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Should we buy into Missouri's 3-0 start?

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Missouri is the last unbeaten team in the SEC East. The Tigers haven’t played a tough schedule, but coach Gary Pinkel’s team has won all three of its games by at least 15 points.

Missouri has one more non-conference game remaining, which is a home date against Sun Belt foe Arkansas State.

After Saturday’s game, the Tigers have eight consecutive games of SEC play, starting with an Oct. 5 date at Vanderbilt.

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Is Missouri improved after going 5-7 last year or are the Tigers a product of their easy schedule?

Should we buy into Missouri's 3-0 start?

Steven Lassan  (@AthlonSteven)
Yes, I am buying into Missouri’s 3-0 start. No, I’m not ready to anoint the Tigers as a contender in the SEC East, but I do think this team is improved from its 5-7 record last year. Missouri’s offense is averaging 6.6 yards per play and ranks third in the conference with 567 yards per game. The level of competition has played a role in the offensive numbers, but quarterback James Franklin looks sharper after a full offseason to recover from a shoulder injury, and the rushing attack has three players who can contribute significant carries. The Tigers may have to win a few shootouts this year, as the defense is a question mark. The secondary ranks last in the SEC in pass yards allowed, and Missouri has generated only three sacks. Do I think Missouri will win the East? No. But I do think this team will make a bowl and wouldn’t be shocked if the Tigers find a way to upset Florida or South Carolina this year.

Mark Ross
Give credit to head coach Gary Pinkel and quarterback James Franklin for turning things around. Missouri's offense is clicking on all cylinders as the Tigers are scoring points (47 ppg) in bunches. However, before anyone starts printing those SEC East champion T-shirts let's see how Mizzou fares against some, well, SEC-caliber competition shall we? Yes, offense was certainly an issue for this team last season (11th in SEC in both total and scoring offense), but it's not like the defense shut the opposition down either (10th total, 11th scoring). Missouri will face considerably tougher defenses in conference play, starting with Vanderbilt in two weeks, and I want to see how this Tigers team responds when the offense is unable to just march up and down the field. It clearly is a good start for Missouri, but don't forget the Tigers went 2-6 in the SEC in 2012 and the only difference between that SEC slate and this season's is that Alabama has been replaced by Ole Miss. With how well the Rebels have played thus far, there's very little drop-off there, if any. Welcome to life in the SEC Mizzou.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I buy that Missouri will get back to a bowl game. I don't buy that Missouri is an SEC contender. James Franklin appears to be healthy again and churning out yards, trailing only Johnny Manziel in total offense per game in the SEC. But the Tigers haven't played a legitimate defense yet this season. Mizzou is obviously better on offense and improved from a year ago, but the defense lacks star power and it will need that side of the ball to pull an upset against, say, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Ole Miss or South Carolina. Otherwise, there are winnable games with Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky that could provide a trip to the postseason. A trip to a bowl game should keep Gary Pinkel employed, right?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I still need to see a little bit more to fully buy into Missouri. The Oct. 5 trip to Vanderbilt will be the key. The Tigers may need to win that game to salvage anything out of an SEC schedule that includes Ole Miss and Texas A&M from the West division. I was skeptical of how the Tigers’ defense would perform this season without Sheldon Richardson, a first-round draft pick. Missouri acquitted itself against Indiana on the road, especially with the way Kony Ealy was able to disrupt the passing game at the line. But what works against Indiana might not work against Georgia and Ole Miss on the road, or South Carolina’s physical game and certainly not Johnny Manziel.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Yes, go ahead and buy into Missouri’s 3-0 start. The Tigers entered the season with low expectations, which was understandable following last year’s disappointing finish. But this team is improved, especially on offense. Quarterback James Franklin looks closer to his 2011 self, having already produced more than 1,000 yards of total offense in three games. The emergence of sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been huge. Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington make up a dangerous receiving corps.

Missouri still has to face its toughest part of the schedule – the SEC – but its start is promising. The Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the SEC East by the media. That could still happen, but games against Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will all be winnable. Missouri isn’t close to winning the division, but its 3-0 start has shown the Tigers might be on their way to competing at a more respectable level in the conference.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
As happy as I am to see quarterback James Franklin regain his form from a promising 2011 season, Missouri is surely in for trouble once conference play starts. Franklin has been excellent in his first three games. In fact, he's averaging 291 passing yards and 60.7 rushing yards per contest. He has thrown six touchdown passes and has nearly 200 yards rushing yards with another score. To be fair, the Tigers have hardly been challenged with games against Murray State, Toledo and Indiana. This week they play host to an Arkansas State team that was held to just seven points by Memphis. Despite this offensive success, the Tigers real concerns are on the defensive side of the ball. In three games, Missouri is allowing an average of nearly 400 yards of total offense. Expect this to be even more against some of the excellent quarterbacks in the SEC right now. After they surely improve to 4-0 this week, the schedule becomes a veritable murderer’s row. The Tigers will have a month straight of four of the SEC’s toughest teams with road trips to Vanderbilt and Georgia, along with home games against Florida and South Carolina. The end of the season won’t be kind either, as they finish up with Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Don’t expect the Tigers’ defense to be able to stop the likes of Connor Shaw, Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray or even Bo Wallace. I have Gary Pinkel’s squad finishing 6-6 (2-6).

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