The last time I did a coach analysis, I threw it open for requests. It’s not so much that I was out of ideas, but I wanted to make sure I would be covering the people that folks are interested in.
The first request was for Gary Pinkel, which gave me pause. First of all, he wasn’t who I was expecting to see as the first request. Second, I really don’t know that much about Pinkel or Missouri football.
I spent over 22 years of my life in Florida with the rest in Charlotte, North Carolina and the entire time I have been a Florida fan and an SEC guy. Before 2007, I really only knew two things about Missouri football beyond its location and conference—Brad Smith was really good and a lot of people thought Pinkel was an underachieving coach.
I suspect the two of those were related. After all, Smith was an exceptionally talented player who has set all kinds of records for dual threat quarterbacks. He’s the all time quarterback rushing leader, the first ever to 8000 passing yards and 4000 rushing yards in a career, and first ever to 2000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards in multiple seasons.
Smith began to get preseason hype for the Heisman in 2004 and his Tigers were ranked 17th in the preseason. Unfortunately, Mizzou would limp to a 5-6 record.
It was especially puzzling considering the Tigers defense gave up just 19.5 points per game, the lowest of Pinkel’s tenure up to that point. One would figure that with a defense that stout and Smith at quarterback, the team could have found a way to a winning record.
I think for the national audience, this was the year that really branded Pinkel with the underachiever label. His program actually had expectations, but it failed to live up to them. As a national observer, that’s all I can really speak to.
To get an insider’s opinion on Pinkel though, I asked the Bleacher Report Community Leader for Missouri Football, senior writer Peter Fleischer, for his thoughts on his head coach:
“Pinkel was pretty much hit or miss with Tigers fans. I personally liked him and felt like he got a bad rap for not producing as much at Mizzou as he could have.
The fact of the matter is that at the end of the Larry Smith era, Missouri football wasn’t exactly a perennial powerhouse, so it’s not like Pinkel ruined the program, ala Quin Snyder. I didn’t think that he underachieved with Brad Smith and felt like his teams had a knack for losing the games they should have won.
The most painful loss in my memory of Gary is the 2006 Sun Bowl against Oregon State, where the Tigers blew a huge lead and lost. I felt like Gary was a decent coach but never could really execute the big games. He couldn’t get over the hump.
I think he and his staff have finally done that. The spread offense is clicking on all cylinders, and he finally is starting to close the borders of Missouri, keeping in-state talent at home. If he keeps this up, he should be able to build something special at Missouri.”
Big thanks to Peter for the insight.
The 2007 season was a huge breakthrough, as everyone can tell. Missouri finished a top ten team, had a Heisman finalist in Chase Daniel, and won 10 games for the first time since 1960. The team scored 558 points, which wasn’t just the first time the Tigers had reached 500 points in a season. It was also the first time they reached 400 points in a season, with the previous high being 399 in 2003.
With all of the above in mind, let’s take a look at Pinkel’s record broken down by site:
The neutral site games are three games against Illinois in St. Louis, a game against Kansas in Kansas City, and a Big 12 championship game.
Given that Pinkel is 45-37 (.549) overall, none of these were going to look all that great. The .675 home record isn’t bad all things considered, but the 12-21 (.364) road record is dismal. Then again, I suppose that’s how you end up with three losing records and three seasons with five losses in your first six years.
Here is Pinkel’s record broken down by tier of opponent. As always, first-tier opponents are teams that had a winning percentage of .750 or better, second tier were .500 to .749, third tier opponents were .250 to .499, and fourth tier opponents were .249 and below.
|Tier||Wins||Losses||Pct.||Avg. Scored||Avg. Allowed|
Pinkel clearly has been dreadful against the top tier. One win was against Nebraska in 2003, the Tigers first since 1978. The other was over Kansas this past season.
Five of the losses are to Oklahoma and three are to Texas. The remaining four came to Colorado and Nebraska in 2001, and Kansas State and Bowling Green in 2002. These results seem to confirm Peter’s perception of Pinkel being a coach who can’t get over the hump in big games.
Pinkel is still under .500 against second tier teams despite going 4-0 against them last season. His record against third tier teams isn’t very good, but at least he hasn’t lost to a fourth tier team. These results seem to confirm Peter’s perception of Pinkel being a coach who loses games he shouldn’t.
Gary Pinkel has delivered five of the eight highest scoring seasons in school history in terms of total points scored, and he has guided the team to four of its six bowl appearances since 1983. Players are now getting named to preseason awards lists, and Missouri captured the attention of the country with its short stint at No. 1 in 2007.
The team had a banner year last year and expectations are the highest they’ve been since 2004. Will Pinkel guide his talented team to lofty heights again or sink under expectations as he did three seasons ago? It’s just one of the many interesting subplots that will make the 2008 college football season great.