1) Smith challenged in training camp
With junior Brad Smith entering his senior season on the heels of a disappointing junior campaign, he should have all the motivation he needs to have a strong training camp. That said, Smith will face the first challenge for the starting job since he grabbed it away from Kirk Farmer in 2002.
With Brandon Coleman a year wiser, Chase Patton a year older and Chase Daniel in the mix, the quarterback position could be murky if coach Gary Pinkel allows it to be. At the beginning of camp (or even during spring football), Pinkel could declare Smith his quarterback no matter what happens, but that would be counterproductive. Being pushed to keep his job by a couple youngsters could prove very helpful for Smith.
2) Temple shines, but sits
Tony Temple will have the best training camp of any Tiger tailback but will place second on the depth chart behind Marcus Woods to begin the season. Woods will have a consistent camp but Temple overshadows him in every respect, breaking big runs to the outside against a refashioned Tiger defense. p>In the long run, it turns out to be for the best. Woods opens the season strong while Temple is quiet in reserve duty. A few weeks later, Temple is dinged up in practice and misses the rest of the season, solidifying Woods as the primary ball carrier.
3) Early optimism
Just like the past two seasons, the Tigers open the season with a handful of creampuffs -- this time New Mexico, Troy and a third game to be announced, most likely Arkansas State. It is unlikely the Tigers will be as highly thought of before next season begins as they were in 2004, but they will have a chance to get some positive momentum going. Without Iowa on the schedule, the Tigers should cruise into conference play undefeated.
The key word there is should. Losing to Troy in two consecutive seasons would expose the Tigers as ridiculous underachievers, and losing either of the other two games would just be disgraceful. Missouri should cruise into its Big 12-opening home matchup with Texas with an unblemished record.
4) Missouri wins a game it shouldn't
To this writer, it looks like the Oklahoma State game. The Tigers travel to Stillwater to face a maturing Cowboy team facing the monumental challenge of faring well in the Big 12 South. With Donovan Woods still learning to run the offense, the Tigers take advantage early and jump out to a big lead.
Oklahoma State charges back in the second half, forcing the teams to overtime. This time around, Missouri prevails in the third extra session, taking a 43-40 win back to Columbia.
5) Missouri loses a game it shouldn't
It might not be an upset this time around, but this writer considers every game against Kansas one that should not be lost. Missouri's venture into Lawrence is a little more successful than in 2003, since Kansas was forced to use a fifth-string quarterback after injuries, transfers and rickets force out the top four passers.
The Jayhawks overcome anyways, pushing out to a 10-point halftime lead and cruising to a comfortable win. Disgusted, the Missouri fans in attendance help the Kansas student body tear down the goal posts, and then hijack one of the poles and use it to pound dents into one of the Tigers' team buses. Paying for the damages forces the Missouri athletic department to disband the track and field team for a season.
6) Franklin becomes top receiving threat
With the graduation of Thomson Omboga, William Franklin slides into a starting spot, although it takes awhile for him to become the focus of the passing game. After having an unusually strong week of practice, Franklin becomes more involved against Troy, burning the Trojan secondary for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
He becomes more involved as the season unfolds, finishing the year with eight touchdowns. Bonus prediction: The combination of Patton to Franklin becomes as good as any in the Big 12 in 2006.
7) Smith continues to rewrite the record book
With his name all over the school records already, Brad Smith's strong senior season helps to overcome a disappointing junior campaign. The coaching staff scales back its attempts to make Smith a better passer, allowing him to focus on his natural ability as a runner. The offense also changes a bit, using two-back sets more often to give opposing defenses different looks.
The changes pay off for Smith. He sets the school record for passing yards in the opening game of Big 12 play, shooting past Jeff Handy. He finishes his career with nearly double the amount of total offense that Handy, the previous record holder, managed. He also becomes the school's top rusher midway through league play, shooting ahead of Zack Abron's short-lived record. Smith falls just short of the touchdown record, though, finishing with 40 to Abron's 42.
8) Missouri faces another poor North
The Tigers' schedule against the South breaks down more favorably in 2005, as they play two home games instead of one. Topping Baylor at home should be automatic, while meeting Texas at Faurot gives the Tigers a much better chance to come out of the game with a win. We have already seen how the Tigers will win at Stillwater, so Missouri should be in good shape with a 2-1 record against the South.
Still, they struggle to take advantage. After losing back-to-back games to Kansas and Colorado, Missouri slips to 3-3 in league play. A win against Baylor breaks the slide, but traveling to Manhattan the following week would prove a more difficult task.
9) Another shot at the conference championship
Missouri enters its season-ending matchup with Kansas State at 4-3, one game behind the Wildcats. Just like in 2002, the Tigers have a trip to the Big 12 Championship game on the line in Manhattan.
And just like in 2002, things don't go so well. After a Franklin touchdown puts the Tigers ahead early, the Wildcat defense wakes up and puts the clamps on the Tigers. Allen Webb throws for two scores and runs for another; a late Smith touchdown is not enough as Kansas State earns a 24-17 win.
10) Deja bowl
After falling to the Wildcats, Missouri finishes the season 7-4 and earns another trip to the Independence Bowl. This time around, the Tigers face a rejuvenated South Carolina team that had a surprisingly strong 2004 under new coach Steve Spurrier.
Spurrier's Fun n Gun exposes a young Tiger secondary and Smith cannot do enough to earn the Tigers a win in his final collegiate game. The Gamecocks take a 37-28 victory and drop Missouri to 7-5 to close 2005.