It's always fun to look back and laugh at how bad I am at this:
Anyway, I like to use a pretty simple scale; from most likely win to least likely win:
Murray State: Certain Win
They won't provide much resistance. Hopefully, unlike last year vs. SELA, we can see the first-team offense put together some good sustained drives and not rely on defense/special teams for TDs.
Toledo: Likely Win
From what I hear, they're not bad. They might hang around for a half, but we'll pull away. But if we let them hang around, they're dangerous (think SDSU 2010).
@Indiana: Toss-up (lean: win)
The first road game is usually tough, and Indiana isn't that bad. They put up fights in some big games last year (they only lost by 3 to Ohio State) and return a bunch of starters. It's a huge game for both teams, and I think we'll prove to be the better team in the end, but it'll be close unless we play really well.
Arkansas State: Likely Win
Same as Toledo, I've heard they aren't bad, but don't know much personally. Still, should be a victory.
@Vanderbilt: Toss-up (lean: win)
They're losing Rodgers and Stacy from last year, but still a force to be reckoned with. I think top-25 predictions are a little overzealous, and we would have likely beaten them last year had James Franklin not hurt his knee in the first quarter. They could beat us, but if we're playing like we're capable of, we should leave Nashville with a victory.
@Georgia: Likely Loss
They're losing some key players from last year (especially on defense), but their offense is going to be awesome. They're really good, and it'll take a monumental effort from the Mizzou defense to take them out. If we do somehow pull the upset, it'll show that Mizzou is capable of much more than just bowl eligibility.
I have no idea what will happen this game. We almost beat them last year even though James Franklin was playing on essentially one leg, they're losing a lot of key guys on defense, but their offense should be improved. I think a crowd of 68,000 at Faurot should boost our team (remember, Faurot's capacity is down this year due to removal of temporary bleachers), so it'll be close.
South Carolina: Toss-up (lean: loss)
USC is, like the previous two opponents, really good, but without Lattimore and Sanders I don't see them being as good as they were last year when we faced them. Still, they're nothing to sneeze at, and it'll take a great effort to beat them. Would be a likely loss, but a homecoming crowd should be in a frenzy for what will probably be a top-5 opponent.
Tennessee: Likely Win
The easiest SEC home game this season for Mizzou. Tennessee wasn't good last year, and they lose pretty much everyone from last year's explosive offense. They're defense should be improved, but I don't think Mizzou will lose.
@Kentucky: Likely win
The easiest SEC road game this season for Mizzou. They'll be better than they were last year, but if Mizzou is healthy this game shouldn't be an issue. We are the superior team.
@Mississippi: Toss-up (lean: loss)
They return a lot of starters from a solid team last season. They might be slightly overrated, but they're likely looking at another bowl bid this year. It's definitely a winnable game, but not easy.
Texas A&M: Likely Loss
A&M loses a lot from last year, but they still have Manziel, and they're defense will still be good. Plus, Mizzou hasn't played very well on Senior Day the last few years (barely beat a bad Texas Tech team in 2011, lost to Syracuse in 2012). I have a hard time seeing Mizzou winning this game. I think we can stick around for a little bit, but we don't have the firepower to keep up.
Realistic (sort of) best-case scenario: Mizzou pulls out wins in each of the first five games, plays Georgia close but ultimately falls, uses that confidence to mount a five game winning streak, and when the NCAA rules Johnny Manziel ineligible for the last week of the season, the Tigers take advantage. The regular season finishes with an 11-1 record, a trip to Atlanta thanks to Georgia dropping another game somewhere with a chance to beat Alabama and make it to the national championship game. Win or loss, that game ends with a good bowl game for Mizzou. 2012 is forgotten, Pinkel is a hero again, and folks realize Mizzou can compete for conference titles.
Realistic (sort of) worst-case scenario: James Franklin gets hurt, and the Tigers drop either the Toledo or Arkansas State game. Mizzou struggles on the road, losing both the road games of the first 5 weeks. After getting dominated by a superior Georgia team, Florida and USC storm into Columbia and take wins going away. After picking up wins against UT and UK, Mizzou has a chance to play their way into a bowl bid but drops games to Mississippi and a Johnny Manziel-led A&M. The season ends at 4-8, Pinkel loses his job, and fans forget all about the good Pinkel did for the program. The stupid talk about Mizzou being a doormat in the SEC until the apocalypse continues.
Most realistic (sort of) scenario: The team sweeps the first 4 games, then wins a tight one at Vandy. After a close (but not that close) loss to Georgia, Mizzou comes home to beat Florida in an exciting game before falling in a one-possession game against USC. We win both the upcoming games against UT and UK, but lose the final two. With 8 wins, Pinkel's job is saved, and the Tigers head to a respectable postseason exhibition game. Regardless of the result in the bowl game, Mizzou has re-established itself as a formidable program and shown that it won't get rolled over every year in the SEC. And recruits take notice...
We're going to be a lot better than last year. Injuries will happen but won't be completely devastating like a year ago, and the defense will miss Sheldon Richardson, but the offense should be explosive. There's a lot of experience and good players on both sides of the ball, and it's going to come down to finishing games. Last year, we weren't bad in close games (3-3 in one-possession games), but that stat is misleading as games against Vandy and Syracuse shouldn't have really been that close to begin with. I expect this team to play a lot more consistently. A bowl game shouldn't be too much trouble, but you never know.