The Missouri football team got two pieces of good news Tuesday.
Early in the day the Tigers, 12-2 after a 38-7 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, were ranked No. 4 in this season’s final Associated Press poll and were No. 5 in the final USA Today coaches’ poll. Later the team found out that five players who were thinking about entering the 2008 NFL draft have decided to return for their senior season.
The Cotton Bowl win elevated Missouri from seventh in both polls, giving the Tigers their highest AP ranking since the poll first originated in 1936.
The previous high finish in the AP poll for MU was a fifth-place showing in 1960, followed closely by sixth place finishes in 1939, 1965 and 1969. The only other top-10 final finishes for the Tigers include seventh in 1941 and ninth in 1968.
The Tigers were the highest ranked Big 12 Conference team in the poll and one of four to finish in the top 10. Kansas came in at No. 7, followed by Oklahoma at No. 8 and Texas, which tied for No. 10 with Boston College.
LSU climbed to the top of the AP poll for the third time this season, winning its second title after beating Ohio State 38-24 in the BCS national championship game Monday night. It was the first time a team with two losses ended up No. 1. Throughout the season four teams had earned the top ranking, including Missouri after its Nov. 24 Border Showdown victory over Kansas. Nine teams had been listed at No. 2 during the season.
Quarterback Chase Daniel and tight end Chase Coffman were among the MU juniors who had submitted their names to the NFL College Advisory Committee before the Cotton Bowl.
“These are all high-caliber football players,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Having them here is obviously a huge positive for us going forward.”
The others who submitted their names were free safety William Moore, defensive end Stryker Sulak and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood.
Their decision to return gives Missouri 16 returning starters, including 10 on defense, from a team that won the Big 12 North Division for the first time. The team could add another returner if running back Tony Temple is granted a fifth year of eligibility.
After players submit their names to the committee, the panel projects in which round each would likely be chosen in the upcoming draft.
“It was a great process to go through for me, personally,” Daniel said. “I think everyone is glad they got the feedback, and I know we’re all excited about what’s out here for us as a team next year.”
Daniel, in his second season as starter, passed for 4,306 yards and 33 touchdowns on his way to being named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and finishing fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Coffman, who was third on the team with 52 catches for 531 yards, holds the Missouri career record for touchdown catches with 20. He was named to the All-Big 12 second team.
Moore played his best at the end of the season, when he intercepted five passes in Missouri’s final six games after teammate Pig Brown suffered a season-ending injury. He finished the season tied for the most interceptions in the country with eight.
Sulak and Hood will anchor a line next season that lost All-Big 12 performer Lorenzo Williams. Sulak was named to the All-Big 12 second team after recording six sacks, while Hood was named honorable mention All Big 12.