Calling Missouri’s 2015 season and the months that followed tumultuous would be an understatement. The Tigers saw protests erupt over campus, lost coach Gary Pinkel to health issues, dismissed starting quarterback Maty Mauk and saw their athletic director, university president and chancellor leave.
Football was little consolation for Missouri fans. The team was virtually unwatchable after first losing Mauk to suspension, and it boasted the SEC’s worst offense. Something has to give for the Tigers to get better.
Here are five bold predictions about Missouri’s 2016 season.
The offense remains a disaster
It’s almost impressive how bad Missouri was on offense last season. The Tigers averaged a paltry 280 yards per game, good enough for No. 125 nationally. Only Boston College was worse among Power Five teams. The Tigers’ 13.6 points per game beat only Kent State.
The Tigers bring back just five offensive starters from 2015, and have a depleted offensive line. Quarterback Drew Lock took over after Mauk was suspended, but threw just three touchdowns to seven interceptions in eight starts. If the scoring stays low, it will be another unwatchable season.
Charles Harris leads the SEC in TFLs
Not many players are more destructive at the line of scrimmage than Harris. Using his signature spin move, Harris gets into the backfield and causes havoc. As a sophomore, Harris accumulated 18.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks.
He was right behind Myles Garrett last year, but Harris will lead the SEC in tackles for loss this season. The defensive line should continue to be excellent with Freshman All-American Terry Beckner Jr. eating up space in the middle. A strong attack will open space for Harris to operate.
Mizzou makes a bowl game
After the season that was, critics are low on the Tigers’ chances in 2016. ESPN’s Football Power Index has Missouri favored in just five of its 12 games. However, the bet here is that the Tigers play effectively and disciplined enough to still get over the hump.
Even during the disastrous 2015 campaign, Missouri still finished 5-7. The Tigers were even invited to a bowl on the strength of the program’s Academic Progress Rate. Without the clouds that hung over the program last year, the Tigers will return to a bowl game in 2016.
Transfers lead the offense
While there are several question marks on offense, two elite athletes transferred into the program. Oklahoma running back Alex Ross rushed for 786 yards during his three years with the Sooners, but fell behind Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Alabama transfer Chris Black was a blue-chip recruit, but he never broke away from a loaded pack.
Both players will be given ample opportunity to shine this season. Black will revitalize a receiving corps whose top receiver compiled a paltry 350 yards. Ross will team up with returning running back Ish Witter to try and balance the offense. Black and Ross could save this unit.
Dismissals are felt across the field
Missouri has dismissed several significant players in the last year, including Mauk, defensive end Walter Brady (12.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks) and defensive tackle Harold Brantley. The Tigers have enough talent to withstand the losses early in the year, but depth will be hit tremendously. Additionally, eight freshmen are listed on the depth chart for Missouri. Though the talent is there, having to play so many freshmen will eventually lead to lapses.
Source: SEC Country