In an effort to look back fondly at the successes of Tiger football, the Rock M Nation football staff compiled and ranked the greatest games of the past 20 years. There’s no science or math involved here: we simply listed what we thought were the 20 best games of the past 20 years and counted the votes. We’ll start with the games getting the fewest votes and work our way up to #1.
2008: Missouri 38, Arkansas 7
In any given year, an invite to the Cotton Bowl would mark nothing less than an undisputed success for the Missouri Tigers football program. In the both the BCS and CFP eras, the Cotton Bowl has always been one of the most prestigious Tier 2 bowls in the country. Both times Missouri has won the Cotton Bowl, it has ended up inside the Top 5 of the Associated Press’ final polls.
But 2007 wasn’t any given year. It was Mizzou’s year of destiny. It was the year when Mizzou had a legitimate Heisman candidate. It was the year they had five All-Americans. It was the year of Jeremy Maclin, a No. 1 BCS ranking and Sod Reesing.
But when the time came to choose BCS competitors, the oft-criticized voting body decided Missouri wasn’t right for their group. They decided that two losses to Big 12 champion Oklahoma overrode wins over eventual selections like Illinois — who would be embarrassingly outclassed by USC in the Rose Bowl — and Kansas. Missouri, for all of its entertainment value and on-field success, was a victim of its own success... at least in the BCS’ eyes. They played (and lost) one too many games.
So Missouri was cast off to Dallas to take on their future rivals, the Arkansas Razorbacks, in what would become the ultimate flex of Missouri’s BCS-worthy talent.
One thing to remember about Arkansas in 2007; it’s not as if they were undeserving pushovers. Their offense was carried by Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden and fellow First-Team All-SEC RB Felix Jones, both of whom ran behind a line that placed four on the first and second all-conference teams. In the game before the Cotton Bowl, Arkansas took down eventual BCS champion LSU in an epic three-overtime brawl in Baton Rouge.
But on New Year’s Day, Arkansas played the part of a door mat, specifically to Tony Temple. The senior back put on an absolute clinic, setting records for both rushing yards (281) and rushing touchdowns (4) against a defense that had proven vulnerable to the run. Darren McFadden — who finished ahead of Chase Daniel in the Heisman voting — averaged 5 yards per carry on 21 carries, but was a footnote to Temple’s dominance
And while Temple carried a Missouri offense that otherwise struggled, Missouri’s defense forced five takeaways, including a pick-six from All-American William Moore. Breakout star Sean Weatherspoon recorded six tackles, a sack and a defended pass. And Missouri held the country’s No. 13 offense to 7 points, 30 under the Razorback’s season average.
It wasn’t quite the ending Tiger fans wanted to the magical 2007 season. It would have been far more fitting to take home an Orange Bowl championship, especially after watching that one school to the west barely scrape out a win over Virginia Tech. But at least for one day, the Missouri Tigers got the satisfaction of proving to the entire college football world that they were too good for non-BCS fare. Even the slightest bit of embarrassment to the BCS was enough sugar to help swallow a bitter pill.