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Rivalry Check: Mizzou has basically been a .500 SEC team while almost never being .500

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It’s sometimes fun to step back and take in the 20,000-foot view.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Missouri has now completed six go-rounds of SEC play. The Tigers are 23-25 against conference foes, 23-27 if you include conference title games.

Granted, that paints the picture of a .500 team that has never actually existed. Mizzou went 2-6 in its first season (2012), then won 15 of its next 20, including two 7-1 campaigns (2013 and 2014), two title game losses, and a 1-1 start in 2015.

The Tigers then lost 16 of their next 18 in conference. And now they’ve won four in a row. They’ve finished between 3-5 and 5-3 once, and even this year’s 4-4 finish featured two drastic streaks.

The plot twists can be exhausting, but I thought it might be fun to step back and look at Mizzou’s record against individual teams. The last six years have been quite the roller coaster, but who has Missouri done particularly well, or poorly, against?

4-2 vs. Tennessee

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll start with probably the most satisfying record on the list. Missouri’s first truly memorable conference win came in multi-OT fashion in Knoxville in 2012, and the Tigers’ 50-17 victory on November 11 gave the Tigers a two-game advantage in the series after dropping games in both 2015 and 2016.

4-2 vs. Vanderbilt

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s first truly frustrating loss in SEC play came against Vandy in 2012, when James Franklin got hurt and the Tigers blew countless opportunities in a 19-15 defeat. But they’ve won four of five since and used big plays to run away from the Commodores, 45-17, on November 18.

3-1 vs. Arkansas

NCAA Football: Missouri at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri’s 48-45 Black Friday win over Arkansas was sloppy, mistake-fueled, and, at times, fun as hell. It was also the Tigers’ third in four tries against the Hogs since joining the conference. The scoring margin in those four games is actually Arkansas plus-11 — the Hogs won, 28-3, to close 2015, while Missouri’s won three nail-biters — but, hey, scoreboard.

3-3 vs. Florida

NCAA Football: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If you told Missouri fans that the Tigers would be 7-5 against Tennessee and Florida over the first six years, I think they’d have been more than happy with that. Only one of six Mizzou-Florida games has been close so far — Mizzou’s won by margins of 36-17, 42-13, and 45-16, and Florida’s won, 14-7, 21-3, and 40-14 — which is unique but befitting a Florida team for which it always seems that many things are clicking or nothing is clicking.

3-3 vs. Kentucky

Missouri v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

This series has taken a turn. Mizzou won its first two games against Kentucky by a combined 81-27, then took a 20-10 decision early in its 2014 turnaround. Since then: 21-13, 35-21, and 40-34 wins by Kentucky. This is the anti-Arkansas series — Mizzou’s got a comfortable overall scoring margin (plus-36) and three losses in a row to show for it. The 2017 loss, via late-game controversy, was particularly frustrating.

3-2 vs. Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State

Henry Josey vs. Texas A&M Bill Carter

Your conference is basically your division and your permanent rival; with 8-game conference schedules (and a stubborn refusal to consider my pods solution, ahem), Mizzou is only going to play the non-Arkansas SEC West teams twice every 12 years. The Tigers have therefore only played this trio of teams a combined five times. They lost to A&M in 2012, beat A&M and Ole Miss in 2013, beat A&M in 2014, and lost to MSU in 2015.

Fair trade, in my opinion.

2-4 vs. South Carolina

Missouri v South Carolina Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages

Granted, Mizzou took the one South Carolina game it absolutely had to have — the Tigers don’t win the SEC East in 2014 without their dramatic 21-20 comeback win — but this series has been mostly close and often frustrating. The Gamecocks throttled the Tigers in Mizzou’s first SEC road game in 2012, took the famous 27-24 victory (via overtime missed field goal) in 2013, and pulled a maddening “get outgained but win by double digits anyway” formula in each of the last two years.

SC fans probably feel they should be 5-1 in this series, and Mizzou fans probably feel they should be, well, about 5-1.

1-5 vs. Georgia

Missouri v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Again, the Tigers took the single game that mattered most — the 2013 game in Athens. Otherwise, the Dawgs have been in control.

Not that Mizzou hasn’t had its chances. Georgia won 9-6 in 2015 and 28-27 in 2016; the Tigers are legitimately two breaks from being .500 in the series. Between that and the “Old Man Football” kerfuffle, there’s been a little bit of spice to this series, even if the results have mostly been one-sided.

0-5 vs. Alabama, Auburn, and LSU

SEC Championship - Missouri v Auburn Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

That Missouri has played six games against this trio is a happy thing, considering two of the games have come in SEC title games. Still, this has been about as one-sided as it gets. Despite leading Auburn late in the third quarter of the 2013 title game, and despite being within a TD of Alabama in the third quarter of the 2014 title game, Mizzou has still lost these five games by an average score of 47-17.

Through all the streakiness, you can basically summarize all this as follows:

  • Missouri is 1-10 against Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and LSU.
  • Missouri is 22-17 against everybody else.

Granted, Bama, Auburn, UGA, and LSU aren’t the only elite recruiters in the conference — Florida, Tennessee, and Texas A&M all likely qualify, too, and Mizzou is 9-6 against them — but they have been the heavyweights of the SEC in Missouri’s tenure, and the Tigers haven’t really been able to compete. But they’ve won more than they’ve lost otherwise, performing at least as a middleweight in a conference over which they hold minimal financial advantages over their peers. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.