Time to dive into another team's upcoming schedule.
Next up: The Tigers of Columbia.
Nonconference (with 2010 records):
Sept. 3: Miami (OH) (10-4)
Sept. 9: at Arizona State (6-6)
Sept. 17: Western Illinois (8-5)
Home Big 12 games:
Oct. 15: Iowa State (5-7)
Oct. 22: Oklahoma State (11-2)
Nov. 12: Texas (5-7)
Nov. 19: Texas Tech (8-5)
Nov. 26: Kansas (3-9) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Away Big 12 games:
Sept. 24: Oklahoma (12-2)
Oct. 8: Kansas State (7-6)
Oct. 29: Texas A&M (9-4)
Nov. 5: Baylor (7-6)
Gut-check game: Oklahoma. No one expects Missouri to win this game. Oklahoma's status as a title contender, its home record under Bob Stoops (two losses in 12 seasons) and last year's upset in Columbia assure that. But Missouri could solidify itself as a real threat to win the Big 12 -- likely the favorite -- with a win. A close loss would be a good sign that the James Franklin Era at Mizzou will be a good one, but the Big 12's toughest conference opener provides a good opportunity for the Tigers, who won't have much to lose when the game arrives.
Trap game: at Kansas State. After an off-week, Missouri will play a game most expect it to win. But a trip to Manhattan won't be easy, even though the Tigers have won five consecutive games against the Wildcats, with all wins coming by at least 17 points. Two road games to kick off conference play is never easy, and a loss here could be a sign that the expectations for Franklin should be measured.
Snoozer: Western Illinois. The Leathernecks only played one team from an AQ conference last year, a 31-21 road loss to Purdue. Appalachian State ended their season with a 28-point win in the playoffs, and I'd expect a similar result when Western Illinois makes the trek to Columbia.
Non-con challenge: at Arizona State. Like Kansas State in 2009, too many FCS teams on the schedule prevented the Sun Devils from playing in a bowl at 6-6, but they return in 2011 as a possible top 25 team to start the season and one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South. Missouri will head west to Tempe, the same place it suffered a heartbreaking loss to Iowa in the Insight Bowl, but they'll get a decent stage to showcase the team in the season's second week. ESPN will televise the Friday night game, which kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Pretender or contender: at Texas A&M. If Missouri thinks it can ride its dark horse status into contending for a Big 12 title, this game will be the one that probably proves it either way. Missouri could knock off Oklahoma State at home, but if it loses the early-season game against Oklahoma, the return trip to College Station will be huge for the Tigers' title chances. Last year, Missouri embarrassed the Aggies, 30-9, but has to travel to two of the top three teams in the Big 12. Lose both of those games, and the Big 12 title dreams are all but over.
Analysis: Missouri has one of the Big 12's six 4-4-1 schedules, thanks to a season finale at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas. The schedule, though, has an intriguing rhythm. The two road games split by a bye week to open the season could be tough, but the conference schedule rotates with home-home and away-away before the finale against the rival Jayhawks. Like we mentioned earlier, traveling to face two of the top three Big 12 contenders will make winning the Big 12 a difficult task, but as long as Franklin is decent, the Tigers will likely win somewhere in the ballpark of nine games. If he's great? Look out. Missouri will be tough to beat anywhere.
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