Missouri is trying to make a case as to why they should be in the conversation when talking about elite teams in college football. The Tigers have won ten games or more in three of the past four years and have gone to six straight Bowls so they have a solid resume’ and were a factor in the Big 12. The next step would be to win the conference and leave no question were this program belongs and if Missouri were to accomplish this goal than there is no time like the present or the perception that the Tigers are a good but not great team will remain the same.
The obvious for the Missouri offense is that Blaine Gabbert left early for the NFL but shed no tears for the Tigers because this unit is loaded with talent. To say the team won’t miss Gabbert is borderline insane but James Franklin takes over behind center with an arsenal of weapons at his disposal. The rushing attack was average at best in 2010 finishing #57 nationally and almost seemed to be an afterthought at times. The ground game was a three pronged attack with De’Vion Moore, Kendial Lawrence and Henry Josey combining for over 1,350 yards and they are all back but leading ball carrier Moore seldom saw ten carries in a game. If the running game performs well and it should, than the passing attack will be outstanding with all of their top targets back with TJ Moe (92 rec-1,1045 yards), Jerrell Jackson (50 rec-656 yards) and TE Michael Egnew (90 rec-762 yards) leading the way. With four offensive lineman back, there is ample experience and talent up front to protect Franklin and open holes for the running backs.
Missouri was number six nationally in scoring defense allowing 16 points per game and was third overall in total defense. That said, teams were able to run on them and stopping the run will be a priority in 2011. The guys up front specialized in getting to the quarterback a year ago and even though Aldon Smith left for the NFL taking 5.5 sacks with him top sack producer Brad Madison (7.5 S-11 TFL) is back and was a constant in pressuring the quarterback. The key however could be on the inside where Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno roam and whether they can be even more of a factor stopping the run. The line backing crew returns leading tackler Zaviar Gooden (85) who frequented the backfield and can defend against both the pass and run. Health, consistency and finding a strong side linebacker is the key here. The secondary will watched closely with Missouri needing a few younger players to step up. The Tigers were 11 th in the nation in passing yards allowed but benefited greatly because of their excellent pass rush which likely has to be just as good with several players being thrust in to starting roles.
Grant Ressel has been deadly accurate in two years combining to go 43 of 46 on field goals with a range of around 50 yards. The punting is in good hands with Trey Barrow averaging nearly 45 yards per boot in the spring scrimmages and he can also place kick. The return game was mediocre and look for the Tigers to address both spots by the beginning of the season.
Missouri is loaded with talent once again and will obviously will go Bowling. Of course the big question of whether this team will challenge in the Big 12 and for a National Championship is on the fan’s minds. I don’t see either happening unless the defense can stop running teams which didn’t happen in 2010. The offense will still put up solid numbers but with a tough schedule in front of them I think this team will max out with eight wins.