2013 Missouri football's 10 things to know: Second impressions

Bill Carter / Rock M Nation

Missouri headed into 2012 with momentum and optimism. Seven losses and countless injuries later, the Tigers were forced to lick their wounds and hope that their second impression in the SEC goes a lot better than the first. Will it? For more Tigers, visit Mizzou site Rock M Nation.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. First impressions only matter until the second

Timing is a funny thing. Missouri fans have found themselves thinking about that a lot over the last nine months. Speaking in hypotheticals, it wasn't difficult for fans to believe that their Tigers would be able to pretty quickly hold their own in the SEC East. After all, under Gary Pinkel Mizzou had played at a Top 30 level, according to the F/+ rankings, for five of six years heading into 2012. In 2007 and 2008, Missouri teams that ranked ninth and 14th respectively in F/+ would have each been the No. 2 team in the SEC East. Hell, in 2010, No. 13 Missouri would have been the highest-ranked SEC East team. And even in 2011, the No. 22 Tigers would have still been a respectable third.

Florida's and Georgia's respective improvement in 2012 ensured that Missouri's ceiling was limited in a tougher East, but instead of pitting even a Top 30 squad against the best conference in the land, Pinkel put his worst team in at least eight years, and perhaps as many as 10 or 11 years, onto the field. His quarterback missed all summer with a shoulder injury, suffered another one in September, sprained his MCL in October, and suffered a concussion in November. All five projected offensive line starters missed time with injury. And his best player, a running back, was on the sidelines all season in a knee brace.

With the college football world paying pretty close attention, Mizzou chose a really bad time to not only test its depth dramatically, but fail that test. The reward? An offseason full of "They weren't ready" talk, not to mention a little bit of "Pinkel on the hot seat" chatter. The good news, however, is that while first impressions seem like a really, really big deal, they only matter until the second one. If the Tigers go 12-0 this fall (and they won't), the story line isn't going to be "Yeah, but they sure did struggle in 2012." Mizzou can erase the bad taste of 2012 with a happy 2013. Will they?

2. Bad year vs. trend

When you are eternally working with small, statistically insignificant samples, you tend to see what you want to see in the data. One can look at Missouri's F/+ progression and see any of three different things:

A) A five-year span that has seen Missouri regress four times. I noted something similar in Auburn's chart this week, and while Mizzou's 2010 surge wasn't an actual outlier (it was approximately on par with the 2007 and 2008 seasons), you can certainly see a similar path overall.

B) Clear proof that Missouri can bounce back following an iffy season (as the Tigers did in 2010). The Tigers have still spent five of the last seven seasons playing at a Top 30 level, and when things fell apart a big in 2009, following massiver turnover in personnel and two coordinator changes, they regrouped the next year.

C) An awful drawing of either a spider or a bird.

The 2013 season still won't bring us to statistical significance, but it will set in stone the story line facing Gary Pinkel for the rest of his career. Either Mizzou struggles to play even average football again and Pinkel is (likely) fired, Mizzou bounces back just enough to go 6-6 or 7-5 and tread water (with a clear "Mizzou's never going to win more than seven games again with Pinkel" narrative), or the Tigers once again spring back toward the Top 15 or 20 and, against an easier schedule, perhaps win eight to 10 games. The middle scenario is probably the most likely, but all three options are on the table.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 5-7 | Adj. Record: 8-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 58
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep SE Louisiana 62-10 W 24.9 - 25.3 L
8-Sep Georgia 20-41 L 26.3 - 15.2 W
15-Sep Arizona State 24-20 W 21.8 - 18.5 W
22-Sep at South Carolina 10-31 L 26.1 - 36.3 L
29-Sep at Central Florida 21-16 W 29.8 - 20.5 W
6-Oct Vanderbilt 15-19 L 27.7 - 16.7 W
13-Oct Alabama 10-42 L 6.7 - 32.7 L
27-Oct Kentucky 33-10 W 21.0 - 17.3 W
3-Nov at Florida 7-14 L 25.2 - 21.7 W
10-Nov at Tennessee 51-48 W 25.2 - 30.4 L
17-Nov Syracuse 27-31 L 38.0 - 29.5 W
24-Nov at Texas A&M 29-59 L 35.5 - 28.6 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 25.8 82 28.4 68
Adj. Points Per Game 25.7 86 24.4 31

