No divisions means new focus for Missouri this season

DALLAS (AP) — Missouri has to set some different goals after sharing the Big 12 North division title three of the past four seasons.

There are no more divisions in the conference that now has 10 teams and will play a round-robin schedule.

“The dynamics change a little bit. Your goal was to win a Big 12 North championship because you can’t get in the championship game unless you do,” coach Gary Pinkel said Monday on the first day of Big 12 Media Days. “That’s the way it was at the time. And now it’s just to win a Big 12 championship.”

The Tigers shared their past two North titles with Nebraska — last season, when the Huskers got to the Big 12 title game and in 2008, when Missouri advanced for winning the head-tohead matchup.

This season, the Huskers are gone to the Big Ten. Colorado left for what is now the Pac-12.

Missouri returns nine offensive starters from a 10-3 team, but has to replace quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Pinkel said the Tigers have already embraced the new starter, sophomore James Franklin.

“Most experienced players I’ve ever had around a new quarterback since I’ve been a head football coach,” Pinkel said.

“And I think that lends itself well. ... What I’m concerned with, can those four offensive linemen, receivers, running backs, tight ends, can all those guys play up their game to a different level? If they can do that, James Franklin is going to be fine. And that’s kind of the approach I have.”

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