Another summer and (to the surprise of no one) another season in which the Missouri Tigers have been shown little love by the SEC media. As we head into the 2015 football season, Mizzou will be able to play the ever-present disrespect card after being picked to finish 3rd in the SEC East division behind both Georgia and Tennessee respectively.
- Been there, done that. Missouri has proven that it can compete at a high level in the SEC. There are not many players on the Mizzou roster that were around the last time the team DID NOT win the SEC East. There is an expectation among the coaches and players that the division is there for the taking and that getting to Atlanta in December is assumed until another program is able to unseat them. This is a very confident and polished program at this point and the rest of the SEC is taking note. Established SEC stalwarts like Tennessee, Georgia and Florida are certainly not going to sit idly by and watch the Mizzou parade continue so the Tigers will certainly be seen as a target heading in to the 2015 season.
- Schedule. The Tigers have the fortune of playing one of the “easier” schedules in the SEC this season and will avoid traditional west powers like Alabama, Auburn and LSU once again. Key division games against Florida and Tennessee will be played at home and going on the road to Nashville and Lexington are far from daunting tasks. BYU is likely the only team that might be able to test Mizzou in the non-con and that game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
- Defense. Despite losing two potential starters on the defensive line (Marcus Loud and Harold Brantley), Gary Pinkel should be very excited about the defense that he has returning in 2015. Linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer are as solid a tandem as there is in the SEC and the cornerback duo of Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis should provide stability in the defensive backfield.
- Coaching. Gary Pinkel has certainly proven his worth as one of the top active coaches in college football and is the all-time winningest coach in Missouri football history. Pinkel and his staff’s ability to identify and develop talent is almost unprecedented in today’s college football landscape as Mizzou is always outside the top-10 nationally in recruiting, yet amazingly finds itself in the top-1o in NFL draft picks since 2007. Pinkel is now tied with Mark Richt for being the longest tenured coach in the SEC and his business-like approach has paid massive dividends for a once fledgling program.
- The passing game. Maty Mauk returns at quarterback which provides the team with experience at that position. Mauk is 14-4 as a starter but he is coming off a season in which he completed under 50% of his passes during SEC play and will also be looking at several brand-new targets at receiver as well. The three receivers who are slated to start :J’Mon Moore, Nate Brown and Wesley Leftwich, have only caught a combined 10 passes between them. There is a lot of young, but unproven talent on the roster and a few of these guys are going to have to step up in a big way in 2015.
- Defensive line Issues. Not only does “D-line U” have to replace its two star defensive ends from a season ago, now Mizzou will have to deal with the dismissal of potential starter Marcus Loud as well as Harold Brantley, who is out for the year after being in a serious car accident. Charles Harris is primed for a big season but where will the depth come from? Missouri has had the luxury of rotating guys in along that line for several seasons now and that is a luxury they may not have this year.
9/5 SEMO WIN
9/12 @Ark State WIN
9/19 UCONN WIN
9/26 @Kentucky WIN
10/3 South Car. WIN
10/10 Florida WIN
10/17 @ Georgia LOSS
10/24 @ Vandy WIN
11/5 Miss. State WIN
11/14 BYU WIN
11/21 Tennessee WIN
11/28 @Arkansas LOSS
Final Prediction: 10-2 (1st place SEC East)
Missouri has a great chance to accomplish something that no other SEC school has ever been able to, which is to play in the SEC Championship Game three straight seasons. Gary Pinkel and the Mizzou staff have done a tremendous job building a program and evaluating under-the-radar talent. Even with some serious question marks, Missouri still looks poised to have another tremendous season in 2015.
- Georgia is certainly the favorite going in and are a well-established program, but they have not been able to get through their schedule without disaster striking for the last two years.
- Tennessee appears to be a program on the rise under Butch Jones, but a 7-6 record in 2014 is not going to put fear into the hearts of opponents until they start proving themselves on the field.
- There is a lot of talent down in Gainesville, but the Gators may be a year or two away from being able to get back to the winning that their fans are accustomed to down there.
- South Carolina could be the wild card in all of this, as there are not great expectations for the Gamecocks heading into the 2015 season although fans are cautiously optimistic that they will have more than a say in who wins the SEC East this season.
- Vanderbilt and Kentucky are…still Vanderbilt and Kentucky. There has been a lot of hype about Mark Stoops and what he is trying to build in Lexington, however, we just haven’t seen those results pay off on the field yet.