Midseason analysis: Missouri

October, 20, 2009
10/20/09
2:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri Tigers

Record: 4-0, 0-2

The Tigers were an early surprise as they streaked to victories over Illinois, Bowling Green, Furman and Nevada to crack the Top 25 in September. The fast start by sophomore quarterback Blaine Gabbert had some pundits comparing him to John Elway and Ben Roethlisberger after only a few games. But some of those early praises look a tad premature after a blown fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska and his sputters against Oklahoma State in back-to-back losses to start conference play. The Tigers had three turnovers in each of the losses and the defense struggled producing any turnovers, much to the chagrin of Gary Pinkel and his new coordinators, David Yost and Dave Steckel. The result is a skid into the North cellar as the only team in the division without a conference victory. The running game has also struggled most of the season, making this a marked contrast from Missouri's ’ back-to-back teams that advanced to the Big 12 title game. And it won’t get any easier with a game against a Texas team on Saturday that is intent on proving its BCS mettle.

Offensive MVP, WR Danario Alexander: After struggling with injuries most of his career, Alexander has fulfilled the promise when he arrived at the school. He produced nine catches for a career-high 180 yards last week at Oklahoma State, filling the featured role that formerly was filled by Jeremy Maclin. The tall, angular Alexander ranks second in the conference and ninth in the country with an average of 104.5 yards per game and fourth in the conference with an average of 7.3 catches per game. And he’s already surpassed his previous career season high for receptions and yards only seven games into the season.

Defensive MVP, LB Sean Weatherspoon: Even as the Tigers have struggled during their two-game slump to start conference play, Weatherspoon has been a constant as a defensive leader and producer. The Lombardi Award semifinalist ranks sixth in the conference with an average of 8.33 tackles per game. He’s notched at least nine tackles in three games this season and is only 83 tackles from breaking the school record. He can get it with a fast finish and a bowl game -- much like his strong closing last season. And after the Tigers' slow start, they could certainly use a boost from Weatherspoon, too.

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