Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (13th season)
Base Defense: 4-3
Location: Columbia, Missouri
Last Season: 5-7 (2-6 SEC)
First Meeting Against Georgia: Dawgs 41 - Tigers 20
SBN Affiliate: The excellent Rock M Nation
2012 wasn't exactly what anyone affiliated with the University of Missouri had in mind. Missouri was expected by many to be the newbie-on-the-SEC-block that would have the most success in 2012, not Texas A&M. For the second consecutive year, injuries at key positions struck early and often; and perhaps no other team in the Conference suffered more than the Tigers. Dual-threat quarterback James Franklin had shoulder surgery last summer was never healthy. Running back Henry Josey gained nearly 1200 yards in 2011 but was lost for the entire 2012 season. Senior Kendial Lawrence stepped in admirably, rushing the ball for 1025 yards and 12 touchdowns and accounted for majority of running back yardage (1662 total). The offensive line suffered mightily with injuries before the season began, and more occurred as the season wore on forcing Pinkel to play youth. Sheldon Richardson, the heart of the Tiger defense, certainly provided motivation with his "Old Man Football" quip prior to our inaugural conference tilt, but played extremely well in his senior season. Ultimately, Head Coach Gary Pinkel's squad finished a disappointing 5-7 as brutality of SEC play turned optimism into a harsh lesson into what "grown man football" is all about.
WHEN MIZZOU HAS THE BALL
This season, QB James Franklin is as healthy as he's been in years and has the athleticism to succeed if he's on his game. Mizzou's base offense with Franklin in the game is the spread. Strong-armed (if inconsistent) 2nd-string pocket-passer Corbin Berkstresser is ready to contribute and was pressed into service often in 2012. RB Josey (5' 10", 192) is poised to pick right up where he left off two years ago before his knee injury, and there appears to be some real depth in the backfield with Marcus Murphy (5' 10", 185) and true frosh Russell Hansbrough (5' 9", 195) having good summer camps. Murphy could be a real surprise and is a 1st Team All-American according to The Sporting News. Who knew? (Warning: Slide Show) Mizzou's backs are quick, but give 20-30 pounds to guys like Todd Gurley. Can they hold up over the long haul? Pinkel will have to rotate 'em more than the tires on a NASCAR.
Former #1 national recruit Dorial Green-Beckham has All-American ability packed into his 6' 6" frame and should only improve. He's got scary skills and creates nightmare mis-matches against smaller corners. Speed merchant Darius White, a transfer from Texas, hasn't played much but will get his shot. 6' 4", 240 lb. Eric Waters is set to start at tight end, providing senior leadership. A bit undersized, he's got good hands and has played much during his tenure in Columbia. There isn't a tremendous amount of depth at TE, which is a concern but the Tigers have many options at receiver...if somewhat untested.
Clearly, the skill positions have the talent to do great things, but it all comes down to the offensive line. Regarded as a strength prior to 2012, the aforementioned injuries really crushed any hopes the Tigers had as the season wore on. Mizzou's offensive line had their moments against the Dawgs, at least early on in pass protection. When Franklin had a modicum of time, he certainly burned our suspension-depleted secondary on a couple of long touchdowns. The best of the bunch could be 6' 6", 315 lb. Justin Britt at left tackle. Oft-injured, when he's been healthy, he's been very effective.
On special teams, the Tigers are dangerous in the punt return game, needs to improve in the kicking game.
MIZZOU ON DEFENSE
The defensive line will return 3 starters, but have no one of the caliber of Sheldon Richardson who was the 13th overall pick in this season's NFL draft (Jets). Richardson had 75 tackles in 2012, an amazing stat for an interior lineman. How does anyone replace this kind of (Jarvis, anyone...) production? They do bring back quite a bit of experience, with DE Kony Ealy (6' 5", 275), DT Matt Hoch (6' 6", 295) and DE Michael Sam (6' 3", 255). The Tigers should improve at linebacker, with two seniors, Andrew Wilson (79 tackles in '12) and Donovan Bonner. Although the interior line has quite a few games under their belt, they are a bit undersized when consistently facing 300 + pound offensive linemen.
