Midseason review: Missouri


Record: 2-3 (0-2 Big 12)

Missouri's tough early-season schedule has taken its toll, causing the Tigers to fall out of the polls, to the bottom of the Big 12 standings and underneath .500 for the first time since 2004. The offense has been solid and the transition from Blaine Gabbert to James Franklin has been about as good as could realistically been expected. A late comeback bid and a game-winning kick went wayward in an overtime loss at Arizona State. Then Missouri failed to end the nation's longest home winning streak at Oklahoma before getting out-schemed by Bill Snyder in Manhattan.

So, here the Tigers sit. Disappointed, but yet underrated by virtue of their unimpressive record. The schedule softens now, with Iowa State next week and three games at home or a neutral site to close the season against Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas. In between? It could get bumpy with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M still queued up. Games like Arizona State and Manhattan aren't easy, but if you don't want to take a step back as a program after a 10-win season in 2010, they're games that have to be won. They weren't.

The defense hasn't been as good as advertised after a strong year last year and the defensive line has lacked the disruptiveness that was a hallmark of the 2010 team. There's still plenty of time to salvage the season for the Tigers, but the Big 12 title darkhorses look like they won't be a factor this year.

Offensive MVP: James Franklin, QB. Apologies to Henry Josey here, but Franklin has been really, really good and really, really vital to the offense. His 83 carries are 28 more than any other player on the team, and he's turned them into 306 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. He's also thrown the ball 161 times, completing just under 60 percent of his passes for just under 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns. Those 244 touches mean on 67 percent of Missouri's 364 plays this season, Franklin has been the man they've counted on. Missouri's only sixth in the Big 12 in total offense, but that's 16th nationally against a really tough schedule. Not bad for a first-year starter.

Defensive MVP: Andrew Wilson, LB. Wilson, a sophomore, lacked the hype of the more-athletic Zaviar Gooden, but he's been a huge playmaker early on this season. He leads the team with 38 tackles (24 solo) and has four tackles for loss. The 230-pounder from outside Kansas City was named the team's most improved player in the spring, and is carrying that improvement into the season. The Tiger D has benefited.