The Tigers have had a rough welcoming to the SEC, losing to now-ranked No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina by a combined score of 70-30. However, here are 3 big reasons (in order of importance) why Tigers fans shouldn't get used to losing to SEC opponents.
1. Coaching Adjustments
Gary Pinkel and his staff have now seen two of the SEC's most talented teams. Like most SEC powerhouses, these two teams rely on a punishing ground game and talented defenses. Georgia was able to take over the game through defense, while South Carolina used a combination of defense, Marcus Lattimore, and a career day by Connor Shaw to defeat the Tigers. Now that the coaches have seen what SEC teams like to do, they can now, hopefully, make the necessary adjustments.
Offensive Coordinator David Yost needs to throw the ball down field. Missouri's offense has been stagnant since SE Louisiana, and a few big shots down field could change that. Both SEC defenses have shut down Missouri's rushing and passing attacks, because they have been too predictable. In both games, Tigers fans have seen plenty of run, run, short pass, three-and-outs, especially in the first quarter. The Tigers have three wide receivers who are at least 6-feet-4 inches tall. Teams absolutely have to respect that size and jump ball threat. If Yost can show more confidence in Franklin's long ball, secondaries may open up and the Tigers could go back to "nickle and diming" defenses down the field.
Defensive Coordinator Dave Steckel has struggled to put together a defensive game plan to contain these potent offenses for four quarters.The Tigers defense, at times, has shown the ability to pressure the quarterback, shut down the run and cause turnovers, but not on a consistent basis. Against Georgia, the defense played well enough to win the game, but the lack of offense and turnovers put the Tigers defense in tough spots all night. Against South Carolina, the defense looked very confused. It seemed like the game plan was to stop Lattimore and make the Gamecocks beat them through the air, which they did ALL game. Connor Shaw lit up the Tigers defense, going 20-21 with 249 yards and two touchdowns. That's the difference between good SEC teams and the rest of the FBS - teams like Georgia and South Carolina have the personnel to dominate all aspects of the game. Missouri has a good talented defense, and with a few coaching adjustments and barring injury, they will be just fine in the SEC.
2. Two Very Good Teams
Missouri has had to face two of the top ten teams in the country in the first four weeks of the season. Both of these teams have extremely high expectations for this season. How interesting would things get in the BCS later this year if Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia all had one loss?Georgia heads to South Carolina on October 6th in what should be a fantastic match-up. Also that day, Missouri hosts Vanderbilt in what looks like it could be the Tigers first SEC football victory. Unfortunately, the Tigers still have to welcome 'Bama and travel to Gainesville, Knoxville and College Station later this season.
No one likes to use injuries as an excuse for a lack of success, but it is worth noting that Missouri has not been healthy this season. Going into week one, Missouri fans had already known they were going to be without star running back Henry Josey all season and with a banged up QB James Franklin. It turns out Franklin's surgically repaired shoulder could be a lingering problem all season. Other Tigers starters who have missed games this season include OLB Xaviar Gooden, OT Elvis Fisher, RT Jack Meiners and LG Travis Ruth (out for season). Missouri has had to rely on true freshmen such as OL Evan Boehm and RB Russell Hansbrough to fill in for injured veterans. Luckily for the Tigers, Gooden and Meiners are scheduled to be back this week against Central Florida.