Making it all the way to the SEC title game in 2013 was quite the surprise for one of the newest teams in the conference. The Missouri Tigers shocked everyone by going 7-1 in conference play and 11-1 during the regular season before losing in the conference championship game. Could another incredible run be in store for the Tigers in 2014?
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits finished the 2013 season with a 9-5 record and a loss in the second round of the FCS playoffs to a tough Eastern Washington squad. The Jackrabbits hoping, however, that they can build on a nine-win season and maybe take a leap past the second round of the playoffs and even win their first conference title since 2007.
Missouri is forced to replace its starting quarterback from a successful 2013 team and that replacement’s name is Maty Mauk. The young quarterback filled in for an injured James Franklin last season and started four games while keeping the offense rolling, so the Tigers could be in even better hands for 2014. With the top three receivers gone, including star wide out Dorial Green-Beckham, the Tigers will be relying heavily on Bud Sasser and incoming transfer Darius White. Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough are back to split the load at running back this season — both averaged more than 6.0 yards per carry in 2013 as backups.
South Dakota State wasn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut in 2013, averaging about 385 yards and 29 points per game, but the Jackrabbits are returning their top passer, running back and three of their top five wide outs. Senior quarterback Austin Sumner passed for 2,999 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions while completing about 59 percent of his passes last season. Zach Zenner led the team with a more-than-impressive 2,015 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns while adding another 251 receiving yards and two scores. The receiving game will be just fine with top wide out Jason Schneider returning from a 1,088-yard, 10-touchdown season.
Defensively, the Jackrabbits only allowed 23.6 points per game last season, but the yardage allowed nearly touched 400 per contest. If they are going to have any success against Missouri, they will have to fix that. Missouri wasn’t the best defensive unit in the SEC in 2013, allowed 23.1 points, good for 34th nationally, but an elevated 417.7 yards per game, good for 81st in the country. Missouri’s secondary could be a real issue.
South Dakota State will travel to Missouri to take on the Tigers at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.
PREDICTION: South Dakota State 7, Missouri 37
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.