As we enter into the 2010 season in the College Football world we look at the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12. The Missouri Tigers are an interesting team, in that they have 19 starters out of 24 returning. The Tigers will have to battle it out with the Nebraska Cornhuskers who should be the only team to real challenge to Missouri all season, in the Big 12 North, and its going to be a winner take all battle come their match-up in Lincoln later in the season. But when doing predictions and preseason voting what do people remember most with their short memories? The bowl game. This could be why the Tigers are getting no love in the North or at a national level at all in the preseason polls. People tend to make a judgment on the next year based on how you perform in the bowl game and the Tigers laid a BIG, FAT, UGLY egg against Navy 35-13 and couldn’t stop the run, the one thing the Tigers have done pretty well in the last few years.
The Tigers maintained one of the best passing offenses in football last year while their rushing offense was merely a side note. The Tigers need to improve in this area and seemed to have their most success when they rushed the ball right between the tackles. The unfortunate thing is all the legal trouble that the Tigers seem to have had specifically with Derrick Washington the #1 back for the Tigers who was suspended what was initially thought to be the just the Illini game but now looks as if he will miss several weeks as it is Missouri policy to not let students who are currently being charged with a felony to play until the legal issues are resolved. This may result in a loss of Washington for the season giving backup Kendall Lawrence the Missouri Tigers starting RB position. The passing offense should rank near the top in the nation again with Blaine Gabbert leading the Tigers. He has a monster arm with good instincts and touch on the ball but because he plays at Missouri, he continues to get overlooked in most circles, but some experts have seen his talent and a few think that he could emerge as the best QB in all of college football. The one place that definitely needs to improve is the red-zone offense. They scored on 41 of 50 drives in the red-zone but 20 of those were on field-goals leaving just 21-50 for a 42% success rate of putting the ball into the end-zone from inside the 20. The 3rd down percentage was lacking as well as they went 68-185 a paltry 37%. The team needs to put themselves in more manageable situations on 3rd down and punch in the chances in the red-zone and who knows where this tigers team could end up.
The defense has been a point of emphasis since the off-season began specifically in the secondary. The team was horrible when it came to passing defense as they allowed opposing QB’s all the time in the world to light them up and catch people on the deep bomb and to find the seem in the defense so easily and then when they did allow the catch they couldnt tackle anyone either. Opposing QB’s were 305 for 475 for a 64% completion percentage with 20 TD’s and 8 INT’s for a 132.55 QB rating against. The secondary will have to get significantly better if the Missouri Tigers hope to push ahead this season and beat out Nebraska and take the Big 12 North title for the 3rd time in 4 years. The secondary has been a point of interest and Pinkel has said he has seen marked improvement by a unit that returns 4 starting seniors 2 juniors and a sophomore from last year. The rush defense should continue to improve despite the loss of first round pick Sean Weatherspoon. Overall the Tigers defense needs to find a way to shut down the passing game. If the Tigers can get even an ok performance out of their secondary this season it will marked a vast improvement from their 104th rank out of 119.
The Tigers who were a very young team last year should be able to improve despite the loss of Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon. The secondary is expected to improve, and how could it not, hopefully significantly. My prediction for the Tigers is 6-2 in conference play and should meet Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. The season will come down to the NU game and whoever wins that will have the significant advantage in the conference.
The Tigers will emerge into the top 15 in the nation behind Gabbert as the D improves enough to help the offense win a few more games. It is also helped by the fact that Gabbert finally plays a full season at full strength after he was injured last year against NU by Suh #2 pick in the 2010 draft. The Tigers will win double digit games and make an appearance in the Big 12 Championship game for the 3rd time in 4 seasons.
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Written by Sean Griffith