Once more: This is a look at 20 games in which a) the combined quality of Missouri and its opponent was really, really high (they're ranked in order of combined S&P+ percentile ratings), and b) Mizzou won.
The last game on our countdown was the one that really started Missouri's run to the 2013 SEC East title. Now, conveniently enough, we move to the team that wrapped up the 2014 run.
History + Stats
Arkansas was awesome in 2014. For three quarters, the Razorbacks might have been the best team in the country. But like Tennessee in 2015, they kept figuring out ways to fall just short, often in unlucky fashion. They lost by seven late to Texas A&M. They lost by one to Alabama. They lost by seven at Mississippi State when the Bulldogs were No. 1 in the country. And late in the season, when they were at their peak -- they had just beaten LSU and Ole Miss by a combined 47-0 and were about to beat Texas by 24 in the Texas Bowl -- they came to Columbia to prevent Missouri from winning a second straight division title.
The 2014 Missouri team was not the 2013 team. It had a brand new receiving corps. There was no Henry Josey, no Justin Britt, no Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, no Andrew Wilson. This was a new team and looked like it early in the season. Not that you need to be reminded of this (it wasn't exactly long ago), but the Tigers lost to Indiana at home and needed two late scores to get past what ended up being a pretty poor South Carolina team in Columbia East. They got rocked by Georgia, 34-0, in a game in which the defense actually played pretty well. But the Tigers were simply plodding along without a passing game and with only an occasional presence from the offensive line.
Mizzou kept winning, though. The Tigers rolled up a perfect collection of return touchdowns -- kickoff (Marcus Murphy), punt (Murphy), fumble (Markus Golden), interception (Darvin Ruise) -- in a 42-13 win over Florida. They escaped Vanderbilt, 24-14, on Homecoming. They beat Kentucky by 10. And thanks to a stunning Georgia loss to Florida (as stunning as one of those can be, anyway), Mizzou simply needed to win out to take a shocking division title.
Easier said than done. Mizzou trailed a solid Texas A&M team by a 13-6 margin at halftime, then erupted for 28 points in the third quarter and made a late goal line stand to win, 34-27.
The next week, tied at 13-13 at Tennessee, Mizzou waited until the fourth quarter to seize control with a 73-yard strike from Maty Mauk to Jimmie Hunt and fended off late advances to win, 29-21.
That left Bret Bielema's Hogs. And early on, this game played out like the numbers suggested it would. Arkansas' first possession was an 11-play, 70-yard scoring jaunt; the Hogs' third drive went 31 yards in six plays for another score and a 14-3 lead. Mizzou got a break by recovering a Johnathan Williams fumble, but D.J. Dean picked off Mauk on the very next play. Andrew Baggett boomed in a 50-yard field goal (he made a 52-yarder earlier in the quarter) to make it 14-6 at halftime, but Arkansas was much closer to seizing control of the game than the Tigers.
As was its late-season custom, however, Mizzou came out firing after halftime. The Tigers forced a three-and-out, then drove to the Arkansas 18; the drive ended in a blocked field goal, but Mizzou still moved the ball pretty well. The same remained true on the next drive when, following a fourth-down stuff by the MU defense, Mauk hit Bud Sasser for a nice gain on third-and-long only to watch Sasser lose a fumble.
Arkansas suddenly couldn't move the ball, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Mauk hit Hunt for a 44-yard bomb to the Arkansas 37. He found Sasser for 28 yards to the 4, and on second-and-goal, he found Hunt again. Darius White threw a trick-play score to Sasser on the two-point conversion attempt, and the game was tied.
Arkansas still couldn't move the ball. The Hogs punted once again, and Missouri unfurled a drive for the ages: 12 plays, 85 yards, six minutes of possession. It began with two Russell Hansbrough rushes for 35 yards and ended with a spinning 12-yard jaunt from Marcus Murphy.
Stagnant for the entire first half, Mizzou suddenly led by seven with 4:38 left.
Arkansas put together one last challenge, however. Brandon Allen connected with Hunter Henry for 12 yards, and on fourth-and-8, Shane Ray committed a personal foul to give the Hogs new life. Allen-to-Henry converted a fourth-and-5 to get Arkansas inside the 40, and then Alex Collins rushed for three yards to the 34.
But after Collins' run, Markus Golden came out of the pile holding the ball above his head. No one had seen a fumble in real time, but on replay it became clear: Kentrell Brothers had punched the ball out of Collins' hands just before Collins hit the ground.
Just like that, it was Mizzou's ball. Hansbrough rushed for 16 yards on the next play, and that was that. Against significant odds, Mizzou had battled, scratched, and clawed out six consecutive wins to finish the regular season. And for a second straight year, the SEC East title went through one of the westernmost points in the SEC. Nothing had come even slightly easy for this team, and, with a bowl win over Minnesota, Mizzou clawed out an 11-win season anyway.
You can watch the full game here. The fourth quarter starts at the 2:02:00 mark. Go ahead skip to that part. I'll look the other way.