The Missouri Tigers have now played in the Southeastern Conference for two seasons, after making the switch from the Big 12 Conference. And despite seeing them play for two years, SEC fans and coaches are still not sure what to make of Missouri.
The first season, which was in 2012, was a disaster for the Tigers and head coach Gary Pinkel. Missouri struggled with injuries, including some to key players like quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey. Frankly, the Tigers got beaten up by bigger, stronger teams in their inaugural SEC campaign.
This was a surprise to most experts, who thought that Missouri would be more prepared to deal with the challenges of the SEC than the other team that entered the league at the same time, the Texas A&M Aggies.
After the 2012 season, most experts picked Missouri to finish at, or near, the bottom of the SEC Eastern Division in 2013. But once again, the Tigers pulled a surprise by not only competing in the league, but winning the SEC East and appearing in the SEC Championship Game.
However, Franklin, Josey and many other standout players have now left the program, either via graduation or by declaring for the NFL Draft. That leaves the program in youthful hands as the Tigers try to remain contenders in the SEC.
Which Missouri team should SEC fans expect to see more often? That remains to be seen. But the fate of the 2014 Tigers is in the hands of quarterback Maty Mauk, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and running back Russell Hansbrough. Those players will work with Pinkel to try to make Missouri an annual contender in the nation’s toughest football conference.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.