3. The defense eventually gave out

The offense never had a chance. One could make the case that James Franklin was even reasonably healthy for six to eight quarters all season (four of which were against SE Louisiana), but even a perfectly healthy, experienced QB wouldn't have solved all of Mizzou's offensive woes. Because of both turnover from the year before (three two- or three-year starters from 2011 graduated) and the aforementioned injuries, the Tigers were starting a new center (one struggling with shotgun snaps), a true freshman at left guard, and a walk-on at right guard.

The national scoring average is around 28 points, so in the first 10 weeks of the season, one could say Mizzou played at an above-average offensive level just once, against UCF. That's a lot of pressure to put on a defense, and while coordinator Dave Steckel's unit held up for most of the year, it gave out in November.

Adj. Points Per Game (with James Franklin): 27.9
Adj. Points Per Game (with Corbin Berkstresser): 22.5

Adj. Points Per Game Allowed (first 9 games): 22.7
Adj. Points Per Game Allowed (last 3 games): 29.5

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 98 66 70 65
RUSHING 90 64 59 68
PASSING 77 74 84 65
Standard Downs 93 95 92
Passing Downs 40 44 42
Redzone 77 59 89
Q1 Rk 65 1st Down Rk 70
Q2 Rk 85 2nd Down Rk 35
Q3 Rk 44 3rd Down Rk 75
Q4 Rk 45

4. A little more experience than expected

I frequently say that injuries hurt in the present tense but help in the future. The original projected starting offensive line featured three senior starters, which meant that the Tigers might be heading into 2013 with a reasonably inexperienced line. But two of those seniors were limited to a combined three starts; freshman Evan Boehm started 12 games, sophomore Mitch Morse started 11, and redshirt freshman Brad McNulty started five.

Only one of those three was originally expected to start, so 2012's inexperience could have a positive role moving forward. Plus, the Tigers now have a pretty seasoned backup quarterback and an experienced skill position corps. The Tigers could benefit from a load of experience they didn't originally expect to have. Of course, all the experience in the world doesn't matter if talent is also an issue.

Mizzou's line regressed an incredible amount in 2012, from second in Adj. Line Yards to almost 100th. The fall was so steep that you really can't blame injuries for all of it; the same, actually, goes for a 2012 offense that plummeted overall from 24th to 85th in Off. F/+. Almost no team outside of Alabama can withstand that many personnel issues without a decent drop-off, but 60 spots? While the national focus will be mostly on the quarterback battle -- Franklin held off Berkstresser and high school yardage king Maty Mauk this spring, but the fight continues in August -- the magnitude of the line's improvement will determine a good portion of Mizzou's 2013 fate.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
James Franklin 6'2, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 139 234 1,562 59.4% 10 7 20 7.9% 5.5
Corbin Berkstresser 6'3, 225 So. *** (5.7) 88 177 1,059 49.7% 5 7 9 4.8% 5.2
Maty Mauk 6'1, 200 RSFr. *** (5.7)






Eddie Printz 6'3, 210 Fr. *** (5.7)






Trent Hosick 6'1, 230 Fr. *** (5.7)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Kendial Lawrence 200 1,025 5.1 5.8 12 +7.1
Henry Josey (2011) RB 5'10, 185 Jr. *** (5.7) 145 1,168 8.1 7.4 9 +20.2
James Franklin QB 6'2, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 68 290 4.3 5.1 0 -4.0
Marcus Murphy RB 5'9, 185 Jr. *** (5.7) 46 251 5.5 4.4 1 +3.8
Corbin Berkstresser QB 6'3, 225 So. *** (5.7) 44 143 3.3 2.6 3 -6.2
Russell Hansbrough RB 5'9, 185 So. *** (5.6) 37 139 3.8 2.0 0 -3.4
T.J. Moe WR 7 26 3.7 1.1 0 -0.9
Dorial Green-Beckham WR 6'6, 220 So. ***** (6.1) 5 16 3.2 2.4 0 -1.3
Morgan Steward RB 6'0, 215 RSFr. *** (5.7)




