July 22, 2009

Five reasons the experts might be right

Yesterday, PowerMizzou.com gave readers five reasons to believe the Tigers could win the North again. To be fair and balanced, we look at the other side today. Few are actually predicting the Tigers to be in the race, much less win it. Here are some of the reasons the experts could be right.

1. They just lost too much

Every team is replacing players every year. But few have to replace as many as Missouri does this season. Everyone knows about the stars like Daniel, Maclin, Hood, Moore and Coffman. But Stryker Sulak and Colin Brown were drafted too. Justin Garrett, Tommy Chavis, Brock Christopher, Castine Bridges, Tommy Saunders and Ryan Madison were all starters for most or all of the last two seasons. Throw in Jeff Wolfert and Missouri is replacing 14 of a possible 24 starters. Half of those 14 rank in the top handful of players in school history in at least one major statistical category. It's a lot to overcome.

3. Special teams could cost Missouri some games

Jeremy Maclin was the most dangerous return man in college football the last two years (ask Pat Fitzgerald or Ron Zook). Jeff Wolfert was the most accurate kicker in the history of the college game. Again, the guys replacing them might be very, very good, but we just don't know. Extra points didn't even merit paying attention the last few years. For the most part, neither did field goals. And even when Maclin didn't get his hands on the ball, he changed the way teams kicked to Missouri and improved field position. It is hard to imagine that the kicking and return games won't take a step backward this season.

5. The "bottom feeders" are getting better

For the last two or three seasons (in some cases more), games against Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State would be marked down as automatic wins. That isn't really the case this year. Yes, that has something to do with the Tigers having so many questions themselves, but all three of those teams should be better than they were a year ago. The Bears have Robert Griffin, who draws a comparison to Brad Smith every few hours. The Cyclones bring back a ton of experience on offense and could be much better. At Kansas State, Bill Snyder is back. Missouri hasn't beaten him in nearly two decades. And the game is in Manhattan. If Missouri wants any shot at the North, the Tigers must win all three of these games. One slip would likely cost them any realistic shot at the division title.

Beginning tomorrow, we will count down our list of the ten most important Tigers to this season's success as fall camp looms less than two weeks away.

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