2010 Record: (10-3, 6-2 in Big 12)
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (77-49 at Missouri, 150-86-3 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 Insight Bowl (lost to Iowa 27-24)
Final 2010/2011 CFBZ Ranking: #21
9/3: Miami, Oh
9/9: at Arizona State
9/17: Western Illinois
9/24: at Oklahoma (2010 result: won 36-27)
10/8: at Kansas State (2010 result: won 38-28)
10/15: Iowa State (2010 result: won 14-0)
10/22: Oklahoma State (2009 result: lost 33-17)
10/29: at Texas A&M (2010 result: won 30-9)
11/5: at Baylor (2010 result: lost 40-32)
11/12: Texas (2010 result: lost 41-7)
11/19: Texas Tech (2010 result: lost 24-17)
11/26: Kansas (2010 result: won 35-7)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 29.8 ppg (8th in Big 12, 43rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 156.38 yds/game (6th in Big 12, 57th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 253.2 yds/game (6th in Big 12, 33rd in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 409.6 yds/game (6th in Big 12, 35th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 16.1 ppg (1st in Big 12, 6th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 152.92 yds/game (6th in Big 12, 62nd in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 203.5 yds/game (3rd in Big 12, 37th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 356.4 yds/game (3rd in Big 12, 47th in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.85 per game (3rd in Big 12, 14th in Nation)
Penalties: 57.5 yds/game (7th in Big 12, 86th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB James Franklin, Soph (11 of 14 for 106 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Rushing: RB De'Vion Moore, Sr (99 for 517 yds, 5.2 ypc, 8 TD)
Receiving: WR T.J. Moe, Jr (92 rec for 1,045 yds, 6 TD)
Tackles: LB Zaviar Gooden, Jr (84)
Sacks: DE Brad Madison, Jr (7.5)
Interceptions: S Kenji Jackson, Sr; LB Zaviar Gooden, Jr (2)
Athlon: Meineke Car Care Bowl (vs Penn State)
Phil Steele: Insight Bowl (vs Penn State)
Gary Pinkel has led the Missouri Tigers to double digit wins in three of the last four seasons. Last year started out with a bang for the Tigers as they won their first seven games including a huge win over then #1 Oklahoma. Riding high on that victory didn't last long as Missouri then dropped their next two games at Nebraska and at Texas Tech. Missouri finished off the season with a great 10-3 record but the fanbase probably wanted a little bit more considering how quickly they started.
So what is in store for Missouri in 2011? Despite losing their star QB Blaine Gabbert, the Tigers return a ton of talent on offense including an OL that returns the most starters in all of the Big 12. The reigns at QB get turned over to Sophomore James Franklin as he ran Blaine Gabbert's brother out of town this spring. Franklin will have a lot of talent to work with as the Tigers return basically all of their rushing and receiving yards from last year. Franklin has two receivers, well actually one is a TE, that had over 90 receptions each last year and another one that had over 50. Missouri looks loaded on the offensive side of the ball.
Missouri made big strides last year on defense as they decreased their points allowed from 25.4 in 2009 to a Big 12 leading 16.1 in 2011. Where Missouri made the biggest strides was in their opponent red zone conversions as they decreased that from 83.64% in 2009 (11th in the Big 12) to 57.14% in 2011 (which was second in the country behind Boise State). Missouri loses two defensive players who got drafted by the NFL in Andrew Gachkar (OLB) and Aldon Smith (DE) that they will have to replace. In addition to those two talents they also lost three contributors from the defensive backfield so it will be key that they quickly find answers on the back-end in the pass happy Big 12.
From a scheduling standpoint the Tigers play MAC Champion Miami (Oh) early and then travel to Arizona State before turning around and playing Oklahoma on the road in the fourth game of the season. Franklin will be put under fire early with those two early road games. If Missouri comes out of that stretch anything less than 3-1 it might be too much to recover from. The other two key stretches for the Tigers will be October 22-29 when they play Okie State and then travel to College Station to take on the Aggies. Then it's the November run where they match up with Texas on the 12th and try to get revenge against Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech the next week. It's not an easy schedule for the Tigers but it's also not an impossible one. If Missouri can get off to a good start (5-1 going into Okie State) then they should set themselves up for another double digit win season. Slip up at Arizona State and it could be a disappointing season. To get a local perspective on the Tigers we caught up with the crew over at Rock M Nation to get their take on Missouri's chances in 2011.
James Franklin will be taking over for first-round draft pick Blaine Gabbert. What does Franklin bring to the table and what should fans expect out of him?
