Over the month of July we will look at the top college football teams in the nation and preview 31 teams in 31 days. Here is team #25 and the 2010 Missouri Tigers Football Preview.
No. 25 Missouri Tigers
2009 record: 8-5
2009 Bowl Game: 35-13 loss to Navy in Texas Bowl
2009 ATS: 4-8
Returning starters: 16 (8 on offense, 8 on defense)
Mizzou returns eight starters on offense. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert had a strong 2009 season, throwing for 3,593 yards and 24 touchdowns. He had only nine passes picked off. Gabbert added 204 yards on the ground and scored three rushing touchdowns.
Senior running back Derrick Washington’s production has slowed down a little bit after a great season in 2008. Two years ago he ran for 1,036 yards and 17 touchdowns and added 277 receiving yards and two touchdown catches.
In 2009 he had more carries, but his rushing yards dropped to 865. He scored ten touchdowns on the ground and didn’t have any touchdown catches. His average per carry dipped from 5.9 yards to 4.6 yards. He will most likely share carries with De’Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence in 2010. Maybe the lighter workload will get his numbers back up.
The Tigers are losing their top two receivers in Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. Alexander had 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns, and Perry had 696 yards and six touchdowns. Mizzou had to replace three receivers in 2009 and had to find a new quarterback, but their passing attack turned out great.
The line is experienced and returns four starters. They should give Gabbert plenty of time and will help the Tigers’ running game immensely.
Mizzou loses top tackler Sean Weatherspoon to the NFL. He had 111 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 10 tackles for a loss in 2009, and was drafted in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons.
The linebacking unit still looks strong with three players with significant playing time returning and Will Ebner most likely leading the way. Ebner had 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and six tackles for a loss in 2009.
Sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith is the best pass rusher on Mizzou’s defense. He recorded 11.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss last season. He will get help from junior end Jacquies Smith and junior nose tackle Dominique Hamilton.
The secondary returns all of their starters, but it is the weakest part of the Tigers’ defense. The defense combined for only seven interceptions in 2009. Corner Kevin Rutland led the way with only two picks.
No other Tiger had more than one interception, and departing LB Weatherspoon had one of the eight picks. The Tigers ranked 104th in pass defense last season, and need to improve that part of their defense.
Kicker Grant Ressel was extremely accurate last season. He broke the NCAA record for accuracy, making 65 of his 66 kicks. He missed only one out of 27 field goals. Ressel returns, and while he most likely won’t have that great of a season, he should still be able to provide solid numbers.
The Tigers lose rugby-style punter Jake Harry, who averaged 42.8 yards per punt and forced 15 fair catches. He pinned opposing offenses within their own 20-yard line 23 times. He ranked fourth in the nation in net punting average with 40.5 yards.
Punt returner Carl Gettis averaged only 7.1 yards last season, but will most likely assume the returning role again. Jasper Simmons returned the majority of kicks, averaging 22.6 yards per return.
Against the spread
The Tigers went a measly 4-8 against the college football point spread last season. They failed to cover as a home favorite in three tries. They were strong as a road favorite, going 3-0 in that situation. They went 0-3 as the underdog, 0-2 at home and 0-1 on the road.
Mizzou went 2-6 ATS against conference opponents last season. They are 59-57-1 ATS in the last ten years. Tenth year head coach Gary Pinkel is 54-52-4 ATS with the Tigers.
You can bet on it
Bet the Tigers against Colorado on October 9 for a college football pick. Mizzou took an early 33-0 lead last season and never looked back. They have won the last four meetings in the series and they are looking to extend the streak.
Favor the fade
Fade the Tigers at Nebraska on October 30. They won their last game in Lincoln, but are 1-15 when playing at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are in for a strong season and should use their home field advantage to beat the Tigers here. Mizzou is only 7-23 against ranked opponents under head coach Gary Pinkel.