TiK's Ten: Preseason Thoughts on College Football & Mizzou

After eight depressing months with no college football, the 2014 season officially began today with the compelling FCS matchup between Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington. On Wednesday, the FBS season begins with the Abilene Christian - Georgia State matchup, followed by a fantastic slate of games on Thursday, beginning with the important early tilt between Texas A&M and South Carolina.

With that all in mind, it seemed perfect timing to publish the first edition of 2014's version of "TiK's Ten." I enjoyed writing these columns last year, and with the favorable reviews from last season, I decided to bring it back this year. Much like last year, my plan will be to offer five thoughts on Mizzou's season and five on college football as a whole.

As always, I welcome comments and feedback.

1. Prognosticators seem to not know what to do with Mizzou, and I can't blame them. It's very easy for any fan of their school to complain when the media doesn't predict his team to do that well, and certainly this year there is some of that emotion with Mizzou fans given we are coming off an SEC East Title, yet most predictions have us 3rd, 4th or even 5th in the SEC East. That said, while I tend to think those predictions are a bit on the pessimistic side, I can see their caution -- the fact is that we were 5-7 the year prior and did lose some key playmakers and are now going to have the first full year with Maty Mauk at QB. That said, if Mauk performs as he did last year and the speed positions step up, we certainly have every capability of competing for the SEC East crown and making some noise on a national level.

2. I like the schedule. This schedule seems right for this year's team. It is by no means simple, yet isn't daunting either. It seems like a good balance for us. We'll be tested, but not overwhelmed. If I had to group the three, it would be "The Non-Con", followed by the "Big Three", followed by the "Two Home Wins", followed by "How will we close?" I like the fact there are no complete cupcakes -- South Dakota State is legitimately good at FCS - yet only at South Carolina stands out a game where it's hard to imagine a win. I'm looking forward to kickoff.

3. A thought on stadium improvements. Having been a season ticket holder since 1995 and with family having attended Mizzou in various periods since the 1960's, I have seen Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium evolve over time in largely positive ways. Being a bit of a nostalgic type, it is almost hard to imagine the OmniTurf, the old press box, the old scoreboards before *any* video board, or the track going around the field -- not to mention how parking lots have changed -- we take the full Mick Deaver extension for granted now, yet it wasn't too long ago that stopped where Mizzou Arena is now. Not that I'm missing those days --- the improvements are certainly wonderful and I'm looking forward to seeing the new facade on the east side in-person on August 30th. A new sound system is certainly welcome as is the increased movement on the east side. I think we have done well to maintain that college stadium feel while still upgrading what needs upgrading -- and hopefully the south end zone will be able to be funded in the next few years, as I honestly think it's as necessary as anything else. However, I must admit I cannot completely shake a small emotion of caution, as well -- the fact 450 donors don't have a parking pass isn't a good thing, in my view, as the new suites came with three lots of parking to go along with them. I also don't want the atmosphere in and around Faurot to ever become so money-driven that it loses that college football feel and the special sense that is a College Football Saturday. Point being, it's okay if not everything is fancy, if not everything is super convenient and if not every big time donor has a parking space within a baseball's throw of the stadium. So, I urge those who make these decisions keep the spirit of college football in their minds as they roll out future decisions.

4. The WR Corps - Tight Ends Included - is the Key. This statement has been said by many, but if there is one reason forecast have us in the 6-6 to 8-4 region, it's due to the fact it's hard to know what to make of our wide receivers and tight ends. On this though, I'm actually optimistic -- the fact is that eventually players have to be replaced and I think Sasser, Hunt, White, Culkin, etc, are perfectly capable of filling in, even if not as spectacular as their predecessors. I'd love to see the TE position resume it's earlier role as a patch catcher in our offense, and I think that's important to our success this season. This is where my eyes will be the first few games.

5. Prediction Time. It's really hard to call these things before watching a down, but here is my gut:

- We jack the Jackrabbits. 1-0.
- We shoot down the Rockets, 2-0.
- We say goodnight to the Knights, 3-0.
- We remind Indiana they're a basketball school, 4-0.
- South Carolina continues to be a thorn in our side, 4-1.
- Dawg-gone, we're still pretty good, beating Georgia. 5-1.
- Muschamp sucks. Down go the Gators. 6-1.
- Things are dandy after we beat Vandy. 7-1.
- Kentucky gives us a surprise scare, but we win. 8-1.
- Our domination of the Aggies continues, 9-1.
- Upset at Knoxville as the improving Volunteers nab us. 9-2.
- It's a pig roast the Friday before Thanksgiving in Columbia. 10-2.

I'm not sure what bowl that translates to, but there you go.

On to college football as a whole...

6. Bring on the Playoff. It's not perfect. It's not what I would have designed ideally, but it's a huge improvement and adds a fantastic new degree of intrigue and fun to what had been a bit of a monotonous and increasingly boring discussion during the year, due to the fact the bowl system was so incredibly predictable and only two teams were going to play for the national title. I like the fact there are now six "big bowls", and the fact that there is no limit on teams-per-conference. I don't love the fact it's only four teams, but that will likely change in due time.

7. I approve of the Selection Committee. An early skeptic, I wasn't sure about the selection committee idea at first, due to the fact the polls are really just really large selection committees. But, my opinion on that has flipped 180 degrees, as I really like the membership and I like the fact we'll have 13 people focused on watching the actual games, versus writers who didn't have a specific task to do so nor the ridiculous notion of coaches voting, which wa always absurd. I like the fact they'll rank 25 teams, to give everyone an idea of how far back they are, and I like the fact schedule strength will play an increased role. I also like the fact that unlike the college basketball committee, they will meet continually. I actually also hope that we'll see a first ranking from the committee that is different from the media polls that come out at the same time -- I'd love to see the committee say something different.

8. I hope we never get a Division 4. That's a completely absurd notion to me as we always need to remember the health of college football as a whole, not just the so-called power conferences. While I think they should have some say, I think college football benefits as much from emerging programs like Central Florida or even new entrants like Old Dominion as it does from a school like Kansas or Duke. I hope the powers-that-be keep that in mind and don't prescribe any "solution" that actually resembles a further disintegration of the most passionate, energetic, unique sport we have in college football.

9. Will the Pac 12 send two teams? A lot of the speculation on the playoff has been whether the SEC would send two teams. That's certainly possible, but I also would like to present the possibility the Pac 12 could send both Oregon and UCLA. Here's why: Both play tough non cons (UCLA has two power schools, and Oregon plays Michigan State), the Pac 12 is an increasingly deep league who will likely send a slew of teams to bowl games, and if Oregon and UCLA split their series (regular season game and Pac 12 title) and otherwise go undefeated (no easy task, mind you), I think the Selection Committee would be hard pressed to reject one of the fact, see #10.

10. Prediction Time. My gut says it's Florida State, UCLA, Oregon and South Carolina are the four squads playing in the playoff. Baylor, Michigan State, and Alabama are 5th, 6th and 7th. Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Auburn and Stanford also go to the Big Six bowls, along with the Central Florida, whose only loss will be to Missouri. Florida State repeats.

Enjoy the season, folks!

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