Missouri Football: Ranking the 2012 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJune 21, 2012

Missouri Football: Ranking the 2012 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest

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    The Missouri Tigers return 11 starters, including five on offense that should help create one of the more exciting offenses in the country.

    This team has talent on both sides of the ball—it is just really a matter of how well it will translate to the SEC.

    The Tigers finished the 2011 season with an 8-5 record and showed glimpses of what they were capable of throughout the year. The problem is that Missouri will no longer be playing teams such as Kansas or Iowa State. Instead, it will have to match up against Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and the rest of the gang.

    As the season is less than two months away, here are the easiest and most difficult games for the 2012 Missouri Tigers football season.

12. Vs. Southeastern Louisiana

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    Last year's record: 3-8

    Returning starters: N/A

    Missouri was brought to the SEC for a reason, and I'm sure one of them had to do with the fact that the Tigers can play solid football.

    If they can't get past a team that went 3-8 in the Southland Conference, they should just pack up and return to the Big 12.

    This is by far the easiest game on the schedule and should result in a 40-point blowout.

11. Vs. Syracuse

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    Last year's record: 5-7

    Returning starters: 12

    Syracuse showed potential at certain points in the season but was never consistent enough to know exactly what type of team it is.

    Quarterback Ryan Nassib should take another step forward in his career, but Missouri should win this game off of overall talent alone.

    The Orange simply are not deep enough to win this game.

10. Vs. Kentucky

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    Last year's record: 5-7

    Returning starters: 12

    This game will come in the middle of the year, after the Tigers get a feel of the level of competition in the SEC.

    This will be a much-needed break, considering the Wildcats are one of the bottom-feeders of this conference and don't usually play particularly well.

    The defense can be solid at times, but the offense averaged fewer than 16 points per contest.

9. Vs. Arizona State

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    Last year's record: 6-7

    Returning starters: Eight

    Arizona State needed overtime to beat the Tigers in last year's meeting, and that game took place in Tempe.

    This time, the game will be played on Faurot Field, and the Sun Devils have lost nearly the entire team from a year ago.

    You have to like the more experienced team at home that isn't going through a transition with a coaching change.

8. Vs. Vanderbilt

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    Last year's record: 6-7

    Returning starters: 16

    It will be interesting to see just how much this Vanderbilt team improves under head coach James Franklin in his second season.

    The Commodores finished with a respectable 6-7 record, competed with some of the best teams in the conference and finished with the sixth-best defense in the SEC.

    This is a tough-minded team that may be flying under the radar but should not be slept on.

7. At UCF

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    Last year's record: 5-7

    Returning starters: 15

    Speaking of tough teams, the UCF Knights are exactly that.

    They only won five games last season, but they went toe-to-toe with BYU and Southern Mississippi after upsetting Georgia in a bowl game in 2010.

    The Knights also return eight starters from a defense that finished ninth in the entire country.

    With this game being played in Bright House Networks Stadium, you can bet UCF will be out to continue to fight for its respect.

6. At Tennessee

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    Last year's record: 5-7

    Returning starters: 18

    Tennessee returns the most starters in the SEC, and this may be the year it finally takes that next step in the conference.

    This is a very young but talented team that has a ton of potential heading into the 2012 season.

    This will be another test for this Tigers team, especially with the game being played in Knoxville.

5. At Texas A&M

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    Last year's record: 7-6

    Returning starters: 15

    Missouri has won five of the last six meetings against the Aggies, including a thrilling seven-point victory last season.

    But Texas A&M does return a key portion of its team and should once again have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the entire country.

    Also, with this game being played in College Station, it is not exactly the easiest environment to walk out with a victory.

4. At Florida

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    Last year's record: 7-6

    Returning starters: 17

    Whoever put together this Missouri schedule must not have liked this program, because in the Tigers' first season, they are playing in some of the toughest road environments in the sport.

    Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is another place that makes things extremely difficult for the visiting team.

    The Gators must figure out several offensive issues, but returning 10 starters from a defense that ranked eighth in the country will keep this team in many games.

3. Vs. Georgia

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    Last year's record: 10-4

    Returning starters: 15

    This will be the first SEC game for the Missouri Tigers and, of course, it won't be easy.

    The Bulldogs are one of the more balanced teams in the country and have a defense that racked up 35 sacks last season.

    The good news is that some of those defensive players will not be eligible to play in this game.

    Even with those issues, this still a tough team to beat, even at home.

2. At South Carolina

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    Last year's record: 11-2

    Returning starters: 13

    What do you know? Another tough road game.

    This time it will take place in Williams-Brice Stadium, where the Tigers take on South Carolina.

    The Gamecocks should be even better in 2012, returning majority of its third-ranked defense and getting a healthy Marcus Lattimore back in the backfield.

    This will be the first SEC road test for Missouri, and it certainly won't be an easy one. 

1. Vs. Alabama

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    Last year's record: 12-1

    Returning starters: 11

    It doesn't get much more difficult than having to play the defending national champions.

    Alabama lost many key contributors on the defensive side of the ball but remains one of the deepest teams in America.

    That Crimson Tide offense is also getting better, with quarterback AJ McCarron growing before our very eyes.

    Adding this game in the middle of the Tigers schedule just shows how brutal this first-year schedule really is for Missouri.