COLUMBIA, Mo. — Certainly new Missouri head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz knew what he was getting into when he joined the Southeastern Conference. But even he couldn't have forecasted just how much adversity he'd be thrown in his first season.
Mizzou and Drinkwitz will finally hit the field on Saturday for their first game of this year's SEC-only schedule. And oh yeah, their first foray into football in 2020 is against the biggest blue blood program in college football in Alabama and head coach Nick Saban.
Drinkwitz is inheriting a Mizzou team that underperformed last season, is going to need to count on a lot of underclassmen and newcomers this year, is battling COVID-19 and also happens to have the toughest schedule in college football.
It's daunting to say the least.
Six of the Tigers' opponents this season are ranked in the first top AP Top 25 poll. And these aren't teams hanging around the high 20's. They have the number 2, 4, 5, 6, 16 and 23 ranked teams on their schedule and are only expected to win around three games this season.
And although Drinkwitz knows this season will be a tough one, he's ready for the challenge.
"It's going to be a great opportunity to see where we're at and where we need to be in the future," Drinkwitz said of facing Alabama in week one. "We're going to have to learn how to adapt and adjust each week and that's what makes it fun."
The Tigers will have at least seven players out against the Crimson Tide due to COVID-19 related reasons, which is down from the 12 that was originally announced, due to a previously inconclusive test.
And while the wins may be hard to come by for Mizzou this season, Drinkwitz has a bigger picture in mind, and will be measuring success by his own standards.
"We're laying a foundation for a program that I hope to be here for a long time for. And any time you're building a program it starts with living by your core values on a daily basis and showing those core values when you compete... We want to be a competitive football team, we want to compete in every game, we want to continue to build trust and respect in the community and the university and represent this university in the right way," Drinkwitz said.
But he does know the outlook from experts, and wants to prove his team can win in the SEC right now.
"We want to do more than what's expected. I think I saw where the over under for us is three wins," Drinkwitz said. "So obviously we want to do more than what's expected."
He's proved he can recruit, with currently the 21st ranked 2021 recruiting class in the country, but now he'll get a chance to see what he can do on the sidelines. But in 2020, nothing is going to come easy.
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