The #8-ranked University of Missouri Tigers are on the cusp of an unprecedented moment in the spotlight. At 9-1, Mizzou simply needs to beat Mississippi and Texas A&M (yes, easier typed than done) to take the SEC East title. The South Carolina Gamecocks are the second act on the division tightrope—with tiebreaker in hand—so now it’s time for the Tigers to perform or get out of the way. The Tigers are just a few fiery rings away from beating their conference opponents to the SEC title game in Atlanta. Oh, and how do those conference opponents feel about the circus unfolding in the SEC East?
SEC fans are purists. No one waltzes into their conference and outperforms them. It takes years to rise to the top. They’re proud of the conference’s legendary competitiveness; truly convinced that teams from other regions win because “they don’t play in The. South. Eastern. Conference.”—monikers that somehow manage to be the only words enunciated clearly over foamy beers held by bow-tie touting, fraternal gentlemen found in bars scattered all over Atlanta, Columbia and Oxford. I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’. Pride is the housewine of the SEC. Deservedly so.
So what does it say to SEC fans that the Missouri Tigers, who failed to win a single Big 12 Championship for the entire duration of their membership, have a shot at winning the division during their second year in the SEC? It’s rattling. It stands in defiance of the tenured toughness of the Southeastern Conference. In a division that includes South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and newly-emerged Vanderbilt (yes, it felt weird to type that) no one predicted in August that Missouri had a shot.
Mizzou quarterback James Franklin (the 6’2″, 230-lb. senior out of Texas) is expected to be back in Saturday’s game after sitting out since October 12th because of an injury. Although the team has fared fairly well in his absence, wining three of four games, Franklin’s return gives the Tigers the best possible shot at winning their next two crucial conference matchups.
With the division on the line, and a potential matchup against Alabama (or even Auburn!) at stake, the next two Saturdays are simply stepping stones to their ultimate goal: the SEC Championship Game.
Three games. Three rings. One tiger very, very hungry for the spotlight. Time to “show me”, Missouri.
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