigers as the better football team, as it should. The Tigers should be better positioned in year two under Drinkwitz than Boston College is in year two under head coach Jeff Hafley. That said, the Eagles are off to a 3-0 start with an offense averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground.
This is the type of game Missouri rarely won under Barry Odom. Odom was 3-5 from 2017-2019 in games in which his team was favored by 7 points or less. Drinkwitz is 2-1 in such games early in his Missouri tenure.
This is his chance to start 3-1.
There were a million potential turning points throughout the Barry Odom era at Missouri. One significant milestone on that boulevard of broken dreams was the non-conference loss against Purdue that led the season into a downward spiral resulting in a 1-5 start to the year.
There were three potential swing games on the Tigers’ schedule when it was announced: at Kentucky, at Boston College and home against South Carolina. These are the games that hold an outsized importance for a team in Mizzou’s position.