Tide schedule preview: Missouri

The rundown

2011 record: 8-5

2011 conference record: 5-4

All-time against Alabama: 2-1

Returning starters

Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

OT Elvis Fisher, RB Henry Josey, QB James Franklin, OT Justin Britt, WR T.J. Moe, DE Brad Madison, LB Andrew Wilson, CB E.J. Gaines, CB Kip Edwards, LB Will Ebner, LB Zaviar Gooden

Key losses

OG Austin Wuebbels, OT Dan Hoch, OG Jayson Palmgren, TE Michael Egnew, WR Wes Kemp, NG Dominique Hamilton, DE Jacquies Smith, S Kenji Jackson, LB Luke Lambert

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Henry Josey* (1,168 Yards)

Passing: James Franklin* (2,865 yards)

Receiving: T.J. Moe* (649 yards)

Tackles: Andrew Wilson* (98)

Sacks: Jacquies Smith (5)

Interceptions: Kenji Jackson (3)

What they're saying:

"Gary's a great friend. I think the world of him. He's done a great job every place he's ever coached. We were good friends when we played together and he was a hell of a lot better player than I was. We had a lot of fun playing college football together and won some games. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him," said Nick Saban of Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.

Three things to watch:

1. Defense?: The real test for the Missouri Tigers will be on defense. Because, let's face it, no one is winning in the SEC without it, and life in the Big 12 didn't exactly necessitate stopping the opposing offense. The Tigers start this season behind the eight ball with two new starters at defensive tackle. Only Jimmy Burge has started a game (6) in his career. Pinkel will return some starters elsewhere, though, notably at linebacker and in the secondary. Andrew Wilson will look to build on his team-leading 98 tackles last year and Zaviar Gooden (third in tackles) returns for his fifth season in Columbia.

2. Offensive translation: Missouri's offense might need some time for adjustment in the SEC, both for the Tigers and their opponents. James Franklin, if fully recovered, has the chance to build upon a stellar freshman campaign and all signs point to a talented crop of receivers returning, notably the team's leader in receptions last season, T.J. Moe. Throw into the mix a talented newcomer in stud-recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, and the Tigers could have plenty of weapons at wide out. With the status of Henry Josey doubtful at running back, the duties will fall on Kendial Lawrence. He finished last season strong with a 108-yard, one-touchdown performance against North Carolina in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.

3. Depth and size: There's little question about Missouri's skill players' ability to compete in the SEC. The question is whether the lines can hold up and whether there's enough talent waiting in the wings when injuries inevitably occur. The offensive line will hover around 300 pounds, which ought to be stout enough. But the defensive line may have some trouble at roughly 260 pounds across the board, not to mention the injuries already incurred. Alabama's smallest lineman is Barrett Jones at 302 pounds. Imagine a defensive end trying to push around Chance Warmack at 320 pounds or D.J. Fluker at 335 pounds. After four quarters of battle, size will wear on you. Missouri may stay stride for stride for 45 minutes. The question is the final 15.