Out of all of the preseason picks, prognostications and projections, nearly no one saw the Missouri Tigers coming in 2013. After Missouri struggled last season, its first in the Southeastern Conference, there were questions about whether the Tigers were tough enough to compete in the nation’s best football conference.
Preseason picks saw Missouri hovering around fifth or sixth in the SEC East, and almost no one thought that the Tigers would be in contention this season.
Now, at 6-0 and ranked 14th in the country, Missouri has made believers out of nearly everyone. Especially after Saturday’s 41-26 win, on the road in Athens, against the Georgia Bulldogs.
If Missouri can win its next two games, the Tigers will almost certainly win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship Game, which would be quite a feat for Gary Pinkel and his squad. However, it’s not going to be easy to win those games, even though Missouri will play both of them at home.
First up are the 22nd-ranked Florida Gators, who are polar opposites from Missouri. Florida wins with a modest tempo on offense, and an outstanding defense. In fact, the Gators’ are third in the country in total defense. Missouri, on the other hand, likes an up-tempo style of game, and the Tigers win with offense. Mizzou is eighth nationally in scoring offense and 12th in total offense.
Following that battle, Missouri will host the South Carolina Gamecocks. If Missouri can get past that game, the Tigers would essentially have a two-game lead in the standings, because they would have the tie-breaker over Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
However, it’s not going to be easy for Missouri. Quarterback James Franklin, who was having an outstanding senior campaign, is out for a few weeks with a separated shoulder. That means Maty Mauk must take over and try to pick up where Franklin left off. Mauk has thrown just seven passes all season, and he will face a difficult first game against Florida.
The fact that Missouri is in this position is surprising enough. If they are able to win the SEC East, especially without Franklin, it would be a shocker.
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.