Can James Franklin bounce back after a disappointing 2012 season?
As expected, Missouri found life in the SEC more difficult than the week-to-week grind of the Big 12.
The Tigers had their streak of seven straight winning seasons snapped, slipping to 5-7 and no bowl appearance since the 2004 season.
For Missouri to return to the postseason, the Tigers need a big season from quarterback James Franklin. And a replacement for standout defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson must be found.
The schedule won’t be easy. But Missouri could show improvement in 2013 and return to the postseason after a one-year absence.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.
Will the Missouri Tigers Make a Bowl in 2013?
Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Outside of four teams on Missouri’s schedule – Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M, the rest of the eight games are truly winnable. If last year showed us anything, it’s that Missouri should play better on defense than we anticipate. The offense, on the other hand, remains the biggest question mark.
Injuries set the tone for the Tigers’ season before it even got started last year. If they can collectively stay healthy this season, they will make a bowl game. New offensive coordinator Josh Henson comes from a pro-style background, and Missouri’s style of play should be tweaked for the better. It’s hard to even win eight games with a straight spread offense in the SEC with a quarterback not named Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton or Tim Tebow. James Franklin isn’t any of the three, and implementing and tweaking the offense is necessary to even win six games. The good news is that the pieces around Franklin should be better this year, especially in the backfield and at wide receiver.
This is a make-or-break year for Gary Pinkel. He’s on the proverbial hottest seat in the conference entering 2013. Missouri winning six may still result in a bowl game, but it could also part ways with its coach in the process.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Missouri’s long-term prospects of competing in the SEC are iffy, especially now that the East is starting to regain balance with the West. I’m not even sure if a healthy season from James Franklin and Henry Josey will help matters for the Tigers in 2013. For one, a healthy Franklin isn’t assured of keeping his starting job with Maty Mauk gaining ground on the veteran signal caller. Josey had a great season in 2011, but he is coming off major knee surgery. The SEC isn’t always kind to players returning from injury. Throw in the loss of key players at each level of the defense, and I’m skeptical about Missouri being able to get to the six-win mark in the second season in the SEC.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Could the postseason fate of the Tigers be decided in a road non-conference trip to Indiana in Week 4? As shocking as that may sound, a win over the Hoosiers is a must for Mizzou to make it to a bowl game. Gary Pinkel's bunch will have to win three SEC games this year if it loses to the much-improved Indiana team and that seems virtually impossible. Crossover play in the league is tough with Texas A&M at home and a road trip to Ole Miss on the schedule, so 2-6 feels like the best case scenario in SEC play. Therefore, it all goes back to the Sept. 21 trip to Bloomington. Should the Tigers lose to IU, there is little chance of making it to a bowl game. I will call for the upset and say Mizzou fails to make it to the postseason for the second consecutive season.
Mike Mitchell (@MrSEC), MrSEC.com
The 2013 Missouri Tigers could be this year’s version of Mississippi State – a team that starts fast and finishes slow. In both cases, the schedule plays a huge role. Mizzou opens with four non-conference games – Murray State, Toledo, Indiana and Arkansas State. A 4-0 start is possible, perhaps even likely. But then the brutal reality of SEC play sets in. Other than the home-road switch, the only other change to this year’s conference schedule is that the Tigers swap out a home game against Alabama for a road contest at Oxford to face a young and improving Ole Miss team. Missouri will likely be favored against just two opponents, Tennessee and Kentucky, the only two teams the Tigers defeated in the conference last year. With a banged-up offensive line and injured quarterback James Franklin, the Tigers offense never gelled in 2012. But with better health, the return of running back Henry Josey, who missed all of last season, and perhaps some fresh approaches from new offensive coordinator Josh Henson, the Tigers offense should be better. But what about the defense? Last year, the Tigers gave up 41 points to Georgia, 31 to South Carolina, 42 to Alabama and 59 to Texas A&M and that was with star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, now NFL-bound to the New York Jets. With a projected 6-6 record, this is a bubble bowl team. The Tigers should score more points but can the defense stop anybody?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Missouri loses defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and two key linebackers, I think the Tigers will be a better overall team in 2013. The biggest reason for optimism is quarterback James Franklin, as he should be closer to 100 percent in his second year removed from shoulder surgery. The offense will also get a boost with the return of running back Henry Josey, who missed all of 2012 due to a knee injury. Missouri’s offensive line should have more stability this year, and receiver Dorial Green-Beckham proved this spring he is ready to be the No. 1 receiver.
Even if Missouri is an overall better team in 2013, will it translate to more than five wins? I’m not sure it will. The Tigers should go 4-0 in non-conference play, but Indiana and Toledo won’t be easy outs. Missouri draws an improving Ole Miss team from the West Division in conference play, along with a home date against Texas A&M. The Tigers host Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee but it’s hard to see two wins against that trio. Is pulling an upset against Vanderbilt or winning on the road against Kentucky possible? Absolutely. However, the Wildcats and Commodores are both on the upswing and will be tough to beat.
Gary Pinkel has done a lot of good things at Missouri, but another 5-7 season could spell the end of his tenure in Columbia. The Tigers will be in the mix to get to six wins, but I think another 5-7 season is the most-likely scenario.
Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Missouri endured a rough introduction into the SEC last season with key injuries only adding to the Tigers' woes. Gary Pinkel's team just missed out on a bowl in 2012 with a 5-7 overall record, but Mizzou also managed just two conference wins. On top of that, these wins came against Kentucky and Tennessee, who went a combined 1-15 in SEC play themselves. So with all of this said, things have to get better in 2013 right?
Maybe, but only if the Tigers make the most of a relatively soft non-conference slate and not slip up against an improving Indiana team in Bloomington or have Toledo or Arkansas State upset them at home. Three wins at minimum by the end of September are crucial to keeping any postseason hopes alive because after that it's all SEC action. Opportunities to beat Kentucky and Tennessee again are there and will need to be capitalized on, but more than likely an upset will be needed to against the likes of Ole Miss or Vanderbilt to get that necessary sixth win.
Missouri's got talent, especially if the Tigers catch a few more breaks on the injury front this season, but I still don't think they have the depth needed to compete in the SEC on a weekly basis. I believe the Tigers will be a better team, especially on offense, in 2013, but unfortunately I don't think it will be enough to get back to the postseason.
Related College Football Content
Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013
Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013
Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?
Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?
Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013
Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013