The Missouri Tigers are truly the team that nobody saw coming in college football this season. After a disappointing inaugural season in the SEC last year, Missouri looked destined to wallow in mediocrity for years to come. But instead they have surprised everybody in 2013; not only are they one win away from playing in the SEC Title Game, but they should be considered the third best team in college football behind the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida State Seminoles.
On paper, they are as impressive as any other team in the country. They have a 10-1 record, including a 6-1 record in the SEC, the nation’s best conference. Missouri’s six conference wins have come by an average margin of 21 points, and their closest game was this past week against the Ole Miss Rebels, who lost to the Tigers by 14. Missouri’s only loss on the season came in double overtime to the South Carolina Gamecocks, who are currently ranked 10th nationally, a loss that only happened because of a heroic performance by South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw.
In addition to their impressive resume, the Tigers also pass the eye test on the field as well. Missouri has a large contingent of big and physical wide receivers that have created matchup problems against nearly every secondary they’ve faced. Two of those wide receivers, L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham, are on the verge of double-digit touchdown totals this year.
Missouri also has not one but two quarterbacks that have started games for them this year, with both performing at a high level. The Tigers have moved seamlessly between senior James Franklin and redshirt freshman Maty Mauk at quarterback this year and haven’t missed a beat no matter which one is in the game.
The Tigers also have an impressive stable of running backs, with three different backs rushing for over 500 yards through the first 11 games of the season while Franklin and Mauk have combined for nearly 500 yards rushing as well. Put it all together and Missouri has one of the most balanced and dangerous offenses in the country.
Defensively, the Tigers more than hold their own, allowing fewer than 20 points per game this season. Missouri has 35 sacks this season, which leads the SEC, getting 10 of those Michael Sam, the conference’s individual sack leader. Missouri also leads the SEC in interceptions with 18. So in a conference known for its defense, the Tigers are outperforming just about everybody.
Yes, arguments can be made for the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, who have breezed through a pitiful schedule in the Big 10 this year, or the one-loss teams at Auburn and Clemson being the third best team in the country. But those arguments aren’t nearly as strong as the one Missouri has made this season on paper and on the field.
That’s not to say that Missouri deserves to replace either Alabama or Florida State in the BCS Standings, although the Tigers could get their chance to play Alabama in the SEC Title Game. But the discussion for the third best team in the country should end with Missouri; if you look at what they’ve done and watch them play you know that they deserve it.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.