2007 RECORD: 12-2; BIG 12: 7-1
Won Cotton Bowl vs. Arkansas 38-7
LOCATION: Columbia, Missouri
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium (68,349)
HEAD COACH: Gary Pinkel
OVERALL: 122-74-3 (17 seasons)
AT MISSOURI: 49-37 (7 seasons)
No one wanted to play the Tigers in their bowl game last season. Missouri was No. 7 in both human polls and No. 6 in the BCS Standings, but failed to make a BCS Bowl. The Tigers instead saw Kansas—a team Mizzou beat 36-28 to win the Big 12 North—somehow get an invite to one of the coveted contests. It was as if the Tigers were punished for winning their division and having to play the Oklahoma Sooners a second time (an opponent Kansas was able to avoid). Not to take anything away from KU, but Mizzou should have been in one of those games and they let the nation know in the Cotton Bowl. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, they were in the way.
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dave Christenson (8th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Martin Rucker, Tony Temple, Will Franklin, Adam Spieker, Tyler Luellen
Chase Daniel is the triggerman of the offense that took hold of the Midwest last season to the tune of 12 wins. If you’re casting for a quarterback, Daniel may not be your first choice. However, if your objective is to win football games, then Daniel is your man—he is the best quarterback in a conference stacked with stellar signal callers. Most impressive among Daniel’s across the board, improvement last season was the 4.7 percent jump in his completion percentage from an already solid 63.5 percent. Daniel manages to accomplish that while throwing for 779 more yards—he wasn’t dinking and dunking to increase his percentage. Part of the reason for his increased numbers could have been the addition of freshman sensation WR Jeremy Maclin, an all-purpose maven. Maclin has breakaway speed with ankle-breaking moves in the open field. He’s a guy who needs to touch the football as much as possible…good things will happen. They lose Martin Rucker, but return TE Chase Coffman who could put up the best numbers of any tight end in the nation. When WR Danario Alexander returns from injury it will make them even more explosive. Replacing a left tackle and center in the spread offense is not easy, but do not expect a drop off in their line play, as three starters return and the new additions have experience and promise. The same can be said for Tony Temple’s replacements, with senior Jimmy Jackson providing experience and sophomore Derrick Washington the promise.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) WR Jeremy Maclin (SO), 2) TE Chase Coffman (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Matt Eberflus (8th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Lorenzo Williams, Cornelius Brown, Darnell Terrell
The Tigers are not one-dimensional by any means. Mizzou returns three senior starters along the line in DE Stryker Sulak, DE Tommy Chavis and DT Ziggy Hood. Sulak has been the most productive, but expect Hood to have a big senior campaign as well. In addition to the seniors, there are several others expected to contribute. At linebacker, top tackler junior Sean Weatherspoon leads the front seven, with Brock Christopher another solid performer from the second level. Leading the last line of defense is free safety extraordinaire William Moore, a tremendous athlete with the size and speed to do it all. Moore was their second leading tackler—his many stops include seven in the offensive backfield—and his eight interceptions tied for the national lead. Another player to keep a close eye on is sophomore CB Carl Gettis, who made 10 starts as a true freshman. With 10 players back who started in their big Cotton Bowl win, the defense should be able to hold their own.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) FS William Moore (SR), 2) DT Ziggy Hood (SR)
The first thing that pops out about the 2008 schedule for the Missouri Tigers is: no Oklahoma. Of course they would sign today for a guarantee to face the Sooners this season because in order to play OU, the Tigers would be playing in their second straight Big 12 Championship game. But before they can worry about the conference title, Mizzou starts off with “Arch” rival Illinois in what should be a nip-and-tuck battle. Once they do get into conference play, the Tigers face two key games: First, a trip to Austin with the ‘Horns replacing the Sooners on the docket and second, their regular season finale against their other border rival Kansas, in what again could be a battle for the North division.
Expectations: There is very little to pick apart in terms of personnel or a weakness that could hold them back, but how will they handle the expectations? Remember, up until last season Pinkel’s Tigers have not handled success very well. In 2006, they started the season 6-0 and reached No. 19 in the polls…only to drop four of the next five and finish the season 8-5. In 2005, the Tigers were 5-2 (one of their losses was to No. 2 Texas) but lost three of their last four regular season games. The last time Missouri started a season ranked? They opened up 2004 ranked No. 18 in the country…and proceeded to lose their second game of the season to Troy 24-14. Mizzou bounced back to get to 4-1…before dropping five consecutive contests and missing a bowl altogether. The talent is there, but it is hard, if not impossible, to predict how a team handles elevated expectations for the first time.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Raised expectations aside, the 2008 Missouri Tigers should be just fine. There is a reason they are a pre-season top ten team—they have the players. With Daniel triggering the offense and Moore roaming in the defensive backfield, the Tigers should turn in another strong season. Will they win 12 games or the Big 12? That’s hard to say, but they will reach double digits in wins for a second straight season, as well as take the North Division. They will probably fall short of capturing the conference title, but a BCS Bowl could be in the cards.
Photo Credit: Mizzou Media Relations
Sunday, August 24, 2008
2007 RECORD: 12-2; BIG 12: 7-1