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5 Reasons Why Missouri Belongs in the BCS Title Game

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5 Reasons That Mizzou Should Play for It All

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, the Missouri Tigers have been the biggest Cinderella story of the 2013 NCAA Football season. After finishing 5-7 overall with a 2-7 conference record in 2012, they didn't receive as much as a single vote in either the AP or USA TODAY preseason polls. There were questions about whether head coach Gary Pinkel should have been fired following a rough first year in the SEC and even bigger questions about whether the Tigers could ever build a good enough program to be able to compete in college football's most prestigious conference.

This year the Tigers have been nothing short of spectacular, and a legitimate argument can be made that they are college football's best team. While a heartbreaking double-overtime loss on a missed field goal ended their bid for an undefeated season, the Tigers have stayed strong and now find themselves with a chance to reach the BCS title game if they can defeat the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship Game this weekend. While their best chance for a championship berth would require both Mizzou winning and either Ohio State or Florida State losing in their conference championship game, it's still theoretically possible that Missouri could move ahead of an undefeated Ohio State with the boost that they would receive from defeating No. 3 Auburn. However, this remains an unlikely scenario due to the fact that Ohio State faces tenth-ranked Michigan State.

While their record may not show that they are college football's best team, their on-field performance has shown otherwise during 2013. So without further ado, here are five reasons that the Tigers deserve to play in the BCS Championship Game this year.

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5. They Won't Get Lit Up by Kelvin Benjamin

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This point lies with the assumption that Florida State is going to beat Duke and make it into the National Championship. If they do, redshirt sophomore receiver Kelvin Benjamin will have the potential to be a huge factor as his speed and 6-foot-5, 234-pound frame give him the ability to be a game-changer.

Mizzou showed that they will have no problem contending with Benjamin as they shut down Texas A&M's Mike Evans, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound target who many consider to be the best receiver in the country. Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines had Evans on lockdown for the entire game, and as a result Evans picked up just four receptions for eight yards.

In contrast, Ohio State has had problems when faced with elite big receivers this year. They allowed Jared Abbrederis, a 6-foot-2 senior from Wisconsin, to catch 10 passes for 207 yards and then let 6-foot-3 Penn State wideout Allen Robinson rack up 12 grabs for 173 yards and a touchdown. Granted, those two aren't quite as big as Benjamin or Evans, but Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby has now shown twice that he can't really be trusted to shut down big wide receivers.

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4. Their Defense Can Shut Down Jameis Winston

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Last week, while facing an athletic, mobile quarterback in Michigan's Devin Gardner, the Ohio State defense did not perform very well. Gardner, who hasn't been spectacular in 2013, completing 60.3 percent of his passes, was spectacular against the Buckeyes. The junior completed 32 of his 45 passes for 451 yards while throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for another touchdown. Meanwhile, in their matchup with perhaps the most mobile quarterback in college football, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Mizzou limited him to just 195 yards and one touchdown pass. While Manziel still completed 24 of his 35 passes, it's an accomplishment for the Tiger defense that they were able to limit his yardage so much as it was his lowest amount of passing yards in any start this year.

If Florida State defeats Duke in the ACC Championship Game as nearly everyone expects them to this weekend, their opponent will be faced with the task of shutting down quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston has a playing style that is very similar to those of Manziel and Gardner, so Mizzou and Ohio State's respective performances are rather indicative of who stands the better chance in the National Title game.

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3. Their Loss was Cheap

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sure the same argument can be made for Alabama, who famously blew their perfect season on their failed last-second field goal attempt, but Missouri's loss stung even more as they were able to shut out the then-21st ranked South Carolina Gamecocks for three quarters. Unfortunately, the defense fell apart in the fourth quarter at the hands of Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who wasn't healthy enough to start but came on in relief in the third quarter and ended up going 20-for-29 with three touchdown passes. That ended up forcing an overtime which lasted for two rounds.

As Mizzou seemingly played it safe following South Carolina's field goal to start the second overtime, they asked kicker Andrew Baggett to kick a 24-yard field goal to tie it. He wasn't able to come through, though, and the Tigers' hopes for an undefeated season were crushed. While Mizzou's loss at the hands, or rather feet, of their kicker shouldn't be used as an excuse for vaulting them ahead of undefeated Florida State or Ohio State, it gives them a clear edge over other one-loss teams such as Auburn and Oklahoma State who were beaten more thoroughly in their losses. In the end, a great team shouldn't be faulted for the inability of their kicker to make an easy field goal.

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2. They Played a Tough Schedule

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Among the teams in serious contention for the BCS title game, Missouri has had the toughest schedule, at least according to the Congrove Computer Rankings. The Tigers' schedule is ranked as the 15th-most difficult. In contrast, Auburn is ranked 20th, Ohio State 53rd, Alabama 61st, and Florida State 72nd.

With their game against Auburn this weekend, Missouri will have played six different teams who were ranked at the time of their meeting with the Tigers, which is good for two-thirds of their conference schedule. In addition, they beat an Indiana team which had the nation's eighth-ranked offense coming into their September 21 meeting.

Meanwhile, Ohio State has only played two teams who were ranked at the time of their meeting, one of which was a Northwestern team which was in line for an upset before allowing three fourth-quarter touchdowns to the Buckeyes. Florida State played three ranked teams, one of which was an improperly-ranked Maryland squad that ended up losing 63-0 and went 7-5 for the season. Among the rest of their FBS opponents, only 7-5 Boston College finished above .500. Alabama faced four ranked opponents, but they also had the advantage of facing bad Arkansas and Mississippi State teams against which Mizzou did not play. There's really no way to argue that any elite team other than Auburn had a tougher schedule than Mizzou, and obviously the better of those two teams will be decided on the field this Saturday.

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1. They've Been College Football's Most Dominant Team

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Mizzou's only loss was a three-point defeat in double overtime by a highly-regarded ranked team, albeit in a game that they led comfortably for 48 minutes. With the exception of their seven-point victory against Texas A&M, every other Missouri victory has been by at least two touchdowns. While an argument can be made that Florida State has been more prolific because of their continued multi-score victories, they only played three ranked teams, one of which was a Maryland team that ended up losing 63-0. Keep in mind also that Mizzou handily won three conference games after being forced to start redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk who had never seen significant college action before. The fact that Mizzou has been so prolific while facing so many talented teams gives them the edge as college football's most effective team to this point in 2013.