Last season was a dream come true to say the least for the Missouri Tigers. Led by QBs James Franklin and Maty Mauk, RB Henry Josey, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, and Kony Ealy and Michael Sam on defense, they stormed through the SEC, going 7-1 in conference and winning their first-ever SEC East title, falling to national runner-up Auburn in the championship game in Atlanta. Not bad for a team that went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the league before. But can lightning strike twice? Let’s take a look at why it might and might not. (The South Carolina Gamecocks host Mizzou on September 27.)
Last Year: 12-2 (7-1 SEC; SEC East Champions)
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (14th season)
Key returnees: QB Maty Mauk, TBs Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, S Braylon Webb, LB Kentrell Brothers and Darvin Ruise, DE Markus Golden and Shane Ray; NG Lucas Vincent; DT Matt Hoch
Key Departures: QB James Franklin, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, LB Donovan Bonner and Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines, DE Kony Ealy and Michael Sam
Why they’ll win the SEC East
The big question is if Mauk can handle being the #1 starter at QB with Franklin gone. By all accounts, the answer may be yes: he threw for 11 touchdowns and just two picks as a freshman spelling his injured predecessor. Toss in Murphy who may be the #1 RB as a senior and the high-trending Hansborough
along with Green-Beckham and they aren’t completely depleted on offense, while it won’t match 2013′s output.
Why they won’t win the SEC East
The team loses its top three receiving threats (L’Damian Washington to the Cowboys, Marcus Lucas to the Panthers, WR Dorial Green-Beckham who was dismissed) along with the leading rusher (Henry Josey to the Eagles), so the Tigers are missing a few (not all) of the offensive pieces that made their 2013 squad successful (16th in the nation in total offense, 10th in yards). The onus on the players coming back is to not only match, but exceed their output from last year with their new, increased roles. The same can be said for the defense, who’s missing some very key components in leading sack producers Kony and Sam. Mizzou struck gold as the division champs last season–it’s not likely they have the overall talent right now to be able to do so again in 2014.