There are high expectations from fans and media for Missouri football now that the school has joined the SEC. After watching SEC Media Days, it sunk in that Mizzou has indeed joined the best football conference in the country. It is an exciting opportunity, but there’s always the fear that the Tigers won’t transition well to the new conference right out of the gate.
The SEC has produced the last six national champions, though it is unlikely that Mizzou will become the seventh. But, the Tigers should be strong enough to become bowl eligible if quarterback James Franklin can stay healthy. So what should Missouri fans realistically expect from the Tigers this season?
There are six games that Missouri should win this season: Southeastern Louisiana (home), Arizona State (home), Central Florida (away), Vanderbilt (home), Kentucky (home) and Syracuse (home). Faurot Field has become a friendly confines and the Tigers have only lost once at home in the last two seasons.
There are six toss-up games for the Tigers this season; two at home, four on the road. The toss-up home games are against Georgia and Alabama.
Mizzou has a decent chance of beating Georgia in week two because the Bulldogs will be without cornerback Sanders Commings, safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree, all due to suspensions. Running back Isaiah Crowell was kicked off the team this past summer, which should force the Bulldogs to throw more than they did last year. If the Tigers can contain quarterback Aaron Murray, one of the best gunslingers in the SEC, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.
Alabama is the class of conference and the defending BCS National Champions, but Missouri gets them at home, which hopefully can be a huge advantage. While Alabama has a stout defense, the Crimson Tide hasn’t played many teams that run a spread offense like the Tigers. Maybe Mizzou doesn’t win both these games, but it’s realistic to assume it steals one.
The four away toss-up games are against South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M; all conference games that will be played far away from Columbia. Each are a tough match-up for one reason or another. South Carolina has a running back in Marcus Lattimore that the Tigers must focus on. Florida returns 10 starters on defense for coach WIll Muschamp. Tennessee is tough place to play and quarterback Tyler Bray is very underrated. Beating Texas A&M for the third straight season in College Station will be difficult. It’s fair to assume Mizzou steals one SEC away game. It could be more, but the grind of the conference schedule will make every game a battle.
A realistic goal for Mizzou in its first SEC season? An 8-4 record. If that happens, Mizzou fans will be satisfied and the Tigers will earn respect from other SEC schools.