Official Husker Locker Blog
2009 Aug 17
Big 12 Breakdown: No. 5 Missouri
We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.
Today: No.5 Missouri
Coach: Gary Pinkel
2008 Record: 10-4
What’s Changed Since 2008: Mizzou lost its best quarterback (Chase Daniel) and receiver (Jeremy Maclin) and second-best tight end (Chase Coffman) in history. The Tigers also lost their two coordinators, neither of whom we consider huge losses, especially defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, whose defensive schemes were too cute with a talented unit last year. The Tigers also have a greater sense of purpose in 2009 after being summarily dissed by most major publications in terms of the Big 12 North race.
2009 Non-Conference Schedule:Challenging enough, with the neutral site St. Louis tilt vs. Illinois, which some think is a top 20 team, and a game at defensively-challenged-yet-offensively-exciting Nevada. Bowling Green and Furman should be easy wins, but this non-conference schedule looks tougher than what Mizzou has planned in later years.
2009 Conference Schedule: Favorable. Toughest road game is at Oklahoma State, which is winnable. Mizzou hosts Texas, Nebraska and Baylor, plays Kansas in Kansas City and travels to Kansas State and Colorado.
Coordinator: David Yost – The quarterbacks coach at Mizzou for eight years, Yost knows the offense as well as anyone and helped install the no-huddle, wide-open attack upon Chase Daniel’s arrival (with some help from Daniel’s high school coach). At any rate, Yost is a unique guy – Missouri’s version of Mike Leach. If Andy Warhol had decided to be a football coach, he’d probably look like Yost. His demeanor will help the Tigers, who really seized up in key situations over the last two years.
Strength: We expect some drop-off from Missouri’s 2007 and 2008 production, but not much. That’s because MU sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert is as talented as Daniel was, only taller. It’ll take Gabbert time to settle in, but we expect him to be a top-flight guy by the end of the season, and certainly by 2010. Missouri’s offensive line is a little young, but it has size, depth, and good experience. Finally – Missouri’s offensive design is proven to work. Nebraska’s figured it out once in the last four years. Colorado’s been hapless against it. Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas haven’t had much success, either. Only Texas and Oklahoma – and only one of those teams in on the regular season schedule.
Weakness: Derrick Washington is a big, plodding, overrated back who, yes, was hurt for some of 2008, but isn’t as good as his production (1,036 yards and 5.9 yards per carry) suggests. And there is no suitable replacement for Coffman, who was money on third down, and around the goal line.
Coordinator: Dave Steckel. Another new guy, replacing Eberflus. Last year, the Tigers had a ton of talent, but still gave up 412 yards and 27 points per game. Eberflus will now try to work some 3-4 magic at the Cleveland Browns. Steckel, meanwhile, is all ex-Marine in his approach, a bit of a throwback to the old Big Ten days of Bo and Woody, if you will. He’d fit in on a Bo Pelini coaching staff.
Strength: Solid linebacking corps led by the league’s best, Sean Weatherspoon, who turned down the NFL to return for his senior season. He’s a classic linebacker – everywhere, all the time – as his 155 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions suggest. Mizzou already seems to have found Weatherspoon's replacement, too, in true freshman Donavan Bonner.
Weakness: The defensive line lost Stryker Sulak and Ziggy Hood, two of the better linemen in the league last year. Their absence should hurt what was a fair run defense in 2008. The secondary should be OK, but safety William Moore (not as good in 2008 as his second round NFL draft status would suggest) has to be replaced.
Special Teams Mizzou takes a pretty good shot here. Maclin was invaluable as a kickoff and punt returner, accounting for 1280 return yards and two touchdowns. Then you had kicker Jeff Wolfert, arguably college football’s best in 2008 (we’ll take Nebraska’s Alex Henery, thanks) who needs to be replaced, too. Missouri has a ton of ground to cover here, and there’s just no way to do it in one year.
Intangibles: One week after a 52-17 win over Nebraska, Missouri hit a curious wall, of sorts, and fell backward, losing 4 of the last 9. So, in a sense, it was time to flush the system a little bit, and start over. And the Tigers do it with a chip on their shoulder, aiming to prove that the last three years weren’t a fluke. And Gabbert is as good of a guy to try it with as any.
Finally – Missouri really wants to beat Nebraska. No, it’s not the Border War. But it is personal, and borne out of a number of on-field incidents and off-the-field comments during the last six seasons. These two teams don’t like each other.
Best-Case Scenario: A third-straight Big 12 North title.
Worst-Case Scenario: Phil Steele’s prediction of 5-7.
Our Take: Phil’s often right, but here he’s wrong. Missouri finishes 8-4 or 9-3, depending on the non-conference schedule and the Nebraska game, which we predict will be, in essence, for the Big 12 North title.
See other Big 12 Breakdowns: No. 12 ISU, No. 11 A&M, No. 10 CU, No. 9 BU, No. 8 KU, No. 7 KSU, No. 6 Texas Tech
Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it.
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