Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest
By ASSOCIATED PRESS  |  Last updated 11/6/13
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) A surprise no more, No. 9 Missouri leads the SEC East with three games to go. Win out and the Tigers (8-1, 4-1 SEC) will have come back all the way from last year's 5-7 dud that prompted doubts about whether they or their coach belonged in their new league. Beat Kentucky, Ole Miss and No. 11 Texas A&M, and they earn a berth in the conference championship game. "We've probably exceeded everybody else's expectations, but with our expectations, we still haven't accomplished what we want to accomplish yet," cornerback Randy Ponder said. "We've still got to take each game like Day One." Coach Gary Pinkel's crew is a double-digit favorite this week at Kentucky and then there's a week off, perhaps bonus time allowing quarterback James Franklin to return from a shoulder strain at full strength. Pinkel warned players there's little drop-off in the SEC, and they know better than to treat Kentucky (2-6) lightly. They were there a year ago. "It doesn't matter where they are in the conference," said quarterback Maty Mauk, who'll likely be making his fourth consecutive start. "They're playing in the SEC. We know they're going to be good. Maybe they don't come out on top a lot of the time, but they're a great team." No. 13 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) and Georgia (5-3, 4-2) are lurking, each with two losses and hoping for another Missouri stumble that could set up a tiebreaker mess. The survivor of various scenarios likely earns the underdog role -- make that a heavy underdog -- in the SEC championship game, perhaps against No. 1 Alabama. Based on head-to-head results and two teams tied for first at 6-2, South Carolina trumps Missouri and Missouri trumps Georgia. Head-to-head competition would not decide a three-way tie, since South Carolina beat Missouri but lost to Georgia, and Missouri beat Georgia but lost to South Carolina. With a 2-1 finish, Missouri would prevail in the next tiebreaker based on division record -- one loss vs. two each for Georgia and South Carolina. Tennessee has lost to all of the SEC East contenders. The Volunteers lost 34-31 to Georgia in overtime at home, beat South Carolina 23-21 at home and lost 31-3 last week to the Tigers. So who's best? "I'd have to say Missouri, just them being the last ones we played," Vols offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James said. "They had a great defensive line, a pretty good offense. I see Missouri doing good things in the East." The Crimson Tide are the two-time defending national champions and they've been No. 1 all year, on track for a fourth BCS championship game in five years. They're the class of the conference that has won seven consecutive BCS titles. First things first. The teams chasing Missouri can't fixate on what's out of their control. Georgia stayed alive by beating Florida last week and quarterback Aaron Murray said he's taken just a peek at the various scenarios. The Bulldogs play Appalachian State this week, followed by Auburn and Kentucky. "You can't stress about, 'We need them to lose, we need them to lose,'" Murray said. "That's the crummy part of not being in control of our own destiny. But right now we've just got to take care of our own business and win the rest of our games and just hope and pray they lose, but don't freak out and stress out about it because that's going to affect us." South Carolina handed Missouri its lone loss in double-overtime at Columbia, Mo., rallying from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The cleanest route to the title game: Beat Florida at home in its league finale on Nov. 16 combined with losses by Missouri and Georgia. The Gamecocks are off this week and play at home next week against Florida. "If we take care of business and it works out for us, then it does," defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. "If it doesn't, we did what we set out to do other than win all the SEC games."
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Cult of Sport: Before there was Ezekiel Elliott, there was Eric Dickerson
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Louisville's Lamar Jackson wins 2016 Heisman Trophy

Carmelo Anthony ‘skeptical’ of new CBA before Thursday deadline

Erik Spoelstra on sitting Hassan Whiteside: ‘This league is for competitors only’

Andrew McCutchen admits trade rumors left him ‘on edge’

Leicester City put up three goals in first 20 minutes against Manchester City

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Houston regent: Lane Kiffin ‘was not a safe hire’

Adam Jones takes a shot at Terrelle Pryor

Jeff Fisher, Les Snead deny ‘toxic’ relationship reports

‘Field of Dreams’ 24-diamond complex clears final hurdle, will build on site from film

Dorial Green-Beckham fined for wearing non-charity Yeezy cleats

Chargers GM won’t commit to Mike McCoy’s return in 2017

Winners, losers and what is still pending from baseball's 2016 Winter Meetings

The best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

Five teams on upset alert in NFL Week 14

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Box Score 12/9: Carey Price has had enough of your nonsense

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

Ten most significant developments of the NBA season

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Winners, losers and what is still pending from the 2016 Winter Meetings

Why UCLA's Lonzo Ball is the most interesting player in college hoops

The NBA goes courtside to curbside: Drinks and rides for discerning fans

CFB Crash Course, Graduation: Final grades and awards

The five best (and worst) times athletes hosted 'SNL'

NHL All-Star Game fans are in search of another John Scott

Sporting life: Gifts for the fan who is always on point

Matt Ryan is now Mr. Pick-Two

MLB Winter Meetings, Day 4: News, notes and rumors

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker