2007 Mizzou Football: What If the Tigers Played in the SEC?
With all the recent realignment talks in college football, the University of Missouri has been at the center of the college football world. That is not totally new territory for a football program with limited success.
Missouri's best team recently was without question its 2007 squad. The team went 12-2, won the Big 12 North and won the Cotton Bowl over Arkansas. The Tigers ended the regular season as the No. 1 team in the BCS standings.
Simply for fun, let's see how the 2007 Missouri Tigers would have done in the SEC. We'll place the Tigers in the SEC West and play the top three teams from the SEC East from that season. While the SEC only plays eight conference games, we'll let Mizzou play the nine best teams from that season to better frame the "what if" scenario.
SEC Sure Wins
Many southern football fans will argue there is no such thing a sure win in the SEC. While that might be true for Missouri most years, 2007 was the exception.
Missouri's offense was absolutely sensational. Quarterback Chase Daniel threw for more than 4,300 yards and 33 touchdowns. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a dual-threat phenomenon, catching 80 passes for more than 1,000 yards. He also returned three kickoff and punt returns for scores. Tight end Martin Rucker led the team with 84 receptions and caught eight touchdowns. Running back Tony Temple was a secondary option and eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground.
With that in mind, the 2007 Tigers would have easily defeated Ole Miss (3-9), Alabama (7-5) and Mississippi State (8-5). The third-place finisher in the West that year was Arkansas. Missouri destroyed it in the Cotton Bowl 38-7 behind a Missouri-record 281 rushing yards from Tony Temple.
That's at least four wins chalked up for Mizzou in the SEC.
2007 Auburn Tigers
Missouri would have defeated the 2007 SEC West runner-up, the Auburn Tigers. Auburn finished 9-4 and narrowly defeated Clemson 23-20 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
While Auburn did possess a quality defensive line, led by Quentin Groves, Missouri would have at the very worst outscored Auburn if need be.
Take for example Auburn's 9-7 win over Arkansas. Missouri dominated the Razorbacks on both sides of the ball in the bowl game while Auburn barely outlasted them in a defensive battle.
That's five wins for the 2007 Missouri Tigers in the SEC.
2007 Florida Gators
This is an interesting matchup for the 2007 Missouri team. This is the Florida team between their 2006 and 2008 national championships. They were young on both sides of the ball, but explosive. Quarterback Tim Tebow beat out Chase Daniel for the Heisman Trophy.
I'll take Missouri in a close game. Florida lost four games that year to Auburn (17-20), LSU (24-28), Georgia (30-42) and Michigan (Capital One Bowl, 35-41). Those defensive showings indicate Missouri could have scored points on Florida and won in a shootout if its defense was unable to contain Tebow, Percy Harvin and company.
That's six wins for the Tigers in this scenario.
2007 Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee finished 10-4, won the SEC East and won the Outback Bowl in Phillip Fulmer's last good season.
Tennessee was far too inconsistent to beat the 2007 Tigers, though. Tennessee's defense in particular would not have been up to the task of stopping Missouri's high-powered offense.
Tennessee gave up 59 points to Florida, 45 to California and 41 to Alabama in three of its regular-season losses. Missouri probably had a more complete offense than all three of those teams that year.
That's seven wins in the SEC.
2007 Georgia Bulldogs
Here's where the real dream matchups begin. Georgia was loaded in 2007. Matthew Stafford was at quarterback with Knowshon Moreno at tailback.
Georgia lost two close games that year to South Carolina and Tennessee. The loss to Tennessee prevented the Bulldogs from winning the SEC East, but Georgia's six straight wins to end the year earned it a BCS Sugar Bowl bid to play Hawaii.
There Georgia dominated, crushing the 10th-ranked Warriors 41-10. The win in the Sugar Bowl gave Georgia a preseason No. 1 ranking in 2008 (that it did not live up to).
Missouri may have been able to score against Georgia, but not stop its offense. By the end of 2007, Georgia was as dominant an offensive team as there was in the country.
Missouri against Georgia would have been a classic, but Georgia was probably the better team in the end.
2007 LSU Tigers
The 2007 LSU Tigers won the BCS National Championship. Even though they lost two overtime games to Kentucky and Arkansas, their defeat of Tennessee allowed them to play for the championship.
In New Orleans that year, LSU dismantled Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes 38-24.
LSU would have posed major problems for Missouri up front. Led by All-American Glenn Dorsey, LSU could have rushed three down lineman and dropped eight into pass coverage much like Oklahoma did in its two wins against Mizzou that season.
Missouri was very capable of playing with any team that year, but beating LSU was probably out of its reach.
After comparing the 2007 Missouri Tigers to the top nine teams of the SEC from 2007, one can see how special that Tigers team was. The names of Daniel, Maclin and Rucker were indeed special and once in a generation type players.
This analysis shows that Missouri could have been an elite team in any league that year.
It also shows that Mizzou could have a great team even in the mighty SEC if that's where it ends up.