So you're Missouri.
You come into the SEC with most people figuring you got the invite due to simply being available and the scheduling difficulties of having a 13-team conference. You get a terrible rash of injuries your first year, leading to a 5-7 season. It's an aberration, but no one sees it that way. There is hot seat talk for Gary Pinkel. How do you respond?
You do it by going 12-2 with an SEC East title, that's how.
Yet despite the great season a year ago, the curse of high expectations hasn't set in over Columbia. In an industry where copying and pasting last year's final standings onto this year's projections is pretty common, Mizzou currently sits in fourth in the East in the preseason consensus. None of the 14 (so far) media outlets with predictions out has slotted the Tigers above third.
Dismissing Dorial Green-Beckham put a damper on a lot of those predictions, and it's true that there aren't many seasoned targets for the confident, if not entirely accurate, Maty Mauk to throw to. With a good line and a pretty nice committee of running backs, the Tigers' ground game should be able to make up for some of the losses at wideout.
The bigger questions come from the defensive back seven, where just two starters return. That said, this might not be a bad year to turn over that set given all of the quarterback uncertainty around the league. Plus the monstrous D-line will help out those behind it, just as the running game will help out the passing game.
When you look around the field, the secondary is really the only place that should give you the shakes. Even at receiver, the projected top three options of Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, and Darius White are all seniors.
No, if there's one place besides secondary where Mizzou has an obvious deficiency, it's in the recruiting rankings. MU's best rated class in the last five was the 21st-ranked 2010 group, but most of those players are gone by now. Just how much do you believe in Pinkel's ability to beat teams that are full of stars? Last year's was an experienced team winning an injury ravaged division. Could he really do it again?
He won ten or more games in three of his last five years in the Big 12, and that was when the Big 12 was great. He won 12 last year. In this season without sure things, will he pull it off once more or will the question marks be lethal?
Missouri asks you to believe. Do you?