With a record of 7-1, Missouri remains firmly in control of their own post-season destiny. The Tigers are the only member of the SEC East that can say this, which is a significant advantage. If they win out, their ticket to Atlanta will be punched. Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done.
Gary Pinkel and company have their work cut out for them. Emerging from their remaining schedule of vs Tennessee, at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, and vs Texas A&M unscathed would be quite the feat. The Volunteers have shown a marked improvement during the last few games, Ole Miss will be tough to beat at home, and Johnny Manziel gives A&M the ability to beat pretty much anyone. Dropping a game to Ole Miss or A&M wouldn't be a surprise, and a loss to both isn't far outside the realm of possibility either. The bevy of possible endings to the wacky SEC East race are covered expertly over at TeamSpeedKills, so I won't rehash things too much. Just know this: there is still a very real possibility that the Tigers wind up playing the SEC West champ in Atlanta.
But is playing for an SEC Championship really in Mizzou's best interests? You would think that a title fight in your sophomore year would easily be the optimal outcome to the season, but if the ultimate goal is to attend and win a BCS bowl then you might want to reconsider. As crazy as it may seem, Missouri's road to the Sugar Bowl might not run through Atlanta, and it shouldn't be hard for Tiger fans to understand why.
In every season since 2006-7, when the title game became a separate entity, the SEC has sent at least one team to the BCS National Championship. Every time the SEC's best team vacates its rightful place in the Sugar Bowl, the selection committee is given the opportunity to choose a different member of the conference to play in their stead. The bowl's selection is usually billed as the second best team in the SEC, which would lead you to believe that the championship game's runner up would get the bid. The thing is, except for a few notable exceptions, that's usually not the case. Take a look at where the losers of the last seven SEC Championship Games have ended up.
|2006-7||Arkansas||Capital One Bowl|
|2010-11||South Carolina||Chick-fil-A Bowl|
|2012-13||Georgia||Capital One Bowl|
The Sugar Bowl only invited the SEC runner-up twice in the seven years they lost a team to the BCS National Championship. The two exceptions were a Nick Saban led Alabama team that went undefeated in the regular season in 2008-9 and the reigning national champion Florida Gator squat led by a senior QB named Tim Tebow in 2009-10. Hard to argue with those selections.
(I put an asterisk next to Georgia in 2011-12 because the SEC sent two teams, LSU and Alabama, to the title game)
Missouri has had a bit of experience with this in the past. After a brutal 38-17 loss to Oklahoma in the 2007 Big 12 Championship Game, the Tigers sat and watched as two teams they had previously beaten were invited to the BCS while they were relegated to the Cotton Bowl. Should the 2013 Tigers follow in the footsteps of the team that they are most often compared to, it's not a stretch to think that they might suffer a similar fate.
The history speaks for itself, and with the Crimson Tide as the likely SEC West victor it would be safe to assume that the SEC East's representative won't come out of the conference title game looking like a darling. As Spencer Hall so eloquently put it, "ALABAMA IS DEATH." It will most likely behoove the Tigers to end the season as the best team to not play in the SEC Championship Game. In order to accomplish this, Mizzou will most likely have to lose to either Kentucky or Ole Miss and then beat A&M. At the same time, South Carolina will need to win out so that they can be led to Atlanta for the slaughter.
Don't get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to have a shot at the champs, but the facts can't be overlooked. If Missouri is sent home from the SEC Championship Game with at loss, the selection committee will almost certainly favor A&M (especially if they beat us) for what could possibly be Manziel's last game as a collegiate athlete. They will leapfrog Missouri, and the Cinderella story from Columbia will be heading straight for an all-too-familiar end to their season.