Missouri Football: Tigers Won’t Duplicate 2013 Success

Missouri Tigers Football

Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

The Missouri Tigers will begin their third season in the Southeastern Conference on Aug. 30, when they take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. The Tigers were an interesting surprise in 2013. Coming off a season where they had only won two conference games, there was hardly any pundits who can claim they had predicted a SEC title run. Was last season a fluke, or can the Tigers be a legit contender again this year?

Mizzou had a rough 2012, with injuries piling up, and only five wins when the season concluded. Taken at face value, the first season in the SEC didn’t seem too lopsided. It wasn’t as if the Tigers were blown off the football field, right? While it’s true three of their seven losses came by a touchdown or less, only one is worth bragging about.

A seven point loss to the No. 9 Florida Gators looks okay on paper, but the Gators’ offense has been a mess under Will Muschamp, and how about a four point loss to the No. 23 Vanderbilt Commodores? Sure, it looks decent in a box score, but Missouri was taken down easily by the Alabama Crimson Tide, Texas A&M Aggies, South Carolina Gamecocks and Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers were outmatched.

Last season was a magical run. Missouri compiled 12 wins, and was just a few defensive stops away from playing in the final BCS Championship. The black and gold deserve plenty of credit for their SEC East title last season; they only lost one game within their division.

Florida was in the process of hitting rock bottom at four wins, and Georgia was suffering from a few injuries, and not to mention the Tigers didn’t have to play the Auburn Tigers, prior to the SEC Championship, of course, LSU Tigers or Alabama. Don’t freak out; this isn’t to say Mizzou was lucky, but the formula doesn’t seem likely to work again.

Missouri lost a ton of talent from last years’ team to the NFLKony Ealy, Justin Britt, E.J. Gaines, Michael Sam, James Franklin, Henry Josey were all major contributors in 2013, and they’re gone. The top three receivers from a year ago will have to be replaced as well. Are the Tigers going to suffer a drop in the win column simply because good players left? No, however the problem is the depth to replace last years’ production doesn’t match the rest of the conference.

According to 247 Sports, since joining the SEC in 2012, Mizzou hasn’t pulled in a recruiting class ranked higher than 11th in the conference. Even after obtaining the SEC East title last season, the Tigers sat at 13th in the final 2014 rankings. The Kentucky Wildcats have even brought in classes better than Missouri the past two seasons. 

The reason Missouri was able to shock the nation a year ago was a combination of great coaching from Gary Pinkel and his staff, to go along with some great player development. It isn’t realistic to expect the same results this season. With just six starters returning on both offense and defense, and nowhere near the depth to compete at the level needed to survive the SEC each week, the Tigers are poised to suffer some setbacks.

Zach Pugh is a SEC Football Writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @RadioZachCFB, Google+ and Facebook.

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  • Mizzou All Day

    Sounds like last years speculations….. Do your homework on Pinkel’s player development aka MizzouMade. Recruiting rankings have nothing to do with a good football team. It makes for good stories to read, but doesn’t correlate with wins/losses. TN, KY, Ole Miss should have done better than Mizzou in your paradigm, they had better recruits. That arguement does’t add up to Mizzou fans. Bottom line Mizzou is far better in the final rankings vs. recruiting rankings. Look it up yourself and measure over ten years or so. Underdogs<Over achievers.

    • Zach Pugh

      I agree. Recruiting rankings don’t tell the whole story. Great coaching is the perfect substitute for a lack of four and five star recruits, look at Boise State in the past. I even pointed out in the article how last year was a direct result of player development by Pinkel and staff. Mizzou had some nice NFL talent on the roster. But when a team is consistently pulling in good recruiting classes, they have a better chance at winning more games.

      It will be interesting to see how they handle the turnover. Thank you for reading.

  • Mizzou55

    Wow, this title really goes on a limb! A bold prediction we won’t do what we did last year. I still think we’ll surprise the prognosticators (as long as Mauk stays healthy). USA Today has us as #43! Our road game schedule is tougher this year, but I’ll predict 9-3 this year.

    • Zach Pugh

      Thank you for reading! If the Tigers can get to 9, or 10 wins, that would make for an exciting season in the east.

  • Danny McReynolds

    This article lacks knowledge of the Mizzou program.
    Pinkel will field a competitive team every year. The media says last year was a fluke.
    No, 2012 was the ‘fluke’ year. The media would like to make the poor 2012 performance
    the standard expectation. 2012 was an anomaly with an extremely high occurrence
    of first team injuries. Mizzou has replinished well and expectations for this team should remain
    high. The program knows what it is doing, despite any commentator’s obsessive
    reliance on recruiting the ‘highly rated’ players.

    • Zach Pugh

      Thanks for the response, Danny. While others in the media may label last season as a fluke, I simply asked the question. I don’t think it was a fluke, but to expect the Tigers to continue at that level, when they don’t have the same amount of depth as Florida, LSU and Bama is a bit unrealistic. As I wrote in the post, Gary Pinkel, and his ability to develop players is the reason Missouri was able to win the SEC East last year.

      Being competitive is also different from pulling out victories. It isn’t as though I said the Tigers would be bottom feeders.

  • Danny McReynolds

    Mizzou’s starting DE’s will be better than last year’s. The secondary may be questionable, as new linebackers and corners are untested. The QB will be stronger if not elite. OL’s an DL’s will be solid. Running backs are just as strong. Kicking will be better. New stars will shine; this is the MizzouMade way. Overall depth may be shallower but barring injury, Mizzou will be in the mix for the championships at year’s end.

    • Zach Pugh

      Thank you for reading, Danny!

  • Danny McReynolds

    I doubt the SEC coaches are thinking that Mizzou will be an easy win for them this year.