Missouri has good experience in the defensive backfield. Cornerbacks E.J. Gaines and Randy Ponder are seniors, while Duron Singleton, Jr. and Braylon Webb are juniors.
Missouri finished ranked 58th in Total Defense in 2012 which, in hindsight, isn't that terrible considering the offense never had a chance because of all the injuries. Mizzou's defense simply was on the field. All year. They got ground down late in the season, but fought valiantly against South Carolina, Florida (losing 14-7) and Vandy. The late-season loss to Syracuse was a killer. The Tigers only recorded 17 sacks all season and 7 interceptions.
MISSOURI'S PRE-ATHENS SCHEDULE
Missouri opens the 2013 season with winnable games prior to their first ever visit Between The Hedges. The first five games of their campaign is the antithesis of what Georgia is facing: Murray State, Toledo, at Indiana, Arkansas State, at Vandy. It is not implausible that the Tigers come to Athens with a 5-0 record.
LAST YEAR, IN A PARAGRAPH OR TWO...
I attended this game with my family (L'il sister lives about 2 hours east of Columbia) and sat in the upper deck of
Farout Faurot Field on a perfect night for football. Georgia struggled to get anything really going for much of the first half, and Mizzou took a 10-9 lead into the half thanks to a 41-yard touchdown pass although Aaron Murray connected with Marlon Brown just before halftime to make it close.
The second half saw Mizzou hit another long "I'll see your Green Notebook and Raise You 6" 69 yard bomb and Mizzou went up 17-9 before the Dawgs defense, led by Jarvis Jones and true freshman Jordan Jenkins, got things cooking. Murray to King (2 pt conversion) tied things at 17, then Mizzou kicked a field goal to take the last lead for them of the game. Murray to Brown just before the 3rd quarter ended, put the Dawgs ahead 24-20 and after a Marshall Morgan 41 yard field goal put the Dawgs up by 7 (Morgan's earlier kick was from 52), Jarvis Jones got down to bid'ness:
Queue it to the 6:54 mark...where Jarvis actually scored a touchdown but Mr. Magoo was evidently an SEC official working this particular game...
Todd Gurley plunged over from the 1 yard line with 7:30 left in the game to make things comfortable. Ken Malcome rounded out the scoring at the 5:16 mark in the 4th quarter to put it on ice and Georgia won a game that was much closer than the score indicated, but where our talent was clearly superior once the defense settled in.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN 2013
We should win. Why? Our offensive line should dominate their defensive front. We should be able to run the ball effectively. Mizzou could come into town sky-high and give us a tussle. This game is sandwiched between tough road games in Knoxville and Nashville. It's also a good candidate for one of those
Jefferson-Pilot ESPN SEC Network No Time To Tailgate specials...where lunch is often served with lethargy. We shall see about the TV times down the road...
VERY IMPORTANT: HOW TO TREAT A MIZZOU FAN
Let me put it to you this way: If you see a Mizzou fan and you're having a tailgate, hug them. Then, invite 'em over and give 'em the good stuff. Whatever is on your table. Offer them booze, beer, and/or an ice cold soft drink. Then, give 'em another hug and tell them you are so very glad they made the trip and wish them all the success in the world every damn year except when we meet. Then, give 'em another drink and deviled egg. They're good people and my experience in Columbia last year was one of the most pleasant road-trips I have ever had in my life. I documented this along with vineyarddawg almost a year ago. I still smell the dry-rub...
never actually slept woke up (with an incredible hangover) early on game day last season, grabbed my camera and walked from the RV lot up the hill to Farout Faurot Field where I was immediately accosted by two gentlemen offering pit-master quality ribs and Bloody Mary's (and perhaps their daughters had I asked) before I took the first picture. It was incredible.
Missouri vs. Georgia, October 12. TV times TBA.