Franklin played as a true freshman, but outside of spot snaps as a change-up and a few drives against Colorado while Gabbert nursed a hip pointer, Franklin was in command of a shackled offense. In fact, in many of appearances, his offense was instructed by Gary Pinkel not to score if at all possible. Franklin doesn't possess the cannon Gabbert had (not many do), but he throws a catchable ball and looks very fluid in the process. His athleticism will allow offensive coordinator Dave Yost the flexibility to run more zone read, though this should not unfairly label Franklin as purely a "running quarterback" (Fun anecdote: Gabbert's 40 times were believed to be faster than Franklin's. Franklin's value is in his shiftiness, not his straight line speed). How Franklin performs under pressure remains to be seen. He faced 3rd and 7+ four times last season and managed to convert all four, but that sample size isn't exactly statistically sound.
In our "Exit Survey" you mentioned the defensive backfield as a pressing need for Missouri this off-season. What has been done to improve this position since we last spoke?
Well, since free agency wasn't an option, Missouri continued to develop the talent it currently had in the program. Missouri lost its two starting cornerbacks from 2010, but there's a surprising yet somewhat valid confidence about Missouri's presumed starters. Junior Kip Edwards has played "starter's minutes" in previous years according to coach Gary Pinkel, and sophomore E.J. Gaines saw time as a true freshman in 2010. Edwards is extremely agile and has the ability to turn and run with receivers. Though Mizzou has recruited better pure athletes at corner than Gaines, he's a very physical corner who challenges receivers and can step up in the run game. The real question that remains is at the safety spot opposite senior Kenji Jackson, and that question will remain until Pinkel releases the Week 1 depth chart.
Despite finishing 10-3 last year this Missouri team seems to be flying a little bit below the radar . Who are the go-to players on this team?
The big names will continue to be receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew, who represent one of the most sure-handed duos in the Big 12 and one of the most prolific tandems in the country. Their return parallels a theme for Missouri in 2011 -- almost everyone with exception of draft picks Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith return. There's a very experienced nucleus of players on the roster, and Missouri really could not have put its new quarterback in a better position to succeed. Granted, the onus will still be on Franklin to deliver, but he has a receiving corps that lost no one, a backfield that lost no one, and a strong offensive line that returns four starters.
Who are some of the unsung guys on the roster that you think can step up and make key contributions this year?
"Unsung" is a dangerous label, if only because recruiting rankings can somewhat nullify that title. Sophomore receiver Marcus Lucas looked impressive in limited action in 2010, but he'll spend 2011 being rapidly grooming into one of the future leaders of the receiving corps. No. 4 tailback Marcus Murphy is buried on the depth chart, but given Missouri's 2010 fondness for the back-by-committee approach, he should still get his chances to perform. Those chances may increase in 2011, as Murphy is Mizzou's most talented receiver out of the backfield, and Franklin has shown more willingness to check down than previous Missouri quarterbacks. Defensively, it's probably not fair to call defensive end Brad Madison unsung after leading the team with 7.5 sacks as a back-up. But he leads a deep defensive end unit which could also unleash redshirt freshman Kony Ealy, an Aldon Smith clone who looked unblockable at times this spring.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
In the new Big 12, aren't they all? The first high-profile test comes in early September, as James Franklin's second career start will come on the road against Arizona State, a team many consider a darkhorse contender for the Pac-12 South. As if that wasn't enough, his first Big 12 game not only comes against Oklahoma, but it comes against Oklahoma in Norman where the Sooners have been all but unbeatable in the last 11 years. First and foremost, Missouri needs to take care of business at home. Mizzou gets Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech at home, and if Missouri is going to be a Top 3 team in the conference, the worst they can do in that stretch is 3-1. Road games against Oklahoma and Texas A&M should give an indication prior to November whether or not Mizzou is for real or is just a year away.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Anywhere from 11-1 to 7-5 wouldn't totally surprise me. It's hard to fathom Missouri getting out of September unscathed. Between the trips to Tempe and Norman, Mizzou is very likely looking at 3-1 or 2-2 after the first month. 9-3 is probably the safe bet, give or take a game either way. Success for Missouri means that the team stayed relevant as part of the top tier of Big 12 teams. No longer can Missouri fall back on just winning the Big 12 North. The Tigers need to finish in the top three or four of the conference to prove they're up to the task of competing with all of the former South Division teams in the new Big 12.
Coming later in August: Big 12 Preview
CFBZ Top 25
#24 Missouri Tigers
2011 Team Previews