Missouri enters their inaugural season in the SEC with their 2012 college football win totals set at over 7 (-115) and under 7 (-105), which ironically is the same amount of regular season games the Tigers won in their final season in the Big 12. I thought the SEC was supposed to be a more difficult conference?
Helping us preview and project Mizzou’s 2012 season win totals is Nick Witthaus, the owner and operator of Tigerboard.com, the largest online community of Missouri Tiger fans.
QB Franklin’s health is key to a potentially high powered offense
It’s hard to really get a good feel for this year’s Missouri Tiger team. They only return 11 starters (5 on offense, 6 on defense), but most new starters have seen significant playing time over the past season or two. Missouri looks to have a high powered offense, but a lot depends on how well quarterback James Franklin recovers from labrum surgery in late March.
If Franklin is healthy and is performing at or near 100%, the Tigers could prove to be a handful for even the best SEC defenses.
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The offensive line is anchored by returning starters Elvis Fischer and Justin Britt. Fischer sat out last season after blowing out a knee in fall camp, but should provide much needed protection for Franklin on the left side. Also returning are center Travis Ruth (who may move to guard), slot receiver T.J. Moe, and running back Kendial Lawrence (who will most likely split time with Marcus Murphy). Filling in the gaps will be veteran WRs Marcus Lucas and L’Damien Washington, TE Eric Waters, and the nation’s #1 recruit WR Dorial Green-Beckam.
Defensive question marks
On defense, the Tigers have a few question marks on the line as well as in the secondary. DT Sheldon Richardson will be the biggest name on the defensive line for Mizzou along with DE Brad Madison. The other line positions are still being sorted out with Kony Ealy and Michael Sam battling for the defensive end position, and Matt Hoch and Lucas Vincent fighting for the other tackle position.
The linebackers are pretty solid with Zavier Gooden, Will Ebner, and Andrew Wilson.
Cornerbacks Kip Edwards and E.J. Gains should prove a match for opposing offenses, but there is some apprehension about safites Kenronte Walker and Braylon Webb.
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Solid special teams
Special teams have been pretty good the past few years for the Tigers and there shouldn’t be any exception this year. Trey Barrow returns and will handle both his normal punting duties as well as taking over the field goal duties this year. Barrow was solid last year on his field goals when he had to step in for injured kicker Grant Ressel.
As for what the Tiger’s record will look like this year, it is a very cloudy crystal ball. I see the Tigers going anywhere from 5-7 to 9-3 this season.
I expect the Tigers to win all their non-conference games against SE Louisiana, Arizona State, Central Florida, and Syracuse.
The conference schedule is where things get a little tougher to sort out. I think the Tigers will beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home. I expect the Tigers to lose at home against Alabama. The rest of the games could go either way.
The Tigers will not likely be favored in the remaining games versus Georgia, at South Carolina, at Florida, at Tennessee, and at Texas A&M. I can see the Tigers picking up at least two wins from that group and ending the season at 7-5 or 8-4.
It is possible Mizzou gets tripped up in an out of conference game and has a disastrous inaugural SEC season and ends up at 5-7, but I wouldn’t bet money on Missouri not making a bowl game this year.
The Saturday Edge: I can definitely see Missouri getting to 6 wins this season and gaining bowl eligibility. It’s that 7th win that looks elusive. As Nick points out Missouri is likely to be an underdog in games against Georgia, @ South Carolina, Alabama, @ Florida, @ Tennessee and @ Texas A & M. However, I am not going to bet against Missouri springing the upset against one of those teams and therefore really don’t see any value in wagering over or under the 7 wins.
I believe Missouri wins 7 games this season. How many games do you think Missouri will win in their first season in the SEC?