Chase Abbington RB 6'4, 210 Fr. **** (5.8)




5. Hello, Henry

Henry Josey. Christian Petersen, Getty.

When you miss a bowl for the first time in eight years, you probably aren't going to have a very fun offseason. But one happy story did permeate Columbia this spring: the return of Henry Josey.

Josey began 2011 as a third-stringer, but he became the feature back by the second game of the year. In an eight-game stretch, he rushed 139 times for 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns, but against Texas he tore up his knee so badly (torn ACL, torn MCL, torn patellar tendon) that Longhorns head coach Mack Brown walked across the field to shake his hand as he was being carted off. Multiple surgeries and a full year of recovery later, he was taking handoffs in spring practice. He probably cannot be counted on to immediately resume his 2011 pace this fall, but between Josey, star kick/punt returner Marcus Murphy, some young backs, and an improved line, Mizzou should be able to improve on its No. 64 Rushing S&P+ ranking even despite the loss of Kendial Lawrence.

Burned-out offensive coordinator David Yost resigned last winter. New coordinator Josh Henson seems to be installing a bit more power into the Mizzou attack (tight ends actually lined up tight, et al), and it could pay off with this personnel.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Marcus Lucas WR-X 6'5, 220 Sr. **** (5.8) 84 47 534 56.0% 6.4 22.2% 59.5% 6.4 70.4
T.J. Moe WR-H 65 40 399 61.5% 6.1 17.2% 53.8% 6.0 52.6
L'Damian Washington WR-Z 6'4, 200 Sr. ** (5.4) 55 25 443 45.5% 8.1 14.5% 45.5% 7.3 58.4
Gahn McGaffie WR-H 46 33 266 71.7% 5.8 12.1% 47.8% 5.6 35.1
Dorial Green-Beckham WR-X 6'6, 220 So. ***** (6.1) 43 27 386 62.8% 9.0 11.3% 62.8% 9.0 50.9
Bud Sasser WR-H 6'2, 210 Jr. *** (5.7) 24 10 216 41.7% 9.0 6.3% 50.0% 7.5 28.5
Kendial Lawrence RB 22 18 114 81.8% 5.2 5.8% 81.8% 5.3 15.0
Jimmie Hunt WR-H 6'1, 215 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 11 198 84.6% 15.2 3.4% 53.8% 15.6 26.1
Marcus Murphy RB 5'9, 185 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 9 22 69.2% 1.7 3.4% 53.8% 1.5 2.9
Darius White (2011 Texas) WR 6'3, 200 Jr. **** (6.0) 8 5 66 62.5% 8.3 2.4% 62.5% N/A N/A
Eric Waters TE 6'4, 245 Sr. *** (5.6) 8 4 27 50.0% 3.4 2.1% 75.0% 2.7 3.6
Jaleel Clark WR-Z 6'4, 220 Sr. *** (5.6) 3 1 6 33.3% 2.0 0.8% 0.0% 2.4 0.8
Jared McGriff-Culver RB 2 2 10 100.0% 5.0 0.5% 50.0% 5.0 1.3
Sean Culkin TE 6'6, 240 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Levi Copelin WR-H 6'2, 185 RSFr. *** (5.6)








J'Mon Moore WR 6'3, 180 Fr. *** (5.7)








6. Big plays vs. consistency

Missouri had four different receivers with at least one 40-yard catch last season. And in terms of recruiting rankings, this is easily the most highly rated unit Mizzou's got, with former all-world signee Dorial Green-Beckham and three former four-stars (Marcus Lucas, Jimmie Hunt, Texas transfer Darius White) in the rotation.

