Mizzou's All-America candidate and nominee of several national awards, Michael Sam is leading his Tiger defense to great heights of success.
The Missouri Tigers have played into a historic position for themselves, as they control their own destiny heading toward the conference championship—something they haven't won outright since 1960. Mizzou has only outright won 10 conference championships in school history since their first season of football started in 1890.
Head coach Gary Pinkel is in the discussion for National Coach of the Year as well, based on the incredible job he's done yet again in making NFL-ready players out of moderate recruits. Pinkel is also just two wins shy of tying Don Faurot for all-time wins at Mizzou.
But what's even more amazing is that Mizzou is certainly well within distance of being able to play for the national championship. Let's discuss some scenarios here.
If Missouri loses to either Ole Miss or Texas A&M, the whole thing is over and you can likely catch the Tigers in either the Outback or Chick-fil-A Bowl—still plenty respectable. But if Missouri can close out against both teams, starting with a crucial matchup of ranked teams in Oxford, they will be playing in the SEC Championship Game against the winner of the Iron Bowl.
It's within Mizzou's interest to want Alabama to win this game. Beating a stronger team will ultimately move you up in the BCS computers.
Let's look at this first scenario, with Missouri winning out, including a win over Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game, but Ohio State and Baylor winning out their seasons as well. Here's what the BCS would most likely look like:
- Florida State
- Ohio State
By winning out and beating Alabama, Missouri would move above Oregon as the best one-loss team (unless it was Alabama before the comments light up). But in any event, Missouri wouldn't be able to pass an undefeated Baylor and Ohio State team.
To fully understand how good of a shot Mizzou has at this, let's take a look at the remaining schedules for both Baylor and Ohio State.
|Nov. 23||@(10)Oklahoma State||INDIANA|
|Dec. 7||TEXAS||Big Ten Championship|
Baylor's toughest test on paper comes this week when they travel to Stillwater to take on the No. 10 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. Ohio Sate's road looks easier, but the Big Ten Championship Game could deal them No. 13 Michigan State, who is 9-1 and on a roll right now. And of course don't count out that game with Michigan at the Big House as rivalry games of that intensity can yield major upsets.
There hasn't really been that big BCS shakeup yet, like there was last year. Despite the fact that both teams would have to lose to allow Missouri a shot at the national championship, the idea isn't out of the realm of possibility. It would be the biggest game Missouri has ever played in its history.
Let's take a look at what the BCS standings would likely look like if both Baylor and Ohio State were to take a loss, and Missouri were to win out with a win over Alabama.
- Florida State
Here we see Missouri as the top one-loss team after beating either Alabama or Auburn (Alabama represented in the example) and at the No. 2 spot behind Florida State, putting the Tigers in the BCS National Championship Game in the Rose Bowl against the Seminoles on January 6.
Of course, getting to the game itself will take another feat of great performance aside from what Missouri has already done this season. Going down to play Ole Miss after they just hung a school-record amount of offense on Troy has them feeling extremely confident at 7-3 and ranked No. 24 in the BCS. Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel coming to The Zou in Columbia will be an extremely challenging game as Mike Evans could give the Mizzou secondary fits.
But the Tigers are no slouch this season. They now have the added assurance of knowing that if something should go wrong with James Franklin, the game is in good hands with Maty Mauk at the helm. The entire defensive line for Missouri is like a minicamp of NFL-caliber draft picks, headed by Michael Sam. Win these two games, and Mizzou is in position to play for the SEC Championship where they would face the winner of the Iron Bowl.
Beating Alabama would be a daunting task, but is it possible Mizzou could be up to that challenge? Mississippi State held the Tide in check for most of the first half this week, and Alabama has shown moments of being vulnerable. Could the Alabama defense have an issue with the explosive Tiger offense? And what about A.J. McCarron's ability to move the ball on a tough defense and throw into the likes of a player like E.J. Gaines, who will likely be playing on Sundays as well?
It's all fun to think about, but in the end it will come down to performances on the field. It starts this Saturday for Mizzou as they take on Ole Miss at 6:45 p.m. CST on ESPN.