2012 Record: 5-7 (2-6 in SEC)
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (90-61 at Missouri, 163-98-3 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 Independence Bowl: beat UNC 41-24
Stadium: Faurot Field in Columbia, MO (capacity = 71,004)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 41st out of 69 BCS teams
Toughest Home Game: 10/19 vs Florida, 10/26 vs South Carolina, 11/30 vs Texas A&M
Toughest Road Games: 10/5 at Vandy, 10/12 at Georgia, 11/23 at Ole Miss
Stats to Fear: converted on just 33.33% of third downs (13th in SEC), scored TDs on 51.28% of red zone trips (10th in SEC)
Stat to Cheer: held opponents to 35.12% on third downs (5th in SEC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 57th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 8, Defense: 6, Special Teams: 0
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Andrew Wilson (80 tackles), CB E.J. Gaines (74 tackles), DE Michael Sam (4.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB James Franklin (1562 yds pass, 59.4% completions, 10 TD, 7 INT) , RB Henry Josey (1168 yds rush, 8.06 ypc, 9 TD in 2011), WR Marcus Lucas (46 rec), WR Dorial Green-Beckham (28 rec, 5 TD)
After going 8-5 in 2011, the Tigers were excited about entering the SEC and the expectation was for them to have a similar mark in their debut season. They hung with Georgia in their SEC opener for the first three quarters before giving way in the fourth. That was a back-breaker and the Tigers would fail to win their first SEC game until they beat Kentucky (a team that failed to win an SEC game in 2012) on Oct 27th.
A big key will be keeping James Franklin healthy this season (last year he played in nine games and was banged up throughout the season). The Tigers are also hopeful that RB Henry Josie can return to form after missing the 2012 season. The WR corps might be the best unit on the team as they return three receivers with 25 or more receptions. Another hope for this squad is that Dorial Green-Beckham blossoms into the highly touted talent that he has been hyped as. The offensive line is another area that was hit with injuries last season and if they can stay healthy then that would be a big key in Missouri taking a step up in the East. As you can see, things didn't go so well for Missouri last year and there is a lot of "hope" that things will turn out better this season on offense.
Missouri finished near the bottom of the conference in points and yards allowed but they played pretty well on third down. The defense must replace their best player, Sheldon Richardson, and some key contributors from the back seven. My expectations are that this defense will be about as good as they were last year but maybe a tad worse due to the loss of Richardson. They got pounded on the ground in some of the games with the upper tier SEC teams (Bama, A&M and Florida) and that will be a concern again this fall.
Missouri should start out the season at 4-0 as they play Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State. Three of those teams can really put up some points so Missouri will need to make sure they don't overlook them getting ready for the SEC schedule. The SEC schedule is pretty tough as they will face six bowl teams from last year and four teams that have a legit shot at being ranked in the Top 10 at the time the Tigers play them. The Tigers definitely have some talent but depth remains an issue. If the stars line up this team could win upwards of eight games but things rarely turn out perfectly and this is a team that hasn't built that SEC depth yet and will continue to struggle against the upper tier teams in the conference.
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