One of the things I talked about in the weekly How to Watch post was the oddity that is the series between Tennessee and Missouri. I really enjoy putting that post together because I like the histrionics of college sports, and my memory sucks so I get to relieve a lot of old matchups (for good and bad) when I look into the history stuff. But few series have the weirdness of Mizzou and Tennessee. I halfway joked at the end that: “Maybe they’ll win by 39 points and even the points scored on each side because that would be just weird enough of a result to fit right within this series.”
Well, they got close! Mizzou finished off the Vols by 29 points, instead of 39. Because 39 was just cruel, I guess. I’m certain there is no love lost between these two coaching staffs. Each of the last two seasons Tennessee put up 60+ points on offense. Last year, in particular, was stinging with Tennessee throwing a 46 yard bomb for a touchdown with around 5 minutes to play, and then running in a TD with under a minute to play. This is all with Missouri down by 28 and the game over.
So you’ll forgive Eli Drinkwitz for the gamesmanship of calling a timeout with Tennessee lining up a field goal in the final minute. Drinkwitz remembered last season. You don’t forget that feeling of watching your opponent quick snap an offensive play up 35 points with under a minute to play in order to score another touchdown. You don’t forget, but you put that feeling in your back pocket and let it motivate you the next time out.
And the next time out, Blake Baker put his own stamp on the game. Code Schrader was unreal and lived up to his muscle hamster nickname by just running into and through a vaunted Tennessee defense.
Let’s remember for a moment that Tennessee was favored to win this game. It wasn’t by a lot, Tennessee opened as a 1 point favorite and that bled up to around 2.5 by game time. Let’s remember Tennessee was picked 2nd in the SEC East behind Georgia, and Missouri was picked to finish 6th. Think for a moment the expectations in Knoxville, where orange and white checkerboard overall wearing weirdos worship Josh Heupel of all people. And then think about Eli Drinkwitz and his quarterback Brady Cook were booed in the intros of week 3.
The team motto this season has been “Something to Prove” and it works on a lot of different levels. There was little respect for this team outside of the locker room at the start of the season. There were segments of the fan base who believed this team could exceed expectations. But I think mostly we were just looking for a sign of progress after three straight mediocre seasons. So Drinkwitz did in fact have something to prove this season.
Brady Cook also had something to prove. Cody Schrader always feels like he has something to prove.
Sitting at 8-2 with two games to play, Mizzou should be favored to win their next two games against a 5-5 Florida team, and a 3-7 Arkansas club who just lost 48-10 on their home field. There are no more stop signs left on the schedule, just teams that should be road bumps. If you stand on business the last two weeks Missouri is likely looking at a New Year’s 6 bowl game. This team has proven it’s tough, physical, and more than anything resilient.
As I’ve written about, I’m a believer in momentum so winning week 3 and finding a way to be 5-0 going into the LSU game meant a lot. Players are human, and you can build up their confidence outside the locker room but the only real way to get them really believing is on the field.
Missouri believes. They believe in each other, they believe in their coaching staff, they believe in their quarterback and they believe in Schrader. That belief has them on the doorstep of a special season. It’s time to take it home.
Other SEC Scores:
- Georgia (2) 52, Ole Miss (9) 17
- Alabama (8) 49, Kentucky 21
- LSU (19) 52, Florida 35
- South Carolina 47, Vanderbilt 6
- Auburn 48, Arkansas 10
- Texas A&M 51, Mississippi State 10
Another point occurred to me as I was watching Georgia smash Ole Miss’s world in Athens last night. And that’s how difficult it is to win in this league consistently. Ole Miss was 8-1 and a dark horse to reach the College Football playoff, and after being semi-competitive for the majority of the first quarter and half, they were drowned by the Bulldogs. The Rebels’ second loss on the season was to Alabama, who have now essentially won the SEC West. Missouri beating Tennessee means that Georgia is atop the East and Georgia and Alabama will face off in the SEC Championship game.
To scale the mountain of the SEC you have to beat either Alabama or Georgia, and sometimes both. At some point that will change again but Alabama has been atop the sport since 2008 with 6 National Championships and just one season with 3 losses in that span. Meanwhile since Kirby Smart has taken over in Athens, Georgia has lost as many as 3 games just once as well.
Again starting in 2008, five seasons have seen someone other than Georgia or Alabama win the SEC. Florida once, Auburn twice, LSU twice. There’s a chance Eli Drinkwitz can turn this season into a trend, but at some point you have to beat Georgia or Alabama, or both if you want to claim anything more than a berth in a NY6 Bowl or in the future the College Football playoff. That’s not a knock on anyone other than how difficult this league is. It’s the same in the Big 10 where it seems like it’s either Ohio State or Michigan.
It’s hard to dislodge the top of the sport in college football. Maybe that’s another reason why we should really enjoy this season, and appreciate how close Mizzou came to taking down Goliath last week, while smacking around a program that thinks it’s Goliath yesterday.