This unit has almost as much explosiveness and potential as any in college football, but only three of the top seven targets averaged better than a paltry 6.4 yards per target (and two of those three had catch rates far below 50 percent). Quarterback play was obviously a major issue, but so were drops -- Lucas was especially plagued by them in the middle of the season. If the receiving corps begins to live up to its potential (and Green-Beckham was certainly the No. 1 star of spring practice), the offense's ceiling begins to approach that of previous Mizzou offenses once again.

Side note: Jimmie Hunt must either be a terrible blocker or awful in practice. He is spectacular with the ball in his hands -- his 12 career catches have produced 253 yards and four TDs, and he scored on a kick return against Tennessee when the Vols tried to kick away from Marcus Murphy -- but even on a sputtering offense, he was targeted only about once per game. Whatever his issues are, if he rectifies them and sees more targets, that's probably a very good thing.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 93.6 2.48 2.76 38.5% 62.8% 22.2% 94.0 5.2% 10.0%
Rank 96 117 102 69 93 105 69 72 106
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Elvis Fisher LT 49 career starts
Justin Britt LT 6'6, 320 Sr. ** (5.4) 22 career starts
Evan Boehm LG 6'3, 315 So. **** (5.8) 12 career starts
Max Copeland RG 6'3, 295 Sr. NR 11 career starts
Mitch Morse RT 6'5, 305 Jr. *** (5.7) 11 career starts
Jack Meiners RG 9 career starts
Travis Ruth LG 8 career starts
Brad McNulty C 6'4, 305 So. *** (5.5) 5 career starts
Nick Demien RG 6'6, 300 Jr. **** (5.9)
Anthony Gatti LT 6'6, 315 Jr. *** (5.7)
Chris Freeman RT 6'8, 335 Jr. *** (5.6)
Taylor Chappell RT 6'5, 320 So. *** (5.7)
Michael Boddie LG 6'5, 295 So. *** (5.6)
Mitch Hall LG 6'5, 320 So. *** (5.6)
Connor McGovern C 6'4, 315 So. *** (5.5)
Clay Rhodes OL 6'6, 265 Fr. *** (5.6)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 59 21 28 22
RUSHING 50 14 19 12
PASSING 76 36 35 37
Standard Downs 27 33 25
Passing Downs 22 21 22
Redzone 65 67 70
Q1 Rk 65 1st Down Rk 22
Q2 Rk 26 2nd Down Rk 56
Q3 Rk 2 3rd Down Rk 4
Q4 Rk 49

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 119.5 2.61 3.13 35.7% 67.4% 22.6% 83.9 4.0% 5.9%
Rank 9 20 51 27 57 22 88 81 74
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Sheldon Richardson DT 11 57.0 8.1% 10.5 4 0 3 3 2
Matt Hoch NG 6'5, 295 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 27.5 3.9% 4.5 2 0 3 0 0
Kony Ealy DE 6'5, 275 Jr. **** (5.8) 12 27.0 3.8% 10 3.5 0 7 1 0
Michael Sam DE 6'3, 255 Sr. ** (5.4) 12 15.5 2.2% 7 4.5 0 0 2 1
Brad Madison DE 12 14.0 2.0% 7 4 0 0 1 0
Shane Ray DE 6'3, 245 So. *** (5.7) 12 12.0 1.7% 2.5 0 0 0 0 1
Jimmy Burge NG 12 10.5 1.5% 2.5 1.5 0 0 1 0
Markus Golden DE 6'3, 255 Jr. *** (5.5) 12 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Brayden Burnett DE 6'2, 245 Sr. *** (5.7) 12 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marvin Foster DT 6'1, 290 Sr. ** (5.4) 10 4.5 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lucas Vincent DT 6'2, 295 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Rickey Hatley DE 6'4, 260 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Harold Brantley DT 6'3, 300 RSFr. ** (5.4)

Marcus Loud DE 6'4, 235 Fr. *** (5.7)

Josh Augusta DT 6'5, 275 Fr. *** (5.7)

7. Without an anchor

In all, the Missouri defense returns an acceptable level of experience: Five of the top eight defensive linemen, three of the top five linebackers, and five of the top seven defensive backs return. The defensive end position is exciting, with steady Michael Sam and occasionally dominant Kony Ealy leading the way, the linebacking corps is anchored by Andrew Wilson, and Mizzou has a star in the secondary in E.J. Gaines.

