The Missouri Tigers, ranked No. 23 prior to their AutoZone Liberty Bowl loss, are cropping up in a number of 2019 preseason top-25 rankings.
For the majority of its 2018 season, Missouri did not sniff the AP Top 25. While the Tigers came closer in the ranking than in recent years past, it wasn’t until Mizzou finished its season with a bid to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, that the Tigers were finally ranked.
The last time Missouri was in a top-25 poll was during the Gary Pinkel era. During that span, the Tigers were consistently ranked in the top-25, and quickly gained more respect from the media, than they have since joining the ranks of the SEC.
Suffice to say, after its second gut-wrenching bowl loss in back-to-back years, the Tigers disappeared from the AP’s end-of-season ranking. Given the amount of success head coach Barry Odom and his staff had recruiting in 2018, it’s difficult to keep the Tigers out, heading into 2019.
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While I’m excited to see the Tigers breaking into some preseason polls, I’m also cautiously optimistic about whether they will live up to ranked expectations. Considering Mizzou’s roster, the main area that still has to prove itself is the defensive secondary.
Throughout Odom’s tenure as head coach, the Tigers’ secondary has shown, time and again, how abysmal it can be. There are fleeting moments of inspired performance, but they are far and few between.
Missouri will, arguably, field a top-25 offense in 2019. The Tigers return a number of talented receivers, and even though Mizzou is losing running back Damarea Crockett, it will retain the services of running backs Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie.
Most notable of the Tigers’ recruiting efforts, however, goes to the acquiring of former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, who played on Clemson’s 2016 national championship-winning team, as the No. 2 to current Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The acquisition of Bryant answered a huge question for the Tigers, who will be without Drew Lock at the start of the 2019 season. Bryant brings a dual-threat with him to Columbia. While he is a fairly accurate passer, his ability to move the ball on the ground was an area where Lock lacked.
Depending on how the Tigers’ 2019 schedule aligns, it could set-up to favor Missouri maintaining its positioning in the top-25 rankings.