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Columbia Missourian

COMMENTARY: Bowl game? Missouri would need to upset Texas A&M

By Richard Fernandez
November 18, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST
Missouri quarterback James Franklin walks with teammates after the end of the game against Syracuse on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Franklin played the first three quarters until he was injured in the fourth.

COLUMBIA — Missouri's inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference is officially a disaster.

The team can still do something meaningful this season, but it won't be at a bowl game. Missouri could possibly still reach a bowl game, but only by beating Texas A&M.

If that happens, the Tigers should be more proud of beating the Aggies than attending something like the BBVA Compass Bowl or the Autozone Liberty Bowl.

But don't count on it.

Quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies have already earned the respect of their new conference by taking down the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide.

"Johnny Football" has now become a legitimate Heisman contender as a quarterback. James Franklin might not even play next week, depending on his injury.

Even if Franklin plays, what chance does Missouri really have to win?

Heading into the season, the Tigers wanted to think they could compete with the top teams in the Southeastern Conference, but they simply haven't.

The Tigers lack impressive wins. Missouri's most respectable wins were against Arizona State (6-5) and Central Florida (8-3), both unranked teams. That's it. (Tennessee is 4-7, in case you wanted to include that one).

Regardless of how you look at it, Missouri has gone 0-4 against the big dogs of the SEC, and only one of them was close.

James Franklin got hurt and fell apart against Georgia. Then he lost his confidence and hardly gave the Tigers a chance against South Carolina, finishing with just 92 yards passing. With Corbin Berkstresser at quarterback, Missouri didn't even threaten Alabama. And most recently, the Tigers fell short against Florida when Franklin was off target all day.

Missouri's success has coincided with weaker opponents, and Syracuse was one of them.

There is a lot of "If Franklin had been healthy all season..." and "If he had played like this against...", but none of that matters. There's no guarantee Franklin can stay healthy for a season.

The Missouri defense has looked strong at times this season, but it also appears to be falling apart. Even without much injury trouble, the defense allowed Tennessee to gain nearly 400 yards in one half, then left Syracuse's No. 1 receiver, who already had 11 catches, run wide open to score the game-winning touchdown Saturday.

Sheldon Richardson missed Saturday's game with a suspension. Pinkel said the team didn't miss his production.

It's doubtful that Richardson will miss all the losing when he leaves this team.

There's a game left. But it feels like the season is over.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.