December 8, 2008

Grading the Season

The Tigers wrapped up their regular season at 9-and-3, then fell hard to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. hands out the grades from the Tigers' campaign with a bowl game still to go:

Offensive Overview

The Tigers were, once again, a top five offense. The thing that separated this year's offense from the 2007 version was turnovers. Missouri suffered too many at too many bad times. Mizzou gave the ball away 23 times, which was 67th in the nation. You don't finish in the top ten with numbers like that (teams in the BCS, outside of the Big East and ACC champions, ranked first, third, fifth, fifth, fifth, 20th, 24th and 49th in fewest turnovers lost). But the production was still there. Tough to argue much with an offense that was fourth nationally in passing and scoring, sixth in total offense and 53rd in rushing.

Final Grade: B

Defensive Overview

It is tough to grade any Big 12 defense strictly on scoring and total yardage numbers. The Tigers, for the record, were 75th and 99th in those categories. Only one Big 12 defense (Texas at 20th) ranked in the nation's top 56 in scoring. The Longhorns were also the best defense in total yardage, ranking a shocking 50th in the nation. Turnovers once again tell a big part of the story here. Missouri had just 21 takeaways this season. In 2007, the Tigers ranked eighth nationally with 33 takeaways. In other words, teams basically had a full extra possession in every game this year. That said, this was the year the defense was supposed to catch up to the offense. It did not happen. Outside of Oklahoma State, the Tiger defense did not play well enough to turn any of Missouri's four losses into wins. Even in that game against the Pokes, the defense gave up three huge plays for touchdowns. The big plays and busted coverages were the major problems. Overall, the defensive performance, when put in context with the rest of the Big 12, was not awful. But it did not come close to living up to pre-season expectations. Prior to the season, Pinkel said the key to the defense being better was the ten returning starters each playing better than they did a year ago. Outside of Weatherspoon, Bridges and Sulak, none of them did.

Final Grade: D+

Special Teams

Jeff Wolfert was very, very good, as he has been for three years now. Maclin's opportunities in the return game were limited, but that had more to do with opposing coaches kicking away from him than anything. The punting was a major concern coming into the season, but the Tigers ended the season fourth in the league in net punting average, a huge improvement over years past (and they punted fewer times than anyone but Texas Tech). Overall, the special teams were very good. It was probably an A performance outside of kickoff coverage.

Final Grade: B+

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