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10-Year Review: Mizzou in the SEC

2021 marked the 10th season of SEC competition in football for the Missouri Tigers. Let’s take a look back at all that has went down since then.

Florida v MIssouri

Overall Record: 69-59

Conference Record: 38-44

Missouri v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Top 5 Games

5. Missouri 45 | LSU 41

October 10th, 2020

The defending national champions came to Columbia amidst the COVID-19 pandemic looking to avoid starting out the season under .500. Eliah Drinkwitz was searching for his first signature win as head coach of the Tigers, and he got it. Connor Bazelak had a career day (406 yards, 4 TDs) and out-dueled Myles Brennan in a shootout. This win would propel the Tigers towards a surprising 5-5 season in conference play, one that showed Drinkwitz could win in the SEC.

4. Missouri 38 | #11 Florida 17

November 3rd, 2018

A week after an absolutely heartbreaking loss at the hands of Kentucky, Mizzou had another tall order in going to the Swamp to take on a talented Florida team. When everything seemed lost, Drew Lock stepped up. The Tigers rattled off 21-straight points in the first half, and had the lead up to as much as 25 in the second half en route to an easy win. Lock had an efficient day, throwing for 250 yards and 3 TDs, while the team as a whole ran for 231 yards. It was an unexpected win at a time when this team appeared to be faltering, and again showed Mizzou’s ability to upset the Gators. (See 2013, which was also heavily considered for this list).

3. #8 Missouri 41 | #13 Oklahoma State 31

January 4th, 2014

Fresh off a close defeat to eventual national runner-ups Auburn in the SEC title game, Mizzou still had a shot to take home some hardware in Arlington. In a classic Big 12 battle, Oklahoma State gave the Tigers all they could handle, as the two sides combined for a whopping 38 points in the fourth quarter. Henry Josey had three rushing touchdowns, but the highlight of this game will always be Michael Sam’s strip sack that resulted in a Shane Ray 73-yard return touchdown to clinch the victory. It was the perfect ending to a remarkable season in the conference, one that announced Mizzou was here to stay in the SEC.

2. #25 Missouri 41 | #7 Georgia 26

October 12th, 2013

If there was a game that established Mizzou’s presence in the SEC, this was it. Having gone 5-7 the year prior and not having much expected of them in 2013, the Tigers marched into Athens and took down a Georgia team that many thought had national championship hopes. Missouri was up 28-10 at halftime, in large part thanks to a Shane Ray strip sack that Michael Sam returned for a TD (a bit of role-reversal from the OSU game, huh?). James Franklin would leave with an injury in the second half, but some trick plays and salty defense kept UGA from mounting any sort of comeback. This was the game that started the two-year run in the East.

1. #5 Missouri 28 | #21 Texas A&M 21

December 1st, 2013

As December rolled around in Columbia, Faurot Field was packed for one of the biggest games in Mizzou history. The Tigers had a chance to clinch a birth in the SEC title game in only their second year of being in the conference. Under the lights, all the Tigers had to do was stave off old Big 12 foe TAMU and the magician Johnny Manziel. Henery Josey’s 57-yard touchdown run with 3:34 left clinched the game for the Tigers and goes down as one of the best moments in Mizzou football history and one of the loudest in Faurot Field’s. If the Georgia game started Mizzou’s arrival in the conference, this was the exclamation point.

South Carolina v Missouri Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Top 5 Players

Honorable Mentions: Markus Golden (DL, LB), J’Mon Moore (WR), Henry Josey (RB), James Franklin (QB)

5. Tyler Badie (RB)

Career Stats (2018-21): 513 carries, 2,740 rushing yards, 23 TDs, 1,149 receiving yards, 11 TDs

He bided his time, and boy did it pay off. Tyler Badie had to wait behind Larry Roundtree for years, remaining a quality secondary option that people thought couldn’t be more than a change-of-pace back. Then, 2021 happened. Badie finally got the bulk of the carries, and he exploded for over 1,600 yards and 14 TDs. It is hard to point out just one strength he had, because Badie was so well-rounded. Despite his smaller size, he proved be could be an every-down back in the toughest conference in the country. Badie’s vision in the zone run scheme was superb, as he became notorious for bursting through holes and breaking off huge runs. Nobody was touching him in the open field, and he carried the 2021 offense on his back at times. Put him up there with any running back to come out of Mizzou.

4. Kentrell Brothers (LB)

Career Stats (2012-15): 357 total tackles, 23.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 11 pass breakups, 4 forced fumbles

While the defensive line got most of the attention during the back-to-back SEC East title runs, it was Kentrell Brothers that led this team. He was everything you would want in a linebacker, and his 152 tackle, 12 TFL senior season goes down as one of the best individual years a Mizzou player has had.

3. Michael Sam (DE)

Career Stats (2010-13): 110 total tackles, 31.5 TFLs, 17 sacks, 2 INTs, 5 forced fumbles

If there was an emotional leader amongst the many great defensive linemen that played at Mizzou during these times, it was Michael Sam. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, Sam was a constant force up front that lived in the backfield. He inspired the next generation (Golden, Ray), and goes down as one of the most feared players to don the Black and Gold.

