The Missouri Tigers are out for redemption this year as they look to conquer the Big XII and win a Conference Championship in the new realigned conference.
Even though they lost their two big stars this year in Blaine Gabbert and Aldon Smith, the Tigers return 17 of 22 starters (nine on offense, eight on defense) from a 10-3 team last year. This team is hungry and now has its chance to prove to the country that they are the real deal.
James Franklin takes over the reigns at quarterback from Gabbert. He is a different pace from Gabbert as Franklin displays the dual threat ability of run-pass. While his arm might take a little time to progress, he will have a full arsenal of receivers that include Jerrell Jackson, T.J. Moe, Wes Kemp, and Michael Egnew, who is considered to be the top tight end in the country. Moe, especially, will be a favorite target of Franklin as he possesses the ability of a possession receiver; the receiver willing to get the tough yards.
Behind a veteran offensive line led by senior right tackle Dan Hoch, Franklin should have no problem with time. The line will also open up running lanes for running backs De'Vion Moore, Kendial Lawrence, and Henry Josey. Mizzou's running game was always a weakness last year, but hopefully with a dual-threat quarterback and an experienced offensive line, the ability to throw three running backs in the game should open up some holes.
The defense loses Aldon Smith and Carl Gettis, who anchored the back line for Mizzou last year. However, they return stars in Jacquies Smith, Will Ebner, Dominique Hamilton, and Kenji Jackson. Now the Tigers won't be relying on this defense to keep them in games as their offense has fire power at all positions, but this 'bend not break' should bring a huge lift to the Tigers.
And of course, we can't forget about the strong, accurate leg of kicker Grant Ressel, who is on the watch list for the Lou Groza Award (Best Kicker in NCAA).They have the tools to do it, and should be in line for a Big 12 Title run.
With Nebraska out of the way, the Tigers now have to focus on the likes of Oklahoma and Texas, having to play both of them this year, unlike in the past. Texas is coming off a down year last year, and while the Tigers get them late in the season, one can never sleep on the Longhorns with that storied football tradition.
The key game this season is the match up with Oklahoma down in Norman. The Tigers defeated the Sooners last year in Columbia, and the Sooners are looking for revenge with the game on their turf. With stars Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles, look for that game to be a shootout.
However, one must not look past a pesky Arizona State team in Week 2 down in Tempe as the Sun Devils are a rejuvenated team like the Tigers and have many returning starters from the 2010 season.
Also, October 22nd against Oklahoma State is my other "trap game." Even though they are at home, Mizzou will have to defend arguably the best receiver in college football in Justin Blackmon who is a future first round draft pick. Expect another shootout like the Oklahoma game.
If they get through Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State 3-1 or better, I see no reason why Mizzou doesn't capture the Big XII Title this year. They have the players, the experience, and a solid coaching staff to provide some excitement in Columbia and around the country.