Mizzou quarterback James Franklin throws during the University of Missouri Tigers at the University of Florida Gators football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Saturday, November 3, 2012. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel) (Stephen M. Dowell / June 13, 2013)
Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 74: Missouri
Coach: Gary Pinkel (12th season, 90-61 Missouri/163-98-3 career record).
2012 results: 5-7, (2-6 in SEC East, fifth place)
Look back: The Tigers experienced a rocky transition from the Big 12 to the SEC last season, with losses by more than 20 points apiece to conference foes Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and fellow newcomer Texas A&M. The move up in competition was even tougher with QB James Franklin battling injuries and inconsistency a season after he threw for 21 touchdowns and ran for 15 more as a sophomore. Coach Gary Pinkel’s team finished with its fewest overall wins since 2004 and fewest conference wins since 2002.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 4
Defensive starters returning: 6
Defensive starters lost: 5
Key losses: DT Sheldon Richardson, RB Kendial Lawrence, LB Will Ebner, LB Zaviar Gooden
Top returnees: QB James Franklin, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, DE Kony Ealy, LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines, G/C Evan Boehm, RB Henry Josey , RB Marcus Murphy
Strengths: Pinkel’s spread offense may never move the ball in the SEC like it did in the Big 12, but the Tigers should improve dramatically if Franklin shows his 2011 form (3,846 yards total offense, 36 combined TDs). Sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham , the nation’s top wide receiver recruit 2012, will give Franklin a big (6-6, 220), fast (4.47 in 40) target and headlines a talented receiving corps. Senior E.J. Gaines, who had 74 tackles and 11 passes defended last season, should be one of the SEC’s top cornerbacks. Defensive ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam will be disruptive coming off the edge.
Weaknesses: The defense will have to replace four members of the front seven, including All-SEC DT Sheldon Richardson, who was the No. 13 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and LB Zaviar Gooden, a third-round pick. While the ends are excellent and the secondary experienced, the Tigers will have to prove they can hold up against the SEC’s physical running games. Missouri lost 1,000-yard rusher Kendial Lawrence, but welcomes back Henry Josey, who had nearly 1,200 years in 2011 before a devastating knee injury that would cost him the 2012 season. At just 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, Josey will have to show he can handle a heavy workload. The offensive line never jelled in 2012 because of injuries and will have to develop chemistry before entering SEC in October.
Outlook: Missouri averaged 9.5 wins per season during its final five campaigns in the Big 12, but likely would settle for a winning record in the second year in the SEC. The Tigers will have four nonconference games to prepare for the SEC schedule and play three of their toughest games (Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M) at home. Alabama, a 42-10 winner over Mizzou in 2012, is off the schedule. New offensive coordinator Josh Henson has scrapped the empty backfield sets prevalent last year and look to establish the run more —- easier said than done against SEC defenses. Improvement on last season will be critical as Missouri looks to attract the recruits needed to eventually beat the SEC’s heavyweights.
Aug. 31 Murray State
Sept. 7 Toledo
Sept. 21 at Indiana
Sept. 28 Arkansas State
Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 12 at Georgia
Oct. 19 Florida
Oct. 26 South Carolina
Nov. 2 Tennessee
Nov. 9 at Kentucky
Nov. 23 at Ole Miss
No. 30 Texas A&M