Missouri started their season with four convincing wins as they looked like a much better team than the one that won five games in their first season in the SEC, but the question lingered about the legitimacy of their wins over non-conference opponents.
Gary Pinkel and his team knew the question would not go away until they played an SEC opponent and carried over their non-conference success into the premier conference in America. Well that question may be put to rest — even if only temporarily — with a dominating win at Vanderbilt.
No, this isn’t your father’s Vanderbilt team after 15 wins over the last two seasons and no it isn’t against Florida or Georgia, but this win signals to me that this team is a player for the SEC eastern division this year and virtually guaranteed of returning to a bowl game after missing out for the first time in what seems like forever under Pinkel.
The biggest reason for the resurgence of the Mizzou program is senior quarterback James Franklin, who is fully healthy and his supporting cast is, well, supporting him. Franklin struggled with injuries all of last season which limited his production as he would admit, but he gutted through the season as best he could.
This season. Franklin is one of the most improved players in the country and looks like the player we thought we’d see last year after a stellar sophomore season in 2011. Franklin has accounted for 15 total touchdowns this season and three 300-yard passing games in addition to three games with more than 60 yards rushing.
The addition of a healthy Henry Josey and the strong running of Russell Hansbrough and the big-play ability of receivers Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington pace the nation’s No. 9 scoring offense and are good enough to compete with the likes of the two classic SEC east powers and South Carolina. This offense is dangerous and will keep them in every game.
I’m not saying they are going to win the SEC east just yet, but you have to take Missouri seriously, and they are far from the pushover that many had presumed they would be when they came into the league.
Look no further than Franklin and the coaching job of Pinkel as the two overriding reasons why this team has already eclipsed their 2012 win total on Oct. 5.