The Missouri Tigers take the field today to start their 2013 campaign against Murray State. More than 50,000 fans are expected to consume Faurot Field as the Tigers start their second year in the SEC with the hopes of making an impact in a division that is filled with top tier teams that all look to stop the Tigers in their tracks. Last year’s team saw a season filled with a mixture of highs and lows that seemed to center around some inconsistencies on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback James Franklin began the year after seeing the last two Missouri quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbertboth enter the NFL. Gabbert was officially named the starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars in a press conference last week, giving Gabbert a chance to bring what he did while under head coach Gary Pinkle at MIZZOU to a team that really needs a QB to step up and be create some ball movement in the red zone. Franklin finished last year with a moderate performance all around. There were some injury issues that may be at least partially responsible for the mediocrity that became his 2012 season. Creating ball movement and forward momentum was a bit of an issue for Franklin last year averaging6.68 yards per attempt, with 139 passes completed out of 234 attempts giving him a 59.4% completion average and a QB rating of 123.6 after throwing 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
The story for this Tigers team is short and simple. Coach Pinkleneeds to get this team back to the basics and use what they know to keep a simple but effective game strategy. This game with Murray state is a perfect chance to test a few key components such as QB protection from the front line, giving Franklin time to make better decisions in the pocket. He is the type that can escape the pocket and make a throw on the run if he needs to,but if given a longer time to scan his receivers and never have to take his eyes off the field in front of him, he can really improve the passing game and hit pay dirt. Being sacked 20 times last year shows he was hurried too many times causing him to have to shift his point of view directly in front of him resulting in missed plays.
The Tigers face a tough schedule this year which includes teams like Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and TexasA&M. Big games and big teams this year mean the road is long but they believe they can still have a smooth ride. MIZZOU had been to a bowl game in each of the last 7 years under GaryPinkle previous to last year where they did not qualify for a bowl game. This year’s team wants to get right back in the game and make the bowl games as it had done so well in the past. Injuries were devastating to the Tigers last year where the team ended the season with a record of only 5-7. Murray state comes to Columbia today off the back of a season that also left them with a losing record of 5-6 in the FSC division. Missouri holds a record of 12-0 against teams from the FSC division and look to continue that streak. A MIZZOU win today would improve Head Coach Gary Pinkle’s opening game win streak to 12-0. This Tigers team has worked hard to prepare for the season and they are fired up and ready to hit the field.
The big picture for this team leaves me thinking their second year in the SEC will be one of reworking a few things that will result in a good year for the Tigers that the team and the fans alike will be proud of.