It all could have been so nice and neat. If Missouri had been able to hold on against South Carolina, the Tigers would have been the clear-cut, odd-on, catbird-seat leaders in the SEC’s East Division.
Instead, we’ve got a mess. And Missouri has got egg on its face.
With the game looking to be out of reach, ill and injured quarterback Connor Shaw entered the game like the gridiron version of Roy Hobbs. He wasn’t in tip-top medical condition, but he seemed destined to get the job done for Carolina. His first scoring drive cut seven points into a 17-0 Missouri lead with 12:13 to play.
Next, Missouri’s offense fizzled out at Carolina’s 28 and Andrew Baggett missed a lengthy 46-yard field goal attempt. The ball went back to USC.
Down 17-7, Shaw drove the Gamecocks to the Missouri two-yard-line. Mizzou’s D finally stiffened and held USC to a 20-yard field goal. 17-10 Missouri with 5:03 to play.
With a chance to run down the clock, the Tiger offense sputtered to a three-and-out and gave the ball right back to Shaw with 3:08 to play. Carolina never even faced a third down on their 63-yard game-tying drive.
From there you know the rest. Missouri had yet another chance to finish USC off in the first overtime, but Bruce Ellington got free in the end zone and Shaw hit him with a game-extending TD pass on fourth-and-goal from the 15. Fourth-and-goal from the 15.
Down three in the second OT, Baggett missed a chip shot field goal to tie which led many Missouri fans to make complete and utter asses of themselves by piling on their kicker, as though he was the only culprit in a game that saw the Tigers blow a 17-0 lead with less than 13 minutes to play. Baggett was eviscerated on Twitter which you can see for yourself right here (warning: stiff language).
For those Mizzou fans wanting credit for the few Tiger fans who actually sent Baggett pep-talk tweets after the game, sorry, we give no bonus points for behaving rationally. Hooray for those who weren’t saps, but the childish, unfair, disgraceful tweets left by your brethren are the reason Missouri football is being discussed nationally today.
Of course, Mizzou fans didn’t show a lot of class (or football intelligence) in booing their team’s decision not to let a freshman quarterback try to lead a drive from his own 25 with 42 seconds to play in regulation. An interception there would have only led to a Carolina opportunity and more boos.
One wonders how much the booing of an undefeated team and the nastiness on Twitter will resonate with Tiger recruits. I would hope MU fans are better than what they showed on Saturday and Sunday.
In the big picture, Missouri’s pain is all gain for South Carolina, Georgia and even Florida. All are now back in the East race. Here’s a breakdown of what each school has left on the schedule:
| Missouri (3-1)
|| S. Carolina (4-2)
|| Georgia (3-2)
|| Florida (3-2)
|| Miss. State
|| Florida (Jacksonville)
|| Georgia (Jacksonville)
| at Kentucky
|| at Auburn
| at Ole Miss
|| at S. Carolina
| Texas A&M
Now lets run through a few scenarios.
If Missouri drops one more game — and those last two games look pretty tough — Carolina can claim the East Division by beating Mississippi State and Florida at home. USC would hold the head-to-head tie-breaker by virtue of Saturday’s comeback, Steve Spurrier’s decision to insert Shaw, and the Shaw-Ellington fourth-and-goal TD pass (which would certainly go down in Gamecock history should Carolina win the East).
If there is a three-way tie, let’s say between Missouri (6-2), Carolina (6-2) and Georgia (6-2), the tie-breaker is combined head-to-head records of all those involved. Mizzou would be 1-1 against the other two. Georgia would be 1-1. Carolina would be 1-1.
The next tie-breaker would be each team’s record within the East Division. Carolina would be 4-2. Georgia would be 4-2. And if Missouri loses only to Ole Miss or Texas A&M, the Tigers would be 5-1 in the East and get the ticket to Atlanta.
Georgia must hope for Missouri to drop a pair of games (because Mizzou holds the tie-breaker with them) to reach Atlanta. If UGA wins out and ties with USC, the Dawgs hold the head-to-head tie-breaker.
Florida needs to win out and they need for Missouri to drop two more games. They control their destiny when it comes to Georgia and Carolina, but MU holds the head-to-head tie-breaker with them.
There could be no three-way tie with Florida as the Gators and Gamecocks still have a date with one another.
For now, Missouri remains in the lead. Win out and the East crown is theirs. And the Tigers are absolutely “for real” enough to beat anyone remaining on their schedule.
If the Tigers drop another game, Carolina is in the next best shape, but they should be pulling for Georgia to lose (like they wouldn’t anyway) in order to avoid the three-team tie-breaker scenario.
Like we said, a muddled mess.