For the second straight season, Missouri end up with the SEC East division title and a chance to win the conference with a berth in the conference championship game after beating Arkansas 21-14 and fend off the challenge from Georgia, probably the better team of the two, who are now left with only a rivalry game to win and hope to find themselves in a good bowl game.
The Tigers end the regular season with two losses but just one in the conference: Getting shut out by Georgia. Luckily for them, the Bulldogs, maybe the most underachieving team in College Football over the last decade considering the amount of talent they possess and their achievements year after year, slipped up twice in the conference: Against South Carolina and in a shocker to Florida, two teams that aren’t even ranked this season.
Missouri accomplished it with a quarterback that the team prefers to keep away from throwing the ball. Maty Mauk struggles avoiding turnovers, yet he has an excellent defense to back him up. He threw one interception and one touchdown pass in the win over the Razorbacks, maybe the hottest team in the nation not expected to play in the playoffs, coming off two shutouts of LSU and Ole Miss. Arkansas jumped to a 14-3 lead, but a Mauk pass to Jimmie Hunt in the fourth quarter tied the game, followed by Marcus Murphy running for a touchdown with 4:38 left in the game.
Missouri had 90 yards of rushing during that final drive that got them the win they needed. Prior to that drive, they had only 57 yards of rushing in the entire game. Whether it’s Alabama or Mississippi State they play in the SEC championship game, they’re going to need a lot more on offense to generate enough of a chance for themselves. This team is weaker than the one that made the same event last year, losing to A good but not too special Auburn team.
Their kicking has to be a big part of their success. Andrew Baggett made two 50-yard field goals to keep Missouri in the game while Arkansas were running wild early on. After a great start for Brandon Allen, the Razorbacks quarterback settled down, which means started playing badly. He finished with just 13-of-30 for 133 yards, and hardly bringing anything to the table in the second half. He didn’t throw any interceptions, but his team still had two fumbles, including one recovered by Markus Golden after grabbing the lead for the first time.
After a rough first year in the SEC, Missouri have turned things around. A program built on defense rising through a division that’s going through a difficult time, with South Carolina not being able to rise over the usual obstacles, Florida during a dark and down period while Georgia constantly find a way to mess up despite being the best and most talented team in the room. Tennessee and Kentucky? These days, they’re barely worth mentioning.
So while Missouri can’t really afford to look any further than the conference championship game, against whoever it might be, thoughts of making the playoff are already on their minds. The committee hasn’t given them too much respect, ranked #17 going into this week. But as a conference champion? Of the SEC, with just two losses? Will that be enough? It will surely complicate things, and also make a mockery of the earlier rankings if they are suddenly regarded as one of the top 4 teams in the nation.