Missouri fans knew that a win over Florida at home would be critical to a Southeastern Conference East division championship.
The No. 14 Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) got quite a bit of extra help Saturday from their toughest competition.
Surprising losses from No. 15 Georgia (4-3, 3-2 SEC) and No. 11 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2 SEC) on Saturday give Missouri breathing room. In fact, the Tigers are the only team without two conference losses, meaning they could lose two of their five remaining games and still make it to Atlanta for the conference championship game.
When the Gamecock and Bulldog losses were announced in the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium, the crowd cheered nearly as loud as it had for redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk’s touchdown just minutes before.
Missouri only has two games remaining against ranked opponents, both of which are at home. South Carolina travels from Columbia, S.C., to Columbia, Mo., for a matchup next weekend after losing to Tennessee, 23-21.
The other ranked team is led by a quarterback by the name of Mr. Football. Johnny Manziel and the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies will visit Faurot Field on Nov. 30 for Missouri’s final game of the regular season, although much of the drama might be over by then.
If Missouri enters the game without a loss, the East division would already be decided. If it has one loss, it would depend on which teams sat with two losses.
Despite a chance to make it to Atlanta, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said his team isn’t looking down the road.
“I think we might focus on South Carolina,” Pinkel said.
Pinkel did say that the seniors wanted to bring Missouri back to national respectability, something that an SEC East championship would surely do.
“When people are sitting in January, looking back on the Mizzou football team, what would they say about the Mizzou football team? What would you want them to say about the Mizzou football team?” Pinkel said he asked his players in August.
Despite Missouri’s undefeated record, many still didn’t take the Tigers seriously as contenders before Saturday.
“I thought we were going to have a good football team,” Pinkel said. “I don’t know why nobody else thought we were going to have a good football team.”