The Missouri Tigers were perhaps the most disappointing team in all of college football in 2008. The Tigers were coming off a 12-2 season in '07, which included winning the Big 12 North Division and an impressive Cotton Bowl victory in which they demolished the Arkansas Razorbacks 38-7.
That Razorback team featured a couple of first round picks in Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Making the lopsided win even more impressive was the fact that in the Hogs' season finale, they went on the road to defeat LSU, the eventual '07 national champion.
There was a lot to like about the Tigers at this time last year. Not only did they return QB Chase Daniel, who at the time was considered a favorite for the Heisman, but they also brought back Jeremy Maclin, the most dangerous all-purpose threat in the country; Chase Coffman, arguably the best TE in the country; and Derrick Washington, the Tigers' top ball carrier.
These returnees gave the Tigers one of the most balanced and lethal offenses in all of college football.
Yep. People were drinking that Missouri Kool-Aid, and you couldn't talk to any Big 12 observer without them bringing up the Tigers.
They were what you would call...the sexy pick.
There was only one problem.
Can you say defensively inept? Tiger fans sure can, and that's what they were for most of 2008. In fact, Missouri struggled to stop anyone from scoring at will last year. Their defensive incompetence was the laughingstock of the conference.
Week in and week out, offenses moved the ball on Missouri, plowing through the defense like Rosie O'Donnell at the local donut shop.
The Tigers were ranked 117th in the nation in pass defense last year, second to last in the entire FBS. Nevada was the only team in the nation to do statistically worse.
In their four losses (Texas, OU, Kansas, OK St.), the Tigers gave up an average of 47 points. That's simply not going to get it done.
So will it be more of the same in 2009?
In all likelihood, it will get worse. Missouri parted ways with Daniel, Maclin, and Coffman. That's a lot of offense from very talented, experienced, and savvy guys.
They do return RB Washington and three starters from the OL, but with a new QB and unproven wideouts, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact he can have with so many teams likely to load up the box to stop him.
The defense has to get better. Normally, when you only return four starters from a defense, including just one on the DL and one in the secondary from a team that went 9-4, the consensus would be that the defense will probably be worse off.
But with the Tigers...I'm not sure if they started true freshmen at every position that they could be any worse than what they were a year ago.
Looking at the schedule, they start out with a tough non-conference game at Illinois, where they will most likely be humiliated.
The start of conference play is brutal. They start with a home game vs. Nebraska and then go on the road to OSU and Colorado with Texas sandwiched in between, followed by a home game vs. Baylor.
0-5 right off the bat.
Missouri better come together quickly and find a way to win the next two games vs. KSU and Iowa St, because I don't see them winning at Kansas in the season finale.
Gary Pinkel is a good coach and has been very consistent at Missouri. Unfortunately, with the lack of proven playmakers and a defense still in transition, it will be very hard to find wins in a competitive Big 12 this year.
Final Projection: 4-8 (2-6)
Tough sledding ahead for the Tigers of Missouri.