Why the Tigers will make it to a bowl this year:
1. Healthy players. No team ever stays totally healthy, but quarterback James Franklin had an entire offseason to recuperate from knee and shoulder issues that plagued him last season. Henry Josey also returns after missing all of the 2012 season with a devastating knee injury against Texas in 2011.
2. Star power. Missouri will have to rely on its stars to make big plays in order to compete in the SEC. Several Tigers have been named to preseason watch lists for being the best player at their position. Among those are Henry Josey for the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back, and cornerback E.J. Gaines is on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s best defensive player.
3. Strong bowl history. Before the 2012 season, the Tigers made it to a bowl game for seven straight years. Head coach Gary Pinkel knows what it takes to create a successful team. After falling one game short of bowl eligibility in 2012, look for Pinkel and his Tigers to get back to their winning ways.
4. Scheduling. No SEC football schedule will ever be easy, but any year where you can avoid both LSU and Alabama has to be considered a windfall. Missouri will still have to play four of the preseason top 10 teams. Three of those games will be at home, and upsets have been known to happen at Faurot Field (See Oklahoma 2010).
Why the Tigers won’t head to a bowl:
1. A brutal schedule. The Tigers will play five out of their 12 games against teams ranked in the AP preseason top 25, including a grueling month of October where the Tigers will face No. 23 Vanderbilt, No. 5 (tied) Georgia, No. 9 Florida, and No. 8 South Carolina consecutively. Missouri will also close out the season against No. 5 (tied) Texas A&M and a young but talented Ole Miss squad the week before that.
2. Loss of key contributors. Losing players once their eligibility runs out or they decide to go to the NFL draft is a normal part of college football, but it’s never easy to replace star players. Missouri will have to retool following the loss of Sheldon Richardson, T.J. Moe and Zaviar Gooden to the NFL.
3. Road competition. In order to make a bowl game, Missouri needs to win at least six of their 12 games. The Tigers failed to win any of their five contests versus ranked teams in 2012. If that trend continues, Missouri will need wins from games against unranked teams. Unfortunately, Missouri will have to play most unranked teams on the road. The Nov. 2 game against Tennessee will be Missouri’s only conference home game featuring an opponent outside the preseason top No. 25.
4. Coaching turnover. Maybe the most significant loss during the offseason was offensive coordinator David Yost. Head coach Gary Pinkel and Yost had been working together for 17 years dating back to their time together at Toledo. Yost served as quarterback's coach to former Missouri greats Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, and Blaine Gabbert, all of whom are in the NFL. Much of the Tiger’s season will rest on how the team responds to former co-offensive line coach Josh Henson as he takes over the Missouri offense.