"Why must there always be a problem?" - George Costazna, Season nine, episode 18 of Seinfeld.
That should be the de facto motto for fans of Mizzou athletics.
Nothing ever goes right. In any sport.
Whether it's injuries (the Porters, Tony Van Zant, etc.), bad decisions (Dorial Green Beckham, Maty Mauk, etc.), inept officiating (the 5th down, Kentucky in 2018, etc.) or just general disappointment on the big stage (2007 Big 12 Championship, the Tyus Edney play, etc.), Mizzou knows how to let you down.
It's never easy.
Now, when Barry Odom has assembled his best team in his fourth season at the helm and things are trending in the right direction, the NCAA decides to make an example.
The sanctions hanging over Missouri football like an ominous cloud is just the latest in a history of gut punches Mizzou fans have endured.
We'll likely get some clarity on Missouri's appeal of the NCAA sanctions soon, but until then, Barry Odom still has a team to get ready for the season. That team could end up being special.
First, let's talk about the offense, which could end up being one of the best the program has ever put on the field.
Almost the entire offensive unit returns intact. The only big omissions are running back Demarea Crockett and quarterback Drew Lock, now with the Denver Broncos.
Lock's replacement will be the talk of the town, and maybe the entire SEC, all fall long.
Kelly Bryant was one of the most heralded transfers in college football history when he decided to leave Clemson.
After getting beat out of a starting job by Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence, Bryant had no shortage of suitors. He chose to bring his talents to Mizzou for his senior season. Odom couldn'y be more pleased with what he's seen out of the newcomer.
"He's got great elusiveness, really good speed, and a couple of moves that I'm really really impressed with," Odom said. "He's very mature, but is also able to relate to anyone he's in context with at that moment. I think it's a gift he has mainly because his ego is so low, but he is a fierce competitor and understands the pulse of what he needs to say and when he needs to say it."
It's not just Bryant who will demand the attention, though. The skills players on offense are experienced, and hungry.
Junior running back Larry Rountree III is a beast. He was the Tigers' leading rusher last season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns with 1216 total rushing yards.
Sophomore Tyler Badie is a lethal second option in the backfield. The elusive 5-9, 190 pound back can flat out make defenders look silly. He had a nice season in his freshman year and was a big weapon in the passing game as well. Look for him to break out even bigger this season.
At receiver, the Tigers have an embarrassment of depth.
Senior transfer Johnathan Nance, senior speedster Johnathan Johnson, and talented sophomores Kam Scott, Jalen Knox and Dominic Gicinto figure to get the most looks from Kelly Bryant.
Johnson will wrap up an impressive Missouri career this season. Going into his senior year, he is averaging 15.3 yards per catch as a Tiger and has 13 touchdowns in three seasons.
The biggest (literally) target for the Mizzou offense is 6-2, 255 pound tight end Albert Okwuegbunam. Albert "O" has been nothing short of unstoppable when's he's been able to stay healthy. In 22 career games, he has 17 touchdowns. Albert "O" should be Bryant's security blanket this season, and has the chance to really wow NFL scouts.
Mizzou is also solid on the offensive line, with East St. Louis native and senior Tre'Vour Wallace-Simms playing a big role.
Now, onto the defense.
On the line, the Tigers will be looking for that next breakout star of "D-Line Zou". Trajan Jeffcoat, Chris Turner, Yasir Durant and Jordan Elliot will garner the most attention from opposing offensive lines.
Odom knows how important a good defensive line is, especially in the SEC.
"You better be able to win on the line of scrimmage. On both sides," Odom said. "You look at the champions in our league, they've all been able to run the ball and also been really good in run defense."
The linebacking corps will be captained by senior Cale Garrett, who will wrap up a nice Missouri career this season.
The secondary returns a veteran cast of characters who know what it takes to win in the SEC. St. Louis native Ronnell Perkins leads the way at safety, and DeMarkus Acy, Adam Sparks, Joshuah Bledsoe and Khalil Oliver also figure to get a lot of snaps.
There's a good chance Missouri will end up being favored in 10 of their 12 games this season. That's all well and good, but if the sanctions aren't lifted, what's the point?
Even though Barry Odom is keeping his squad focused on football, the NCAA has just as much say in the Missouri season as the team on the field does.
"It's a process that has taught me some patience... We've got to control with what we can control," Odom said. I thought we were very aggressive, but also in a respectful manner. The University of Missouri did a tremendous job with our counsel, legally, internally and then our outside counsel. We have a very very strong case that we feel very firmly that we've done everything right. Now it's to the point, I don;t know a time frame, where we'll find out what ends up out of it. But, for our team, thinking about it does absolutely zero for us. We don't control it."
When you look up and down at this Missouri roster, it's easy to see why this team could be special.
It has the athletes, it has the coach, it has the schedule and it has the chemistry.
Now all the NCAA has to do is unshackle the Tigers, and watch them hunt.