It's rare to see an SEC team take the role of underdog against a Conference USA team. C-USA is home to schools named after grains (Rice) and have mascots that are singular nouns. Mizzou finds themselves in a precarious situation.
Right when this game was scheduled, it was viewed as the "watch out for this game" game. UCF preys on the plentiful recruiting scraps left over from Florida, Miami, Florida State and Georgia. Road games are never easy, of course. Unless you're Alabama, wins away from home should be taken any way you can get them.
But for the Tigers, this should be a wake up call. This is a true road game. UCF is a quality opponent and the Tigers will be breathing easy if they can escape Orlando with a W. A loss and the Tigers' bowl eligibility comes into question, as will Gary Pinkel's job security. Two embarrassments in your first two SEC conference games (albeit against two top-10 teams). I would not be the one questioning his job security, but it would definitely be a topic of discussion in newspapers and on sports radio across the Show-Me State.
This is a winnable game for the Tigers and one they
will undoubtedly blow in predictable Mizzou fashion, ruining the season should win. UCF's mascot is named "Knightro", for crying out loud.
A loss by the Tigers sways the ever growing opinion that Mizzou is just another Vanderbilt or Kentucky in the SEC East. Being a 2.5-point underdog on the road against a C-USA team should be reason enough for the Tigers to be ready to prove they not only belong in the SEC, but are also a good football team.
Central Florida is about as right down the middle as they come. They hung with an insanely overrated Ohio State team, so obviously the national opinion of UCF is that they have the potential to be a giant killer. I'm not buying it. They blew out Akron on the road. Akron might be worse than Colorado. They beat Florida International at home by 13 points.
This is a game Mizzou has to win. Simple as that. A loss would hinder all momentum the Tigers have built before this season with the conference switch. I expect Sheldon Richardson to eat the UCF O-line's lunch and God willing, James Franklin will be healthy.
This is the perfect game for Franklin to prove to Tiger fans and prying media that he's the guy for the job. I'm not quite yet on the Corbin Berkstresser bandwagon (he can't throw), but another flaky performance by Franklin and I might start questioning whether or not A) he's healthy and B) he's even that good.
Franklin has shown in the past that he can rise to the occasion when doubted. His game vs. Texas A&M last year was the stuff of legend. He says that he's not confident in his injured shoulder. Well, I hope like hell he's confident this weekend. UCF has the 60th ranked pass defense in the country, allowing 230 yards a game, while allowing close to 160 yards on the ground per game.
UCF is an average, run-of-the-mill football team, but may be the best team in Conference USA. Are the Missouri Tigers better than average? We'll find out.