There were a number of questions about the Missouri Tigers heading into Saturday’s game, which was on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores. After struggling to a 5-7 record last season, many wondered if Gary Pinkel and his team could be competitive in the Southeastern Conference. Especially after the (literal) physical beating that the Tigers suffered last year.
Missouri easily won its first two games at home, beating Murray State and Toledo. The Tigers then went on the road and beat the Indiana Hoosiers, a win that is looking better now with each passing week. Mizzou closed out the home non-conference campaign by beating Arkansas State.
The Indiana game was the only one of those first four that provided a BCS-level opponent and frankly, the Hoosiers haven’t been great over the past few years. So no one really knew what Missouri had accomplished by winning those four games.
However, on Saturday night, the Tigers went on the road, in the SEC, and beat Vanderbilt. While many will say that it’s just Vanderbilt, this is not the Vanderbilt of old. These Commodores have been to back-to-back bowl games and already this season, they have given teams like the Ole Miss Rebels all that they can handle.
So when Missouri came out of Nashville with a 51-28 victory, the Tigers got some notice. When the Associated Press college football poll was released on Sunday, Missouri was ranked 25th, their first national ranking since arriving in the SEC.
Missouri has returned to the formula that helped them win in the Big 12 Conference: a strong offense. The Tigers are second in the SEC and seventh nationally in total offense (543.8 yards per game), and second in the conference and eighth in the country in scoring offense (46.6 points per game).
The stellar play of quarterback James Franklin has been key to the offense, but the balanced rushing attack has also been important. Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough have been able to keep offenses off balance, thus allowing Franklin to do his thing. And that formula is once again winning games for Missouri.
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.