So we've made it through the non-con season.  Why do some optimists believe Missouri just might win the Big 12 this year?  What concerns do the pessimists still have heading into conference play?  I break down both sides in this week's edition of The Optimist and The Pessimist.


Not all Tiger fans are feeling the love like these two.

The optimist says...

There are plenty of reasons to like this team.  Mizzou has yet to play its best football and is still undefeated.  The defense has shutdown everybody.  The Tiger D is on pace to force 52 turnovers.  Last year, Ohio State led the nation in forced turnovers with 37.  Missouri is also pressuring opposing quarterbacks to the tune of more than two sacks per game.  Both the forced turnovers and sacks are drastic improvements over last year and are just one reason why this year's squad is better than the '09 version.

Offensively, this team is yet to play its best game and it still has the nation's 19th highest scoring offense.  Losing Derrick Washington was initially a huge blow yet the team has filled his hole with four very capable backs.  Blaine Gabbert has developed a great rapport with Michael Egnew and TJ Moe.  Moe has proven to be Mr. Reliable and is on pace for more catches than any Tiger in school history.  Meanwhile, the passing game should only improve once Jerrell Jackson returns to full strength.  The offensive line is keeping Gabbert upright and proved last week that they're not too shabby at run blocking either.

Additionally, this team has proven it can win any type of game.  Fall behind early like they did against Illinois?  No problem, they'll shut you down and dominate the second half?  Dominate inferior opponents?  They can do that too.  Come from behind and win despite playing poorly offensively?  Yep, check that one off the list.

Sure, Mizzou's had some close games, but come on, so has nearly every other team in the country.  Oklahoma's survived three close calls.  Florida only led Miami (OH) by nine at one point in the fourth quarter, and we all saw what happened to Texas.

The optimists will tell you that this team is improving.  Give Gary Pinkel and his staff the bye week and they'll have Mizzou clicking on all cylinders come conference play.

The pessimist says...

There are several reasons Tiger fans need a reality check.  First of all, who has Mizzou beaten?  This team has struggled and is yet to play anyone of equal talent.  Yes, the Tigers won all four games, but they didn't always do so in the most dominant fashion.

Perhaps most concerning are the inconsistencies.  One week the passing game looks alright but the running attack disappears.  The next week, vice-versa.  As for Blaine Gabbert, I think it's safe to say he's not making the Chase Daniel-esque jump in his junior year.  His yardage and touchdowns are down from a season ago, while his interception total is up.  Not to mention his pocket presence appears no better than it was last year.

However, the Tigers have been consistent in some areas.  For example, they're consistently one of the most penalized teams in the country.  Mizzou was flagged another nine times against Miami (OH), several coming on late hits or personal fouls -  Not exactly a sign of a well disciplined team.  Penalties like that can come back to haunt you against semi-competent opponents.  Another area Missouri is consistent in, is third down offense.  The Tigers rank 65th in the country in third down conversion percentage (37.7%).  Don't expect that number to get any better against teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma.

In Missouri's recent run of five straight bowl appearances they've always had at least one game changing player.  In 2006, Will Franklin averaged over 17 yards per catch and caught six TD's.  That team also had a 1,000 yard rusher in Tony Temple.  In '07 and '08 it was Maclin and co.  In 2009 it was DA.  This year who can bust a big play to turn the tide in favor of Mizzou?  Moe is an obvious choice, but he's mostly a possession receiver as his 10 yards per catch average indicates.  Henry Josey's made a few big plays but can the freshman do it consistently against Big 12 defenses?

Finally, this team is yet to play outside of its home state.  How will Missouri react on the road?  Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Texas Tech aren't exactly easy places to play.  Yes, this team is undefeated, but plenty of concerns and unanswered questions remain.