The SEC Championship Game did not go how Missouri wanted, as they lost to Auburn, but there is still plenty to be mighty proud about with the 2013 season of Gary Pinkel’s club. Hardly anyone outside of Columbia, MO gave Missouri much chance of accomplishing anything more than a six-win season in a best-case scenario. With a win in the AT&T Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State on Jan. 3, the Tigers can double that total.
The disappointment may still be fresh after scoring 42 points in a losing effort against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, who will represent the SEC in the BCS Championship Game, but the positives far outweigh the negative after a 5-7 2012 season.
James Franklin showed the necessary senior leadership that was essential to wading through the gauntlet that is the SEC schedule. Even when he was injured and Maty Mauk was in the lineup, Franklin was the steadying influence on the team.
Henry Josey returned to action for the first time since 2011 and showcased the form that made him such an electric running back, as he has run for a team-leading 1,074 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has an NFL future in front of him after the thought that his career could be over hung over his head for the better part of the last year.
Wide receiver and former top recruit Dorial Green-Beckham finally delivered on the hype and promise that preceded his arrival to campus, and led the team with 12 touchdowns, including two in the SEC Championship Game. He’s tied for the team lead with Marcus Lucas with 55 receptions, and is second to fellow breakout receiver L’Damian Washington with 830 yards.
Michael Sam may be the defensive player of the year in the conference after his 10.5 sacks and his 17 tackles for loss were more than any player in the conference. He and the underrated, yet equally disruptive, end/tackle Kony Ealy were a disruptive force all season long.
E.J. Gaines had four interceptions and could find himself among the first defensive backs taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Andrew Wilson was a consistent leader at linebacker.
This game against the high-octane of the Cowboys will be a great test for the Missouri defense and could end up being one of the two or three best games on paper heading into bowl season.
The 2013 season has surpassed the most optimistic of expectations for Missouri, and they have the chance to go out winners against their former Big 12 brethren in the Cotton Bowl in what will be remembered as one of the best years in program history.
Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and Google and email him at SchmidtPatrick@gmail.com for media inquiries.