Last year was one of the toughest for Tiger fans to digest in recent memory. Excitement was high for the future of the Missouri football program after the move to the Southeastern Conference. But a 2-6 record in SEC raised lots of questions about whether Missouri was ready or talented enough to play in college football’s premier conference.
Rumblings like that one carried over into this year, with Tiger fans fearing another unsuccessful and injury plagued campaign. But after starting 5-0, Mizzou fans everywhere are feeling nothing but optimism and a sense of belonging in the SEC. Any final thoughts of whether the Tigers belong in the SEC will be squashed with a victory against Georgia Saturday night.
Throughout the country, the SEC is recognized as the best football conference in the nation. Teams like Alabama and LSU consistently dominate college football, and Missouri jumped at a chance to compete against teams like those two and joined the SEC last season.
But competing against the big boys was hard at first. Really hard. Decimated by injuries and over matched on paper, last year’s Missouri squad finished with a 5-7 record. This performance was not at all on par with what Mizzou fans had come to expect in the Gary Pinkel era.
But this season has been a completely different story. The Tigers have dominated the first five teams they have played, winning their first five games by an average of 24 points and jumping into the Top 25 in the process. But Missouri has yet to get into the meat of their schedule, and that meat starts tomorrow against UGA. A win against the the Bulldogs would mean all kinds of things. Proof that MU belongs in the SEC. Validation of early season successes. Another jump in the top 25 rankings. In short, it would be a program changer.
If Mizzou can beat UGA on the road, that will also make later games against ranked opponents like South Carolina and Florida at home look a lot easier. You can easily argue that the Dawgs are one of the two best teams on the Tigers schedule, along with Texas A&M. So if the Tigers beat UGA, there is no stopping what they can do. Even a close loss would prove Missouri can compete with any team on our schedule.
This game means a lot. The UGA game meant a lot last year, when the Tigers faced Georgia at home in front of a crazy crowd at Faurot Field. But two Top 25 teams, the Tigers playing on the road deep in SEC country and a chance to drastically improve the image of Tiger football in front of a national audience? It all adds up to this game being quite possibly the biggest all season.