Cotton Bowl 2014: Who Would Have Thought Missouri Would Carry the Torch for SEC?

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Cotton Bowl 2014: Who Would Have Thought Missouri Would Carry the Torch for SEC?
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Missouri just put the cherry on top of a delicious treat that was the 2013 season with a 41-31 win over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

Not only did the win give the program 12 wins for the first time since 2007, but it showed folks that the Tigers are legit. The victory also comes just one day after Alabama fell apart in the BCS Sugar Bowl. 

Only two seasons in the conference, Missouri is keeping the SEC winning tradition alive and doing its part in silencing those critics who can't wait to scream how overrated the conference is every chance they get. 

Who would have thought?

The same team that was treated like a red-headed stepchild last season and often looked down upon for even thinking it could play in the big-boy conference, is now truly one of the big boys and doing a lot of the conference's dirty work. 

The SEC really took a hit after the Crimson Tide lost in upset, embarrassing fashion to the Sooners. Fans from other conferences finally witnessed the giant fall and were out in the streets beating their chest like King Kong. It was finally a glimpse of hope that maybe parity in college football actually does exist. And after the season the SEC had, it's tough to blame those rabid fans.

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Georgia and Florida both took a major step back this season. With a combination of freak injuries, poor execution and just bizarre losses, two teams that were expected to compete for an SEC East title finished the season with a combined record of 12-13.

Texas A&M proved it has serious flaws defensively, ranking 96th in the country in points allowed. The Aggies lost four regular-season games, including losing the last two, and nearly lost to Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A 9-4 season in the SEC West is still nothing to sneeze at, but this year should still be considered a letdown given the expectations heading into the season.

LSU lost to Ole Miss, was destroyed by Alabama and needed all four quarters to put away Iowa in the Outback Bowl. With Alabama losing back-to-back games and a BCS bowl for only the second time in Nick Saban's career, the SEC titans were finally showing some weaknesses. Even with an overall 6-2 record in bowl games, the conference didn't have the same feel as it usually does.

If Missouri had lost to Oklahoma State, the Internet may have crashed. And crazy enough, the offense tried everything it could to give that game away by turning the ball over three times. Supporters of other conferences would have really been doing back flips and trolling on Twitter. But like much of the season, Missouri held its own and had the SEC's back.

It's time the rest of the conference returns the favor. After all, Missouri has quickly adopted the conference's winning tradition, while the fans have done their part as well:

It's crazy to think that a couple of years ago a matchup between Missouri and Oklahoma State would have been a typical conference meeting in the Big 12. Friday night, it was a statement game for Missouri, as well as the conference as a whole. 

Auburn will have a chance to do the same Monday night against Florida State in the national championship. But for now, the Missouri Tigers continue to earn their stripes as they are carrying the torch and doing their part in keeping the SEC alive and well. 

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