It’s time to stop calling Missouri a good story. That’s no longer enough. The Tigers require something more; something that accurately encompasses the danger this team presents each and every Saturday.
Playing without starting quarterback James Franklin, Missouri took out Florida at home by the score of 36-17. The Gator defense rarely gives up more than 30 points, although it did so on Saturday against a backup with little seasoning.
ESPN's Brett McMurphy had this to say about the Tigers' impressive performance:
Missouri has lit up Florida for 36 points. Gators had allowed only 34 in last 3 SEC games— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 19, 2013
It began with an early score on a drive where Mauk threw the ball quite a bit. Missouri wasted little time throwing the redshirt freshman into the spotlight, who looked comfortable from the get-go.
Mauk had a handful of throws that were nearly picked off—including one that was—but he also looked confident and poised in his first start against one of the nation’s best defenses. His 52-yard pass to Jimmie Hunt at the beginning of the second half halted Florida's comeback attempt. Running back Henry Josey scored moments later.
Mauk finished with 295 yards passing, a touchdown, the one pick and showed off some of the tools that have been discussed over the past week. Missouri certainly can feel comfortable with him under center going forward as starting quarterback James Franklin recovers from a separated shoulder.
The Missouri defense also delivered a superb performance, and the play along the defensive line—especially in the first half—helped set the tone. Florida’s offense found little success on the afternoon, finishing the day with 151 yards of total offense—a good chunk of which came on the final drive when the game was over. Missouri finished with 500 on the nose.
Just like we predicted.
How long has it been since a Florida defense gave up 500 yards? You have to go all the way back to 2007.
#Mizzou put up 500 yards, the first time UF has allowed 500+ since 2007 vs. Michigan in the Capital One Bowl— Shawn Davis (@ShawnDizzle77) October 19, 2013
And so, in back-to-back weeks, Missouri has provided a shakeup in the SEC. Last week it was a beat-up Georgia team that learned just how talented this group is. This week it was a beat-up Florida team seeing it up close and personal.
With the win, and the wild events of another crazy college football weekend, Missouri is now in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. Not only did the Tigers help themselves, they also got help elsewhere.
South Carolina lost on a last-second field goal at Tennessee and Georgia fell late at Vanderbilt. With that, the path to the SEC Championship just got slightly less hazy. Missouri now has a two-game lead in the loss column in the East entering Week 9.
Just like we all predicted.
The schedule certainly presents obstacles for the Tigers, and the SEC East intrigue will continue next week. South Carolina will come to town in another massive game, while Ole Miss and Texas A&M will help close out the regular season.
As strange as it might seem, however, Missouri could very well be favored in each of its remaining regular season games. And the Tigers should be.
Tigers wide receiver L'Damian Washington had this to say following the win, via the Associated Press (h/t ESPN), "We've got to stop talking bowl games around here. Let's talk BCS, let's talk national championships."
Despite the loss of James Franklin, this is one of the more complete teams in the country. Missouri is now 7-0 and has won all of its games by at least two touchdowns. The Tigers have seemingly gained control of every game early, winning in a variety of ways.
The defense appears to be gaining confidence, even after losing gifted defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to the NFL Draft. The offense didn’t stumble in its one showing without its most important player at the most important position.
Missouri isn’t just a player in the SEC. It’s quickly become one of the most feared teams and one of the few teams in the nation that can say it controls its own destiny. This is no longer just about a team doing “nice” things, cooling the once warm hot seat of head coach Gary Pinkel. The Tigers are dangerous, this much has become clear.
As for what’s next, we’ll have to wait and see. SEC Championship? National Championship? Why not?
At the very least, the conversations for such lofty accolades should be put in motion. Missouri has earned it.