Updated: Oct 30
At the beginning of the college football season, if you were to predict the teams competing for the SEC East title, Missouri would not have been one of them. Even the most diehard Tigers fans felt like the team would be improved, but not quite ready to hang with the big boys of the SEC.
The early non-conference schedule saw a team with flashes of talent, but still struggling to find itself. That is, until the Tigers shocked then No. 15 Kansas State with a walk off 61-yard field goal. Even a win against a top 15 opponent who thoroughly thrashed them a year ago wasn’t enough to get the Tigers into the rankings. It was enough though to give this team, and its fans, the confidence to prove they were better than anyone else thought they would be.
A win against Memphis put the Tigers in the AP Top 25. Then a road win against Vanderbilt gave Mizzou wins against three Tennessee teams, with one more remaining on the schedule. More on that later. The Tigers were riding high coming back home to face an LSU squad that had already lost two games.
Call it a gut check, but Mizzou went up big early only fall behind and ultimately lose when Brady Cook threw a pick six on what could have been the game winning drive. That loss to LSU made many fans and the media take a pause and say, “Missouri isn’t quite ready.” For a team that was firing on all cylinders to go up over 20 points to start the game and then lose, at home, it would have been easy to be completely deflated.
Every team is defined by what they do when faced with adversity. When faced with that adversity the Tigers needed to prove what they were made of. They did just that by walking onto Kentucky’s Kroger Field and getting their first road win against the Wildcats since 2013 (the last time the Tigers also played for the SEC title).
More impressive than winning on the road was how they did it. Leading rusher Cody Schrader was nursing a pulled muscle. All world wideout Luther Burden, III was held mostly in check. Somehow though, Missouri gutted out a win after being down 14 points to open the game. A surprise punt fake turned things around. Before the game ended, all that was left in the stands was a section of Missouri fans going crazy.
After soundly defeating South Carolina for homecoming, Missouri got a much needed bye week to rest up and heal up. But that bye week is now over and there’s more work to be done. The toughest part of Missouri’s schedule lay ahead of them. That road has the Tigers in the driver’s seat.
Georgia’s defeat of the Florida Gators during Mizzou’s off week has trimmed the list of SEC East contenders to two…Georgia and Missouri. A win in Athens this weekend would put the Tigers tied atop the standings with the Dawgs, and owning the tiebreaker by virtue of their head to head matchup. The only thing left would be to run the table against Tennessee and Florida at home, and then on the road against Arkansas. Not an easy task in the SEC.
Mizzou head coach Eli Drinkwitz isn’t mincing words about what is at stake either. While on the Paul Finebaum Show Coach Drink said, “We’re in the middle of a season that we’re achieving, where honestly us in this building felt like we should be.” These Mizzou Tigers expected this, even if nobody else did.
One thing is for sure, more and more people are expecting good things from this Missouri program. Georgia hammered Florida on the road, but hasn’t looked invincible this season. Tennessee looks very winnable and would give the Tigers their fourth win over a Tennessee team this season. Florida comes to town having been soundly defeated by Kentucky and barely squeaking by South Carolina, two teams the Tigers beat.
In other words, the formula is simple…beat
No. 1 Georgia then beat everyone else. Easy enough right? Winning in Athens is no small task. However, it has been done before. The only time the Tigers have ever beaten the Bulldogs was in Athens way back in, you guessed it, 2013. No. 14 Missouri will look to do it again in 2023. M-I-Z