As we’re in the swing of doing our SEC previews, we thought that as the SEC Conference 2013 winners were first up on The SEC Football Blog SEC Preview, then the 2013 SEC Conference runners-up (aka ‘Winners of the SEC East) should be second on the list. Then we can go with 2013’s also-rans. 

So we start with Missouri. I can’t wait to see Maty Mauk. I was really, really excited to see Maty Mauk link up with Dorial Green-Beckham, until Gary Pinkel booted him out of Columbia. But I’m still excited to see Maty Mauk. Oh, and there was some stuff about a guy called Michael Sam, too. 

LAST SEASON

Missouri shocked the WORLD in 2013 when they won the SEC East. They beat Georgia, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and only succumbed to South Carolina in overtime (USC also had a shocking loss – to Tennessee, which ended up costing them the Championship). No-one expected them to get to Atlanta (except maybe for a bowl game), but they did. They were helped by not only some great QB work from James Franklin and Mauk (Franklin was injured for a while), but also clutch wide receiving from L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, who had nearly 900 receiving yards each. D G-B led the TD count 12-10, by the way. Not only that, but Henry Josey put up 1,100 yards on the turf. And the defense, while it didn’t exactly shine out, was 34th in points against, while 82nd in total yards given up. Michael Sam and Kony Ealy were the stars at rushing the QB (20 sacks between them), and an opportunistic secondary came up with 20 interceptions – a quarter of them by E.J. Gaines (5), who is unfortunately a senior.

Anyway, Mizzou went to the SEC Championship Game and lost 59-42 in a shoot-out, and then turned around and won the Cotton Bowl 41-31 in another shoot-out. Nothing if not fun, Mr Pinkel…..

THE OFF-SEASON

Michael Sam’s decision to tell the world he was gay in February before the NFL Combine made him the talk of the off-season. He ended up a 7th round pick by the St Louis Rams in this year’s Draft. He still is, with Tony Dungy saying how he wouldn’t have drafted him because of the ripples it might cause in  the dressing room.

But for us, the biggest off-season news that happened in Columbia was Pinkel’s booting of Dorial Green-Beckham, who was investigated by police for assaulting an 18-year-old student in April. And you know what? Pinkel hasn’t exactly been pilloried for his decision, either. More people are upset at the girl for not going to the police and getting the player arrested. Two more Missouri players were arrested for pot possession in mid-March. Since then, it’s been pretty quiet.

2014 PREVIEW

QB/WR: IT’S A MATY WORLD AND WE LOVE IT

Maty Mauk came in as a cover for James Franklin after the QB got injured (again)….and threw for over 1,000 yards (68-133) and 11 TDs at a rating of 143.1. We knew as soon as this season was all over that Mauk was going to take over as the QB, and we couldn’t wait for the combo of him and D G-B, with his performances maybe putting BOTH players in Heisman contention. And then G-B got himself B-O-O-T-E-D from the team, and with Washington gone, it’s going to be up to Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and former Longhorn Darius White to give some hope to the Tigers faithful. Levi Copelin could also be exciting – although the kid needs to stay out of jail, as could walk-on Gavin Otte. They are all relatively untested – especially with the amount of catching Washington and D G-B were doing last year. But if the offensive line can do its job, Mauk’s got the chance to impress. You know, Heisman-like.

RUNNING BACK: NO, JOSEY….BIG PROBLEM

Henry Josey’s gone from the backfield, which could well be a massive problem for Mizzou. Josey’s 1,100-yard season made him a good threat for opposing DCs to think about, and now he’s gone (BTW, What a dumbass! He leaves to go to the NFL….and finishes up undrafted. He’s been picked up by Philly. (“Which is good, bearing in mind he’s got a child to support and needs a salary – and his knee could only take so much of a beating”” (a Mizzou fan tells us)), everyone’s now excited about 6ft, 210lb Morgan Seward, who’s going to be a battering ram. He’ll provide a triple threat with Russell Hansborough and Marcus Murphy. Probably not that great for a fantasy team, but probably really great for Mizzou’s offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE: FEELING BOEHM-IAN

We liked Center Evan Boehm’s vocalness during the SEC Media Days, where he wished D G-B ‘well’ but then moved reporters on. He could well be one of the best Cs in the country. On the other hand, how much will Mizzou be missing Max Copeland and Justin Britt from next year? Many people think Mitch Morse could be great at left tackle. Maty Mauk certainly hopes so. Anyways, this is a pretty deep OL, which will make Pinkel happy.  What could hurt the OL was the decision by veteran O-Line coach Bruce Walker to retire…just a few days ago. Josh Henson and new arrival A.J. Ricker from Illinois will be trusted to keep things ship-shape.

DEFENSE: LIFE WITHOUT SAM?

The losses of Michael Sam and Kony Ealy are going to be HUGE for Missouri. Both were fantastic defensive players. They could tackle, they could rush the QB, and they could cause turnovers. Markus Golden and Shane Ray will be entrusted on DE duties, and Kentrell Brothers , will stay at OLB, despite thoughts that he might move to the middle linebacker. Michael Scherer is favored to start at middle linebacker.. The ‘D’ returns 5 starters, by the way.

Secondary-wise, the loss of E.J. Gaines is going to be HUGE for a very, very inexperienced secondary. Between all the players going for a starting position, Braylon Webb is by far the most experienced with 14 starts, and then Ian Simon with, er, 5. Aarion Penton has just 2. Of course, almost all of the secondary actually has played in games, and Webb, Simon and Penton all have pass break-ups to their name.

THE SCHEDULE: STREAKY

Aug 30: South Dakota St. 
Sept 6: at Toledo
Sept 13: Central Florida 
Sept 20: Indiana 
Sept 27: at South Carolina
Oct 11:  Georgia 
Oct 18: at Florida
Oct 25:  Vanderbilt 
Nov 1 Kentucky 
Nov  15 at Texas A&M
Nov 22 at Tennessee
Nov 29 Arkansas 

This is going to be streaky. We like Missouri to go 4-0 in its first 4 games, with Indiana probably putting the Tigers up with the biggest of problems thanks to their high-octane offense. Then, we see the Tigers going 0-3 in their next 3 games, losing to USC, UGA and a revitalized Florida team. They then go 2-0 with their home games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and then lose to Texas A&M before going 2-0 in their next two games against Tennessee and Arkansas.

FINAL PROJECTION: 8-4…..And Maty Mauk in the conversation for a Heisman.

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