Team preview: Missouri

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 119 Division I-A teams. To order the complete 2006 edition of Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook, visit www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).

(All information as of July 1, 2006)


Progress has been made by the Missouri Tigers. Two bowl games in the last three years, including a memorable come-from-behind win over South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, has raised this once-struggling program to respectability.

Gary Pinkel has much to feel proud about, but respectable finishes for improving teams are starting points, not something to frame and put on the wall.

"This is one of our goals that we have every year," Pinkel said. "In our program, on a consistent basis, we want to go to bowls. Hopefully this is one of many in a row we will attend."

In the Big 12 North, improving teams have a chance to make a name for themselves and fight for a shot in the conference championship game. Missouri pictures itself as a team that has as good a chance as any to end up in the title game. But there's one little problem for the coaching staff as it heads into 2006

Missouri won't have versatile and athletic quarterback Brad Smith to depend on any more. Smith has moved on to the NFL (drafted by the New York Jets) and the Tigers will have to find a new identity and a new leader.

Smith was almost a security blanket for Pinkel and the coaching staff. When the Tigers found themselves in a tough third-down situation, they knew they could depend on their dangerous leader to make the play that would keep the drive alive more often than not. Now that he's gone, this team has to change its mindset.