2. Drew Lock (QB)

Career Stats (2015-18): 56.9 completion %, 12,193 passing yards, 99 TDs (#3 in SEC history), 39 INTs, 437 rushing yards, 9 TDs

It wasn’t always perfect under Drew Lock, but it is hard to deny that he was the most prolific quarterback Mizzou had seen since Blaine Gabbert when he was on the field. Lock had a cannon for an arm, loved throwing the ball 40-50 times a game, and had a healthy bit of moxie to go along with that. His development over the course of his 4 years on campus was impressive to watch, as he became a more well-rounded QB that could lead his team. Look at his near-perfect performance against Florida in 2018, his 467 yards and 6 TDs against Idaho, or his 375 yard, 3-TD game against Purdue on the road as prime examples of his talent. When he was hot, Drew Lock was HOT. His numbers speak for themselves, and it is scary to think about what some of those Mizzou teams would have looked like had Lock not been on them.

1. Shane Ray (DE)

Career Stats (2012-14): 120 total tackles, 34 TFLs, 19 sacks, 5 forced fumbles

It was a tight race at the top, but personally, I would be remiss if I did not put a pass rusher at the top spot. And, let’s be honest, Shane Ray has a great claim for it. He built off of what Michael Sam did and formed half of the nation’s best pass-rushing duo in 2014 (Golden being the other half). His 14.5 sacks in 2014 were the most in a single season in Mizzou history, as he just terrorized opposing quarterbacks every single Saturday. His motor was unmatched, and with 34 TFLs, he was effective in stopping the run too.

Best Moment:

Definitely can be argued, but in terms of just everything coming together and the perfect stage for it to do so, the Texas A&M game is unmatched. The atmosphere at Faurot Field was incredible, the ending to the game was electric, and Mizzou clinched a berth in the SEC title game, a feat people thought was impossible for a team that just joined the league. And, oh yeah, beating Johnny Manziel is always fun.

Worst Moment:

You could go a lot of ways here, but I’ll choose to go with it from a heartbreaking angle. The 2018 loss to Kentucky hurt immensely in the moment, but it hurt even more knowing that this team won 4-straight games to end the regular season (in dominant fashion) and had a shot to compete for the East title had they won. Instead, a Kentucky team that appeared destined for a great year pulled off the miraculous win, and Faurot Field sat stunned.

Biggest Upset

The 2013 Georgia game announced that Missouri had arrived. Not many gave Mizzou a chance, but 4 Bulldog turnovers and a trick play TD that saw Bud Sasser throw a 40-yard touchdown to L’Damian Washington allowed the Tigers to stun Athens. This would be the game that propelled Mizzou to a magical run in the East and showed they could compete with the big dawgs of the conference.

Missouri v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Recruiting Rankings Since Joining

  1. 2022 (#17 overall, #6 in-conference)
  2. 2015 (#25 overall, #12 in-conference)
  3. 2021 (#30 overall, #11 in-conference)
  4. 2019 (#34 overall, #13 in-conference)
  5. 2014 (#37 overall, #13 in-conference)
  6. 2017 (#42 overall, #13 in-conference)
  7. 2018 (#43 overall, #13 in-conference)
  8. 2016 (#43 overall, #13 in-conference)
  9. 2013 (#43 overall, #14 in-conference)
  10. 2020 (#49 overall, #13 in-conference)
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl - Minnesota v Missouri Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

Overall, What We’ve Learned

  • We knew it coming in, but the SEC is tough, especially in the trenches. When Mizzou has had good line play on both sides, they’ve won. When they haven’t, they’ve lost.
  • The overall talent level of this team has been holding them back for the past 5 years, but it is steadily improving compared to other SEC teams. If the recruiting rankings above suggest anything, it’s that the talent level in Columbia is going to catch up to the rest of the conference soon.
  • Winning in the SEC takes consistency. It doesn’t matter if you can upset Georgia or Florida if you can’t consistently beat Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, etc. Every week is grueling, and it takes a special team to find success from start to finish.
  • Atmospheres are incredibly important in this conference, with some of the greatest cathedrals of the game lying in the Southeast. While Faurot Field has seen its fair share of big games, fan turnout in recent years has been lackluster, and it has affected on-field play. To win in this conference, the fanbase has to be just as invested as the team.
  • Mizzou has already proved they can find success in this conference, but again, it takes a special team to sustain a certain level of play every week in the SEC.
Oklahoma v Missouri Photo by Jackson Laizure/Oklahoma/Getty Images

Questions For The Future

  1. Will Drinkwitz be able to surpass Pinkel’s SEC success?
  2. When will the Tigers next win the East?
  3. Can they finish top 5 in recruiting in-conference?
  4. Will the additions of Oklahoma and Texas knock the Tigers down a couple rungs in the pecking order?
  5. Can the Tigers revive the “DLU” mantra that inspired some of the early success?