Missouri’s transition to the SEC didn’t go as smooth as it did for Texas A&M. The Tigers’ record dipped to 5-7, which was their first losing record since 2004.
Coach Gary Pinkel is starting to feel the heat, especially since Missouri cannot afford to fall too far behind in the SEC. Even though Pinkel’s overall record in Columbia is 90-61, the rest of the SEC is improving, and Missouri needs to show it can keep up with the rest of the East Division.
Despite last year’s 5-7 record, there are signs Missouri is ready to rebound in 2013. Quarterback James Franklin is healthy after an injury-plagued 2012 campaign. And the ground attack is expected to get a boost from the return of Henry Josey.
The schedule certainly isn’t easy for the Tigers. However, there’s still some talent on the roster. And Pinkel hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons at Missouri since 2001-02.
What will Missouri's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Missouri's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 Murray State
9/21 at Indiana
9/28 Arkansas State
10/5 at Vanderbilt
10/12 at Georgia
10/26 South Carolina
11/9 at Kentucky
11/23 at Ole Miss
11/30 Texas A&M
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With a year of SEC experience under its belt, Missouri should be back into contention for a bowl game in 2013. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that quarterback James Franklin is closer to 100 percent after shoulder surgery in 2012, and running back Henry Josey is back after missing all of last year with a significant knee injury. The offensive line was hit hard by injuries last season but should be stabilized with the return of four starters. The defense is the biggest question mark, especially as the Tigers look to replace tackle Sheldon Richardson. The schedule isn’t ideal, as Missouri catches Ole Miss and Texas A&M in crossover play, and non-conference games against Toledo and Indiana won’t be easy. Somehow, someway, I think the Tigers get bowl eligible and quiet some of the hot seat talk about coach Gary Pinkel.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Tigers might have the most fascinating coaching situation in the SEC in 2013. Gary Pinkel is arguably the most important coach in school history but a second straight losing season in their new home could cost him his job. The offense should be improved as James Franklin and Henry Josey return to full health and Dorial Green-Beckham takes the next step in his development process. The offensive line should also be a strength. However, the defense lost some big pieces and will take a step back while still facing one of the nastiest schedules in the nation. Getting Ole Miss and Texas A&M is rough in crossover play. The only hope for Pinkel is a marquee home SEC East schedule as Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee all come to Columbia. I fall on the side of pessimism and think Mizzou struggles again in the more treacherous SEC waters. An early season road loss to a tricky Indiana team could derail this season quickly.
SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Mizzou and Texas A&M join the SEC, one steals the national spotlight and the other quietly goes 5-7 (2-6) just missing a bowl game. One good thing going for Mizzou is returning their starting quarterback James Franklin, who battled injury last season. I think he is setup to have a big statistical season, but I'm not sure that will turn into W's. The first 5 games are winnable: Murray State, Toledo, Bye, at Indiana, Arkansas State, and at Vanderbilt. They must win 4 out of 5 for a shot at a bowl game. If Gary Pinkel doesn't make a bowl game, I feel he is gone. Name to watch for: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
Missouri is a hard team for me to get a handle on. The Tigers had a rough entry into the SEC last season, although they did play better late in the year. I still think Mizzou is a couple of recruiting classes away from collecting the talent necessary to compete in the country's toughest conference on a consistent basis. The defense lost its best player (Sheldon Richardson) and the offense is a bit of mystery considering quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey are both returning from injuries.
The non-conference schedule isn't a cakewalk, as Toledo is capable of pulling the upset in Columbia, and Missouri's October slate – at Vanderbilt and Georgia and home against Florida and South Carolina – is just nasty. Bowl eligibility seems a little too optimistic for 2013, but the Tigers will have a couple of chances to build some momentum for next season by picking up a SEC win or two in November. That also would be the easiest way for Gary Pinkel to prove he's still the best man for this job.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Sorry, Missouri, life in the SEC is going to be ugly. Perhaps things will turn around with more stability on the offensive line, a healthy Henry Josey and a settled quarterback situation, but Missouri’s still going to have trouble cracking the top three or four in the SEC East. The Tigers had a first-round draft pick on the defensive line and still gave up 30 points in half their games last season. That’s part of the reason why I’ve picked an upset in Bloomington. Indiana can move the ball, and we have yet to see if Missouri will have a functional offense. After that, Missouri may need to beat Vanderbilt on Oct. 5 if the Tigers are going to get out of the month with a win.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Missouri will need to begin October with a 4-0 record if it hopes to have any success this season. We’ll see if Missouri is more prepared for the SEC this year when it begins conference play in October. It helps that quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey are back healthy. If wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham can take a big step, the offense could be explosive. It won’t be easy for Missouri to reach a bowl game, but the opportunity is there. I have Vanderbilt beating Missouri, but that’s a winnable game for the Tigers. Missouri catches South Carolina on its final trip of a three-game road stretch, which should help Missouri attempt to pull off the upset. Games against Kentucky and Tennessee will also be important as Missouri tries to erase the dreadful 2012 season from its memory.
Ben Frederickson, (@Ben_Fred), FoxSportsMidwest.com
Tiger fans are restless after their inaugural tour de SEC soured; last year was the team's first losing season since 2004. If quarterback James Franklin (he should be the starter, even if Gary Pinkel won't admit it) and his offensive line can avoid the injury bug, things should be better this year — barely. Maybe the Tigers start 4-0, win the conference games they should and sprinkle in a couple of upsets, shattering my somewhat low expectations. But I don't think this group skates through non-conference, and I am convinced Indiana at night in Bloomington is a legitimate threat. A string of losses will likely accompany SEC opponents, but the Tigers should have a chance to turn things around in November. Beat Tennessee and Kentucky, two must-wins, and the momentum could help dismount Ole Miss before Johnny Football crashes the party.
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