Why Mizzou can repeat in SEC East

Key returnees, favorable slate make Tigers division contenders in 2014

Updated: February 12, 2014, 9:21 AM ET
By KC Joyner | ESPN Insider

Missouri's Gary Pinkel and Maty MaukAP Photo/L.G. PattersonWith Maty Mauk slated to start at QB in 2014, Gary Pinkel and the Tigers will be tough to beat.

Last season, the Missouri Tigers came out of nowhere to win the SEC East division. Like many dark horse teams, their success is viewed through a one-year-wonder prism, and they therefore didn't land a spot on Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25.

This exclusion is understandable given Missouri's offseason personnel losses. The Tigers had to say goodbye to their starting quarterback (James Franklin), top two pass-rushers (Michael Sam and Kony Ealy), best cornerback (E.J. Gaines), No. 1 running back (Henry Josey) and two of their most prolific pass-catchers (L'Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas). All totaled, Missouri brings back only nine starters, putting them last in the SEC in terms of returning starters.

Those departures are compounded by Missouri's relative lack of success on the 2014 recruiting trail. The Tigers ended up 33rd in the ESPN 2014 RecruitingNation Class Rankings, and ESPN.com SEC blogger Alex Scarborough rated the team 13th in the SEC in terms of how the Tigers performed versus recruiting expectations.

Even with all of these negatives, there is a strong case to be made that Missouri can repeat as the SEC East division champion in 2014.

Offensive outlook

It starts with quarterback Maty Mauk.