ARLINGTON, Texas - To any of those who believed Missouri was in way, way, way over its head when it left the Big 12 to join the mighty SEC, eat it. Wait, I did that? Yes, well ... cough-cough ... mistakes are allowed every other century.
In its history, Missouri has already defeated Oklahoma State, and won a Cotton Bowl, but Friday night's accomplishments feel only slightly more significant. Defeating T. Boone State, 41-31, in the Cotton Bowl as a member of the SEC proves it can do what every other SEC team does.
The SEC has now won 10 of the last 11 Cotton Bowls, and six in a row.
Missouri's finale in its second season in the SEC proved it can hang in the nation's toughest league; despite some of the stupid criticism pointed at head coach Gary Pinkel, he obviously knows what he is doing. What that man has done at Missouri rivals some of the best turnaround jobs in the nation.
He has made Missouri consistently relevant. Previously, the best Mizzou could hope for was to be good every third or fifth year. Maybe. The Tigers may not be a re-load team, but they are closer than they have been in the modern era.
Since 2007, Mizzou has won 10 games four times. That is by far the most successful stretch in school history. Before '07, the Tigers had won 10 games one other time.
When the school chased the cash to join the SEC, the prevailing thought was there was no way they could keep this up.
"I don't hold any grudges there at all," Pinkel said on the field after the game. "We are honored to be in the SEC. It's a great year."
Pinkel can coach QBs - he's had Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, and what he did with James Franklin is impressive. Pinkel finds tall, rangy wide receivers. Defensive end Michael Sams is as good as any defender in the country.
This season, Missouri defeated Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Okie State. Maybe some of those programs are down, but there was a time - like 2012 - when Missouri defeating any of those "name" programs was a far-fetched.
Mizzou was blown out in the SEC title game against Auburn, but the fact the Tigers reached said title game may be this program's greatest high points.
Then they went on to do what every other SEC team does - win the Cotton Bowl.
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