On the surface, Missouri’s 20-10 win at home over Kentucky last Saturday was not the most pleasant viewing experience, unless you like an obscene number of punts and uncomfortably cold temperatures. Missouri’s Christian Brinser and Kentucky’s Landon Foster combined for 15 punts, and sustaining drives was a tall task for both offenses.
But digging deeper, it was a beautiful day for for Missouri (7-2, 4-1 in SEC play). The Tigers notched a win over a decent Kentucky team, holding the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 in SEC) to 10 points the week after Kentucky hung 31 on No. 1 Mississippi State. Conference wins are like pizza; even when they’re bad, they’re good.
The day was also huge for Missouri because of the result down in Jacksonville, where Florida went berserk on Georgia and won 38-20 in the game known as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” The Gators (4-3, 3-3 in SEC) racked up 418 rushing yards in the win, which dealt Georgia (6-2, 4-2 in SEC) a second SEC loss and put Missouri in the driver’s seat in the SEC East Division race.
Despite losing 34-0 at home to Georgia, Missouri now leads the East. If the Tigers win their last three games, at Texas A&M, at Tennessee and home vs. Arkansas, Missouri will represent the East in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, against some ferociously good SEC West team.
Georgia still has to play at Kentucky and against Auburn, so the Bulldogs could very well lose again and give Missouri a mulligan to work with.
Florida is a long-shot contender, but the Gators need another loss from Georgia and at least two losses from Missouri.
Missouri has had its humiliations this year. There was the home loss to an Indiana team that is 0-4 in Big Ten play, with each of those Big Ten losses by at least 16 points. There was the aforementioned shutout loss to Georgia. And yet, this team keeps digging and has positioned itself to make a run at another SEC East title. As I say about every week, Missouri is no juggernaut, but the Tigers willingness to play hard and generally smart football, as well as put failures behind them, is admirable.
Those qualities were on display against Kentucky. Missouri’s first two drives were punts, but the defense dug in until the offense got going for two second-quarter touchdowns. Maty Mauk, who entered the game completing less than 40 percent of his passes in SEC play, completed 18 of 33 for 164 yards, two touchdowns and, maybe most importantly, no interceptions.
Now Missouri has a bye week before beginning that final three-game kick with a trip to Texas A&M on Nov. 15. It’s a nice chance for Missouri to rest up, and for Tiger fans to relax a bit and enjoy a full slate of great college football games this Saturday. Alabama at LSU (7 p.m. on CBS) is the SEC headliner, but Tiger fans who have caught SEC East fever can also keep an eye on Georgia at Kentucky (11 a.m. on ESPN).