Defending East champ Mizzou welcomes lack of respect nationally
Holding the coveted title of ‘defending SEC Eastern Division champions’ means something to Gary Pinkel and his Mizzou football team.
But it doesn’t nationally after the Tigers, still talented despite the loss of defensive player of the year Michael Sam and quarterback James Franklin, were nowhere to be found in the preseason coaches poll this week.
Mizzou’s banner season last fall which culminated in a final Top 5 ranking will likely carry the same weight across the national media spectrum when the preseason Associated Press poll’s released as well, probable disregard and a fourth-place division projection behind South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Rightfully so, the lack of respect motivates the Tigers.
Pinkel couldn’t ask for better bulletin board material inside Mizzou’s facility at Faurot Field.
“I don’t really get into (preseason rankings),” Pinkel said at SEC Media Days. “I don’t get into what is said or what’s predicted. When I became the head football coach at Missouri, I wanted to be respected in the Big 12, and now it’s the SEC, and nationally. Not only do you have responsibility to the league and to your school, but to this league we have responsibility.
“I just want to be respected.”
Would another division title suffice?
Mizzou’s certainly capable with Maty Mauk, a rising star across college football at the quarterback position, and Markus Golden, a pass rusher with all-conference ability, leading the way on both sides of the ball.
The Tigers return eight starters on offense and four on defense, notably safety Braylon Webb and defensive lineman Shane Ray. Lucas Vincent is potential high-impact player along with Matt Hoch and they’ll help fill the void left by Sam and Kony Ealy.
Webb is one of the league’s most underrated and versatile talents who tallied a conference-best 6o solo stops as a defensive back last fall. Golden, Webb and Ray will share their knowledge of producing turnovers with the Mizzou’s host of newcomers on Dave Steckel’s defense.
Should the Tigers once again own the turnover margin category and get solid play out of Mauk, another division title’s not so far fetched considering the manageable schedule by SEC standards.
No preseason buzz for Mizzou must feel awfully familiar for the folks in Columbia, and last time that happened, the Tigers won 12 games.