The Extra Point: Mizzou Bounces Back, Stifles Tennessee 31-3
COLUMBIA - Missouri quarterback James Franklin was listed as ‘Questionable' for Saturday's game. He could be seen warming up on the sidelines throughout.
But the Tigers wouldn't need him. Not for this game, anyway.
In Franklin's stead for the third consecutive game, Maty Mauk was 12-25 for 163 yards and three touchdowns through the air, to go along with 114 yards rushing on 13 carries as the No. 9 Missouri Tigers handled their business against the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday evening at Faurot Field.
Mauk's 114 yards were part of the total of 339 yards on the ground that the Tigers compiled as a team, as Henry Josey grabbed 74, with Russell Hansbrough running for 61 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries.
Though the offense got off to a bit of a slow start in the game, the defense was impressive throughout, keeping Tennessee out of the end zone for the entirety of the game.
The offense found their groove with touchdowns for Dorial Green-Beckham, L'Damian Washington, and Marcus Lucas in the first half, spurring Mizzou to a 24-3 halftime lead.
Maty Mauk had a better game this week. Despite his still-low completion percentage, Mauk displayed his ability to make plays when the pocket collapses, as he scampered down field and made defenders miss on multiple occasions.
James Franklin could be ready for action as early as next week when the Tiger travel to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats. If this was the last we see of Mauk for this season, it was certainly an encouraging performance for fans to see, as Mauk readies himself to take over the quarterbacking duties full-time next season.
Behind Mauk's solid decision making, and the defense's stingy play, the game was never in doubt for the Tigers, a refreshing change of pace after the nail-biting loss to South Carolina last week. Missouri improved to 8-1 with the win, and they remain atop the SEC East with a 4-1 record in conference play.
Missouri controls its own destiny in the division, and their path to Atlanta is becoming clearer, with just three games remaining.
If the Tigers can score victories at Kentucky, at Ole Miss, and in the home finale against Texas A&M, they're in the SEC Championship game.
Simple enough, right?
Things will become muddled, however, if the Tigers falter in one of their remaining games.
If the Tigers lose just one game the rest of the way, they'll finish with a 6-2 record within the conference. If South Carolina finishes the season, as expected, with a home win over Florida, their season will end at 6-2 as well. Should the Tigers falter, and tie them at 6-2, the Gamecocks will win the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win over Missouri. However, Missouri's hopes aren't completely gone if they finish with two conference losses, but they'd need some help to stay alive.
Georgia has two conference games left on their schedule, a tough road task against Auburn followed by a home game against Kentucky. Hypothetically, if the Bulldogs can win both, and join the Tigers and Gamecocks at 6-2, Missouri would win based on record within the division, provided Missouri's loss doesn't come against Kentucky this coming Saturday.
It's a lot to figure out, so the short-version of this story is that Missouri needs to win three more games to guarantee themselves a spot in the SEC Championship game against No. 1 Alabama Saturday December 7.
Missouri has to be careful not to overlook Kentucky, because at this point, every game is magnified, and Missouri needs to stay focused if they want to realize their conference title hopes.