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NCAA Football Missouri Tigers

Which Missouri Tigers Will Show Up in 2014?

Mark Zerof, USA TODAY SPORTS

Mark Zerof, USA TODAY SPORTS

Last season was a huge one for the Missouri Tigers. It was their second year in the Southeastern Conference, and the first one didn’t go so well. Missouri was beaten up, mentally and physically, during their first run through the nation’s top football conference.

During that 2012 season, Missouri went 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, beating only the Kentucky Wildcats and a subpar Tennessee Volunteers squad.

In 2013, things got much better for Mizzou. Head coach Gary Pinkel had a healthy team for last season’s campaign, which made a world of difference. Pinkel also changed the team’s training practices so that they would be more prepared for the physical style of the SEC.

All of those changes produced an SEC Eastern Division title, and a bid in the SEC Championship Game, where Mizzou lost to the Auburn Tigers. However, Missouri did beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the AT&T Cotton Bowl to finish the season 12-2.

Now the challenge for Missouri is to stay on top of the mountain. Was last season just a fluke? Was 2012 a fluke? It’s still not really known where the Tigers fit in as far as the SEC is concerned. Are they going to be title contenders each year, like the Georgia Bulldogs or the South Carolina Gamecocks? Or was last season a flash in the pan and Missouri will go back toward the bottom of the SEC East?

Sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk will have a lot to do with Missouri’s success (or failure) in 2014. Mauk played well last season in relief of starter James Franklin. If Mauk can make the offense go, it will greatly enhance Missouri’s chance to remain at the top of the league. And maybe then fans will know which is the real Missouri team.

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.