The Missouri Tigers continued their magical 2013 season on Saturday, pounding the Florida Gators 36-17 in Columbia. The win was all the more impressive because the Tigers were able to thrash the Florida defense, to the tune of 500 yards of total offense. And that’s with their backup quarterback, Maty Mauk, behind center in place of the injured James Franklin.
Who saw this coming from Missouri? Most of the preseason publications had the Tigers picked fifth or sixth in the Southeastern Conference‘s Eastern Division. But head coach Gary Pinkel thought his team could do some things. “I thought we’d be pretty good,” Pinkel said after the game. Apparently, no one else got that memo.
But the Tigers, in fact, are good. After being picked to finish fifth or sixth in their own division, they are now fifth in the nation, according to the first BCS Standings of the year, which were released on Sunday evening. No one outside of Columbia, or maybe even outside the Mizzou locker room, saw this coming.
Last season, its first in the SEC, Missouri was physically manhandled. The Tigers suffered through many injuries, and ended up 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the conference. And while many star players, such as Franklin, Henry Josey, Michael Sam and E.J. Gaines were returning, many did not give the Tigers a second look.
Pinkel has done a masterful job with this team. Even since the spring game on April 20, when Mizzou frankly didn’t look very good, the improvement is incredible. The players have bought into what Pinkel is preaching, and it is showing on the field.
The Tigers hold a two-game lead in the SEC East with just five games remaining. An appearance in the SEC title game, likely against the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, seems certain. But now, Mizzou is hoping for even bigger things. And at this point, there should be no doubting them.
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.