Missouri season review

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
4:27
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

With Chase Daniel along with most of his offensive weapons and 10 defensive starters back, Missouri was a fashionable preseason pick to contend for the national championship.

And why not? After an 11-2 season, the Tigers seemingly were on an upward swing and seemed to be a good choice for their first conference championship since 1969.

A funny thing happened on the way the Bowl Championship Series. The Tigers never fulfilled early expectations that boosted them to No. 3 in the country after a 5-0 start.

Back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Texas ended those national title hopes. The 9-4 Tigers claimed the North Division championship for the second-straight season, but were humiliated in a 61-21 beatdown by Oklahoma that underscored the problems that faced them all season.

The heralded defense never performed to expectations, ranking 99th in total defense and 117th in pass defense. All-American William Moore notched eight interceptions last season but produced only one during an injury-marred senior season.

The season ended with a thud as the Tigers were blistered for an average of 51 points and 532.5 yards per game in demoralizing losses to Kansas and Oklahoma to finish the season. It will be interesting to see if coach Gary Pinkel can get the Tigers to rebound for the Alamo Bowl matchup with Northwestern.

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Chase Daniel. By most standards, Daniel had an outstanding senior season, passing for a school-record 37 touchdown passes. But his passing yards and completions were down and his interceptions up from last season. He remained the inspirational leader for the Tigers and leaves Missouri as unquestionably one of best players in school history. But Daniel will personally remember his 0-4 career record against Oklahoma and winning no Big 12 titles.

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Sean Weatherspoon. He started quickly with interception returns for touchdowns in each of the Tigers first two games of the season -- a first in school history. Weatherspoon led the team with 138 tackles, 16 tackles for losses and three interceptions and was second with 4.5 sacks.

Turning point: The Tigers marched to the Oklahoma State 1-yard-line on the opening drive and were in position to score a momentum-setting touchdown. But on fourth down, Pinkel elected to go for a field goal, deflating any momentum in what turned out to be a 28-23 loss to the Cowboys that put an early crimp in Missouri's national title hopes.

What's next: The Tigers are heavy favorites to beat Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl, which would enable them to win a 10th game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. Their biggest off-season concerns are to see whether heralded recruit Blaine Gabbert can replace Daniel and if coordinator Matt Eberflus can put some teeth back into his defense.

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