But the Tigers don't have Sheldon Richardson, who became Mizzou's sixth first-round pick in five drafts this past April. Richardson's play was the primary force behind Mizzou's move from 35th to ninth in Adj. Line Yards, and with an iffy pass rush (the ends are decent, but blitz was lacking terribly), Mizzou leaned heavily on run defense to end drives. Without Richardson, Mizzou's pass defense -- both the blitz and the secondary -- faces pressure to improve.

The late-season fade dropped Missouri's defense to 41st in Def. F/+, but it was a relative strength for much of the season. The offense should improve, but if it just offsets defensive regression, that's not exactly a recipe for happiness.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Andrew Wilson SLB 6'3, 235 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 61.5 8.7% 2.5 0.5 0 4 4 1
Will Ebner MLB 11 60.5 8.6% 10.5 1 0 1 1 0
Zaviar Gooden WLB 10 48.5 6.9% 4 0 1 1 0 2
Donovan Bonner MLB 6'1, 240 Sr. ** (5.3) 11 30.5 4.3% 2 0 1 1 4 0
Kentrell Brothers SLB 6'1, 235 So. *** (5.7) 11 10.5 1.5% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Darvin Ruise WLB 6'1, 245 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Clarence Green SLB 6'0, 225 So. *** (5.5) 1 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Donavin Newsome WLB 6'2, 230 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Michael Scherer MLB 6'3, 235 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Torey Boozer SLB 6'2, 230 RSFr. *** (5.6)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
E.J. Gaines CB 5'10, 195 Sr. *** (5.7) 12 66.0 9.3% 7 0 1 11 2 2
Kenronte Walker SS 12 53.0 7.5% 2.5 0 1 1 1 2
Braylon Webb FS 6'0, 205 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 50.0 7.1% 1.5 0 0 0 0 1
Kip Edwards CB 12 40.0 5.7% 6 0 2 5 0 3
Randy Ponder CB 5'10, 190 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 37.0 5.2% 3.5 0 1 2 0 0
Matt White FS 6'0, 195 Sr. ** (5.2) 12 19.0 2.7% 0.5 0 0 2 0 0
Ian Simon SS 5'11, 195 So. *** (5.5) 10 9.5 1.3% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Xavier Smith CB 5'11, 185 Jr. *** (5.7) 9 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ernest Payton SS 6'2, 210 So. *** (5.5) 3 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cortland Browning FS 6'1, 210 So. *** (5.6) 3 0.5 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Johnson CB 5'11, 190 So. *** (5.5)

John Gibson CB 5'11, 185 RSFr. *** (5.5)






8. Leaning on depth

One of Gary Pinkel's calling cards has been his ability to turn two- and three-star recruits into three- and four-star performers. The Tigers have typically had a few big-time recruits leading the way (the Jeremy Maclins, Blaine Gabberts, and Sheldon Richardsons of the world), but they have found their success in talent evaluation and development.

With only Gaines and maybe Ealy likely to perform at something close to an all-conference level, Mizzou's defensive success will be determined mostly by its ability to throw a lot of interesting youngsters against the wall and hope a few of them stick. Tackles like Lucas Vincent and Harold Brantley will need to show a general level of competence in Richardson's absence up front. Linebackers like Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer will perhaps need to make some plays. Cornerbacks (and spring stars) David Johnson, John Gibson, and Xavier Smith will need to combine their strong athleticism with some general technical competence.

