Campus Corner

Preseason projections rate Missouri football as a top 25 team once again

Missouri players run onto the field as they are announced before Mizzou’s Black & Gold Game on Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Missouri players run onto the field as they are announced before Mizzou’s Black & Gold Game on Saturday, April 18, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) AP

Missouri projects as a top 25 football team for the third consecutive season in 2015, according to several preseason projections.

The Tigers, back-to-back SEC East champions, finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll in 2013 and 14th last season.

Looking ahead to next season, Missouri is ranked in 17th in the initial Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency in FBS vs. FBS games only.

The FEI projections* were created by college football analyst Brian Fremeau, who writes for Football Outsiders.

*Here is the history of Missouri in the FEI (remember that games against FCS opponents aren’t included): 61st in 2003 (7-5), 49th in 2004 (5-6), 57th in 2005 (7-5), 30th in 2006 (7-5), ninth in 2007 (11-2), 17th in 2008 (9-4), 51st in 2009 (7-5), 11th in 2010 (9-3), 23rd in 2011 (7-5), 55th in 2012 (4-7), fourth in 2013 (11-2) and 18th in 2014 (10-3).

The Tigers find themselves 23rd in the SB Nation S&P+ projections, which have Alabama first and Georgia and third among five SEC teams in the top 10.

Bill Connelly’s advanced stats rating makes up half of the Football Outsiders Almanac projections along with the FEI.

Finally, ESPN’s Preseason Football Power Index (FPI) has Missouri checking in 24th and only 10th among Southeastern Conference teams, including SEC East cohorts Georgia and Tennessee.

The Bulldogs are the top-rated SEC East team in all three projections.

Here is a breakdown of next season’s schedule:

2015 MISSOURI FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 vs. Southeast Missouri

Last season: 5-7

2015 FEI rating: n/a

S&P+ projections: n/a

ESPN preseason FPI: n/a

Analysis: The Redhawks, a Football Championship Series team, lost 34-28 at Kansas last season if that helps place SEMO in the pantheon of big-boy football.

Sept. 12 at Arkansas State

Last season: 7-6

2015 FEI rating: 70 (-0.020)

S&P+ projections: 71 (-2.3)

ESPN preseason FPI: 67 (-0.2)

Analysis: It’s the only true road game of the nonconference season and the Red Wolves aren’t a pushover, but it’s still a game Missouri should win. Arkansas State plays an ambitious schedule with a season opener at Southern California the week before hosting the Tigers. The Wolves haven’t beaten a Power Five program since knocking off Texas A&M 18-14 on Aug. 30, 2008, at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, but ASU did beat Memphis in 2011 and 2012.

Sept. 19 vs. Connecticut

Last season: 2-10

2015 FEI rating: 101 (-0.107)

S&P+ projections: 114 (-13.9)

ESPN preseason FPI: 118 (-13.9)

Analysis: The Huskies have been terrible recently, going 15-33 during the last four seasons. UConn’s last bowl appearance was a 48-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after winning the Big East in 2010. The Tigers play at the Huskies Sept. 23, 2017, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.

Sept. 26 at Kentucky

Last season: 5-7

2015 FEI rating: 85 (-0.069)

S&P+ projections: 52 (1.4)

ESPN preseason FPI: 48 (5.6)

Analysis: The Wildcats are one of two SEC East teams Missouri hasn’t lost to since leaving the Big 12. Kentucky has had some recruiting success in recent years and will boast a renovated stadium for the 2015 season, but it’s a still a game in which coach Gary Pinkel’s club should be favored.

Oct. 3 vs. South Carolina

Last season: 7-6

2015 FEI rating: 23 (0.134)

S&P+ projections: 31 (9.5)

ESPN preseason FPI: 40 (8.2)

Analysis: Emotions should be running high at Memorial Stadium as fans undoubtedly will remember the Gamecocks’ last visit to Columbia, a double-overtime thriller that ended a bid for perfection by the Tigers in 2013. South Carolina also should be eager for payback after blowing a lead at home last season, giving Missouri its largest fourth-quarter comeback for a win in program history.

Oct. 10 vs. Florida

Last season: 7-5

2015 FEI rating: 40 (0.58)

S&P+ projections: 29 (10.4)

ESPN preseason FPI: 28 (11.5)

Analysis: It will be the Gators’ first game against Missouri under new coach Jim McElwain and serves as the Tigers’ 104th Homecoming. Pinkel’s squad has blasted Florida the last two seasons by an average score of 39-15.

Oct. 17 at Georgia

Last season: 10-3

2015 FEI rating: 5 (0.206)

S&P+ projections: 3 (20.9)

ESPN preseason FPI: 9 (20.6)

Analysis: The Bulldogs are probably the SEC East favorite once again, not that it’s mattered the last two seasons. Georgia put it on Missouri 34-0 last season, but lost its only other meeting with the Tigers between the hedges as conference brethren during the 2013 season.

Oct. 24 at Vanderbilt

Last season: 3-9

2015 FEI rating: 76 (-0.039)

S&P+ projections: 83 (-5.3)

ESPN preseason FPI: 51 (3.9)

Analysis: The Commodores were winless in the SEC last season in Derek Mason’s first year at the helm. Turning things around will be tough for Vanderbilt, but it’s a potential trap game for Missouri given the top-tier opponents on the schedule before and after.

Nov. 5 vs. Mississippi State

Last season: 10-3

2015 FEI rating: 34 (0.082)

S&P+ projections: 21 (12.9)

ESPN preseason FPI: 22 (13.2)

Analysis: The Bulldogs were the surprise of the SEC last season, but quarterback Dak Prescott and company won’t be catching anyone by surprise in 2015. It will be a rare Thursday night ESPN game, so Memorial Stadium is guaranteed at least one game under the lights and should be rocking.

Nov. 14 vs. BYU (at Arrowhead Stadium)

Last season: 8-5

2015 FEI rating: 33 (0.88)

S&P+ projections: 45 (4.4)

ESPN preseason FPI: 45 (7.0)

Analysis: It will be interesting to see how packed Arrowhead Stadium is. The crowd might also influence how soon Missouri returns to Kansas City. As far as nonconference foes, it’s a good draw (not as good as Kansas or Nebraska, but solid in any case). The Cougars are always tough-nosed and feisty, but boy do they have a rough road in 2015 with games at Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan and a home game against Boise State on the slate.

Nov. 21 vs. Tennessee

Last season: 7-6

2015 FEI rating: 29 (0.106)

S&P+ projections: 20 (13.9)

ESPN preseason FPI: 14 (18.8)

Analysis: The media darling as a darkhorse pick to win the SEC East, the Volunteers are widely perceived as a sleeping giant. Coach Butch Jones has strung together several highly regarded recruiting classes, but that talent has yet to bear fruit in terms of wins and losses on the field. Does that change in 2015? Perhaps, but Missouri gets Tennessee at home and is 3-0 in the series since joining the SEC.

Nov. 28 at Arkansas

Last season: 7-6

2015 FEI rating: 28 (0.110)

S&P+ projections: 12 (16.7)

ESPN preseason FPI: 10 (20.2)

Analysis: There was some thought that Missouri-Arkansas could become a CBS fixture on Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving. Perhaps it will, but right now the game is scheduled for Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. Both teams almost certainly will be jockeying for bowl position and possibly harboring divisional title hopes in the first Battle Line Rivalry game south of the border.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.

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