Right, how does one say this about Missouri? In 2013, it’s quite difficult to say that they were goddawful, bearing in mind that they had two more SEC victories than Auburn (two), and took a National Championship frontrunner to the hilt (Florida), but at times, they really did look like men against boys.

This year Missouri will be looking for a vast improvement on their 5-7 year. So how will they do it?

LAST YEAR

Missouri simply weren’t that good last year. Sure, they battled gamely against Georgia and Florida – and scored two SEC victories against Kentucky and Tennessee – but seeing them embarrassed against Alabama, Texas A&M and South Carolina reminded us that Gary Pinkel’s side wasn’t really a contender.

Things weren’t helped by an injury early in the season to starting quarterback James Franklin and then a back-up in Corbin Berkstresser who was completely out of his depth, and the sad underperformance of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who set  nothing alight with 395 yards receiving and 5 TDs – although Mizzou fans on Twitter have been quick to point out how poor Missouri’s offensive line was last year.

OFFENSE

Remember folks, Franklin was a guy who had 2,865 yards for Mizzou in 2011. He’s got the talent. But can he stay healthy? There’s no doubt that if he IS healthy and on his game, James Franklin can cause defenses problems. But in 2012, he was rarely healthy or on his game. Corbin Berkstressr who took over was a lot worse – although both weren’t helped by a comedically awful offensive line, who ensured their QBs were sacked 29 times.

Dorial Green-Beckham had a disappointing 2012 – especially for a wide receiver that got a lot of press in the months preceding the season because of his high school excellence. ‘DG-B’ showed some flashes of excellence, but there was an awful lot of mediocrity. Franklin will be hoping that DG-B’s put his problems behind him, and that Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington can have breakout years.

DEFENSE

For a team struggling to be decent, the fact that they return six starters should at least give Mizzou a little experience in the midst of the SEC schedule. But the loss of top guy Sheldon Richardson is going to hurt a defensive line that still manages to return three starters, and a lot will be hoped for from Andrew Wilson, one of the team’s better returning tacklers. E.J. Gaines has been talked about as being a ‘playmaker’ for Mizzou’s thin secondary.

THE SCHEDULE

Aug. 31st – 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
Nov. 30 – Texas A&M

Stop the press, but it wouldn’t surprise us at all if Mizzou’s 4-0 to start the year, and even 5-0 after its first SEC away trip of the season to Vanderbilt. But then, it gets horrible. We’ve marked Georgia away, Florida and South Carolina at home as losses, and the Tennessee game’s going to be another close one. And while they should win Kentucky away, an away win at Ole Miss is unlikely, and a home win over Johnny Football and Texas A&M is even more unlikely.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a Missouri optimist, you think that your Tigers should go 4-0 to start the season, although the trip to a suddenly fired-up Indiana team could well confuse the issue. Then you’ll say that they’ll win at Vandy, lose as predicted the next three straight, before beating Tennessee at home and Kentucky away. Then you’ll say that it’s pretty close but the team will manage to beat Ole Miss, before losing to Texas A&M. That would have you at a very decent 8-4

If you’re a realist, you’d expect Missouri to still go 4-0 to start themselves, lose against Jordan Matthews and a tough Vanderbilt side on the road, before getting demolished by Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Tennessee’s still a year away, but can the secondary deal with Marquez North and can Missouri’s rushers really deal the best offensive line in the nation? The Tigers should win Kentucky away, but we can ‘t see anything but Ole Miss and Texas A&M victories to close out the year, giving Gary Pinkel a 5-7 record or at best 6-6 record.

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