Mizzou has options at a lot of positions, but there are few sure things. The Tigers have faced issues like this before and come out alright, but it's never a guarantee.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Trey Barrow 68 43.0 3 20 30 73.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Andrew Baggett 6'2, 220 So. 32 61.0 11 34.4%
Trey Barrow 30 59.1 5 16.7%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Baggett 6'2, 220 So. 33-37 9-11 81.8% 5-9 55.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Marcus Murphy KR 5'9, 185 Jr. 19 24.1 1
T.J. Moe KR 8 23.2 0
Jimmie Hunt KR 6'1, 215 Jr. 3 36.7 1
Marcus Murphy PR 5'9, 185 Jr. 27 13.9 3
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 20
Net Punting 61
Net Kickoffs 78
Touchback Pct 94
Field Goal Pct 68
Kick Returns Avg 14
Punt Returns Avg 6

9. Winning with the return game

Huge punt returns helped to win both the Arizona State and UCF games. A kick return touchdown by Jimmie Hunt helped Mizzou to buy time while its defense figured out how to eventually slow down Tennessee.

Special teams played a direct role in three close wins, and while kickoffs were unimpressive and field goal kicking was unstable through the first half of the season, Mizzou's special teams unit still graded out well because of Marcus Murphy, Hunt, and company. If Mizzou is to drastically out-perform what is likely to be a pretty mediocre projection, special teams will have to play a role in that once again.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug Murray State NR
7-Sep Toledo 62
21-Sep at Indiana 70
28-Sep Arkansas State 64
5-Oct at Vanderbilt 49
12-Oct at Georgia 9
19-Oct Florida 4
26-Oct South Carolina 19
2-Nov Tennessee 44
9-Nov at Kentucky 90
23-Nov at Ole Miss 29
30-Nov Texas A&M 13
Five-Year F/+ Rk 26
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 37
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +1 / +4.0
TO Luck/Game -1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (6, 6)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.1

10. Pinkel vs. Pinkel

To win in the SEC, you have to … field a good team. That's it. To win a lot in the SEC, you have to field a great team. It doesn't matter how you do it -- recruiting, development, blind luck -- it just matters that you do it. There's nothing saying the type of team Gary Pinkel produced for most of the 2006-11 range, with performance exceeding recruiting rankings by 10-20 spots, wouldn't fare alright in the SEC; maybe the records are slightly different (say, one win worse on average), and maybe at some point in the future we have to determine whether the quality of a good Pinkel product (Top 15-25 on average) is good enough. But in 2012, Missouri fielded its worst team since 2004. Maybe the Tigers would have pulled off a 6-6 record in the Big 12, but last year didn't see the typical Pinkel product, and it's up to him to prove he can, at the very least, get Missouri back to where it was.

I wrote that at Rock M Nation at the beginning of spring practice, and I still believe it. Before Missouri can worry about winning in the SEC, it has to worry about re-establishing the level of play it saw before the move to the SEC. Last year was close to being a lot better (without only James Franklin's MCL sprain, the Tigers are in very good position to beat both Vanderbilt and Florida, and without Richardson's suspension, they perhaps beat Syracuse) and close to being a lot worse (without the special teams touchdowns, Mizzou perhaps loses to ASU, UCF, and Tennessee and goes 2-10); but the bottom line is, Missouri just wasn't very good in 2012.

We can debate injuries and downward trends, but we'll start to get a pretty definitive answer, one way or another, in 2013.

The 2013 schedule is full of both opportunity and landmines. A trip to Indiana and visits from strong two mid-majors (Toledo and Arkansas State) could spell doom if Mizzou has an off week, but at the same time, Alabama is off the schedule, and Florida, South Carolina, and Texas A&M must all visit Columbia. A Top 20-30 team could win eight or nine games against this schedule. A team that ranks 58th, as Mizzou did last year, could win four. Predictably, I assume the middle ground: six or seven wins. A season like that won't get Gary Pinkel fired, but it also won't convince recruits that the corner has been turned.

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