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Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Midseason review: Missouri

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com



Missouri Tigers

Record: 5-0 (1-0 Big 12)

Missouri has safely secured its fourth 5-0 start in five years under coach Gary Pinkel, but the Tigers' real tests start now. Missouri's offense hasn't replaced the big-play threat it lost in Danario Alexander, but possession receivers Michael Egnew and T.J. Moe have helped pace the offense while racking up 83 receptions, 829 yards and five touchdowns between them. Both players rank in the top-10 nationally in receptions, with bubble screens, underneath routes and sure hands to thank. The longest play of Missouri's young season was also its biggest, a 68-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the final minute against San Diego State. Missouri's offense may lack the explosiveness it's had in the past, but with an improved defense, it hasn't needed to be. The Tigers gave up more than 25 points a game last season and ranked outside the top 100 in pass defense. This year, they're giving up just more than 11 points, tops in the Big 12 and No. 3 nationally. We'll find out just how good the defense is with games against Oklahoma and Texas A&M in the next two weeks, but the Tigers have clearly looked like the only real competition between Nebraska and a second consecutive North title.

Offensive MVP: WR T.J. Moe – This has been the year of emerging offensive stars in the Big 12. Like Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State and Taylor Martinez at Nebraska, Moe has emerged as one of the Big 12's rising stars with five more catches and 129 more yards than Missouri's next-best receiver. Moe's hands are reminiscent of past Missouri star Chase Coffman, and Moe announced his presence loudly with 13 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against Illinois. Since, he's had at least seven catches and 79 yards in every game. But Moe will forever be remembered for his game-winning catch against San Diego State, saving Missouri from what could have been an embarrassing early defeat.

Defensive MVP: DC Dave Steckel – Missouri's battled injuries and suspensions all season, but Steckel, who took over as coordinator after the 2008 season, has kept his unit together and better than it's been in a long time. The Tigers have played without star defensive end Aldon Smith (broken fibula), linebacker Will Ebner (suspension), linebacker Luke Lambert (hamstring) and safeties Jarrell Harrison (meniscus) and Jasper Simmons (knee injury, suspension), who are all major contributors. But their replacements have stepped in and helped push the Tigers to a fantastic start defensively. Steckel's crew should be fun to watch if it can ever get back to full strength during conference play.