Throughout the summer we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each of Missouri’s opponents in 2023, but when the Spring Ball begins or is just around the corner, we’ll take a quick look at where each challenger stands this offseason.

South Dakota – The Coyotes hobbled through a tough 2022 season, ending the Missouri Valley Conference with a 3-8 record and watching their domestic rival South Dakota State win the FCS national championship. They made wins Ranked in the roster for Southern Illinois and Missouri State’s Bobby Petrino, FCS showed signs of life after adding quarterback Aidan Bouman to the lineup. Bouman — a former ESPN Top 300 recruit and an Iowa State transfer — is back this year, along with star linebacker Stephen Hillis, who led the team on tackles, sacks, pass deflections, forced fumbles and interceptions. The Coyotes have something in common with the Missouri Tigers: Both were blown out by Kansas State last season.

Middle state of Tennessee – Rick Stockstill has been head coach at Murfreesboro longer than the current recruits have been alive. His Blue Raiders endured an odd season of ups and downs last year, losing to terrible teams at Louisiana Tech and Colorado State but beating Miami (the one from Florida) and winning a bowl game. They’re bringing back most of their defense but need to replace all of their passing game (QB Chase Cunningham and his top three receivers). They’ll still be working to build that chemistry when they visit Columbia – a week after their visit to Tuscaloosa to open the season.

State of Kansas — The defending Big 12 champions relied on an explosive big-play offense last year but must replace their two biggest receiver threats (Malik Knowles and Kade Warner) and program legend Deuce Vaughn. Defense are also being hit, including pass-rushing terror Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who heads out to take his ire out on the NFL quarterbacks. Will Howard takes on full-time quarterbacking duties at the Little Apple. High school recruitment has improved for Chris Kleimann thanks to success on the field, but hopefully Missouri will snag a development program in a manageable spot.

memphis – Missouri will round out its non-conference list with a neutral location game in St. Louis against the Tigers of Memphis. Head coach Ryan Silverfield has been unable to maintain the momentum of Justin Fuente and Mike Norvell and has only had 6-6 straight regular seasons in the last two years. His seat will be warm this fall; In the new American look, his team must compete with former conference bullies such as Houston, UCF and Cincinnati, who are heading to the Power Five. He’ll look to do that with Seth Henigan, who will begin his third year as quarterback with transfers like star Old Dominion running back Blake Watson and old friend Tauskie Dove.

Vanderbilt – This is AJ Swann’s ship now; The two-quarterback rotation is over after Mike Wright transferred to Mississippi State. Running back Ray Davis also remains in the conference, heading to Kentucky after putting on 1,042 yards last season. Clark Lea has largely dispensed with the transfer portal during his conversion, only three veterans are coming on board this spring.

LSU – Brian Kelly has taken the opposite approach at Baton Rouge, charging for the second straight year with high-impact transfers to boost his rebuild. Ah, the difference in expectations. The Tigers will once again be contenders in the SEC with both returning coordinators, quarterback Jayden Daniels and a loaded roster that’s a gumbo of star players like Harold Perkins, Mekhi Wingo, Malik Nabers and more.

Kentucky – During his tenure, Mark Stoops has repeatedly raised expectations – and then fulfilled them – and finally left 2022 behind with “only” seven games. Rebuilding the offense is a priority this offseason, and Stoops ditched coordinator Rich Scarangello to bring back Liam Cohen. He then snagged running back Ray Davis and NC State quarterback Devin Leary from the portal to pair with an excellent receiving corps. But as with Missouri, those moves won’t have the desired effect unless the Wildcats are able to rebuild an offensive line that collapsed in 2022 and was one of the worst in the Power Five.

South Carolina – Shane Beamer’s program is all strikes and gutters at the moment. During the season, an inability to move the ball offense to cut losses to Missouri and Florida dropped 94 points combined to knock both Tennessee and Clemson out of the playoff talk. During the offseason, huge high school recruiting gains were offset by an exodus of talent on both sides of the ball. Spencer Rattler and receiver Antwan “Juice” Wells are both returning, but star running back Marshawn Lloyd won’t (he’s going to USC). Thanks to Beamer’s infectious energy, big wins and recruiting results, spirits at the other Columbia are sky high right now, but they’re still looking for more consistency overall.

Georgia – The two-time defending champion had an eventful off-field offseason, beginning with the tragic fatal car accident that killed lineman Devin Willock and staffer Chandler LeCroy on the night of their championship parade. Star defensive tackle Jalen Carter was arrested in connection with that crash, as were arrests for Stetson Bennett and incoming transfer RaRa Thomas. On the field, the Bulldogs will replace Bennett, and the quarterback three-way battle between Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton will dominate the headlines on the practice field. Despite the loss of Bennett, Carter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and another wave of NFL draft picks, this fall, thanks to Kirby Smart’s excellent coaching and continued bumper crop of blue-chip players, Georgia will once again be among the nation’s top-three teams belong .

Tennessee – The Volunteers must replace key components of last season’s magical offense: Coordinator Alex Golesh, quarterback Hendon Hooker, and receiver Jalin Hyatt are on their way to new ventures. But the building blocks are still in place to lead Josh Heupel’s Veer and shoot offense, and the main story will be whether blue chipper Nico Iamalavea can unseat veteran Joe Milton for the quarterback gig. This fall there will again be as many points as the performance of “Rocky Top” in Knoxville.

Florida – Things are chaotic in The Swamp at the moment. It began with a lackluster performance in the Las Vegas Bowl blowout loss to Oregon State and was compounded with the embarrassing recruitment of Jayden Rashada, which exposed a lack of cohesion in the program’s NIL efforts. Billy Napier must exceed expectations for quiet rumble this fall while also navigating staff turnover and player departures. Former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz is likely to start for the Gators, a significant downgrade from Anthony Richardson’s explosive play at the position last fall. Billy Napier’s seat isn’t hot yet, but some logs are being stacked and lighter fluid has been bought.

Arkansas – Coordinators Barry Odom and Kendall Briles have both moved on after spending the last three seasons alongside head coach Sam Pittman. Perhaps some new blood will be needed in the briefing rooms for an Arkansas program that was underpowered in 2022. Both KJ Jefferson and Rocket Sanders are returning to form the most established star-studded backfield in the SEC, but there are many question marks elsewhere; The Hogs rank 106th on Bill Connelly’s recurring production metric.

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