COLUMBIA — For the first time since the beginning of September, Missouri football fans won't have a game to watch Saturday. The Tigers have their second and final bye in Week 12, giving the team time to gear up for one of the toughest two-game stretches of the season — at Ole Miss and at home against Texas A&M.
If Missouri manages to win both of its remaining games, it will be heading to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Dec. 7. If the Tigers lose one of those games, however, they will need some help to win the East division with Georgia and South Carolina each sitting just one game back from the lead.
Here are the games Missouri fans should be watching during the bye week and the teams Tiger fans should be rooting for:
No. 25 Georgia (6-3) at No. 7 Auburn (9-1), 2:30 p.m., CBS
Missouri already took care of business against Georgia earlier this season, beating the Bulldogs 41-26 in Athens. Now, the Tigers need some help from their division rival.
Since Missouri beat Georgia earlier this season, it would have the advantage if the two teams tie for the division lead. If Missouri is tied with South Carolina at the end of the season, the Gamecocks would have the tiebreaker after beating the Tigers in double-overtime a few weeks ago. There is a scenario in which Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina all tie for the division lead, though. In such a case, Missouri would hold the tiebreaker with the best division record.
Therefore, if Missouri loses one of its final two games, it needs to hope for a three-way tie atop the division rather than a tie with only South Carolina. To keep the possibility of a three-way tie alive, Georgia needs to win the remainder of its games, including a tough test on the road against Auburn on Saturday. The Bulldogs are three-point underdogs in the game, but it's in Missouri's best interest for Georgia to pull off the upset.
Florida (4-5) at No. 11 South Carolina (7-2), 6 p.m., ESPN 2
Other than Missouri winning the rest of its games, the simplest road to Atlanta for the Tigers is for South Carolina to lose another conference game. South Carolina plays its final SEC game on Saturday against Florida, a team that hasn't met expectations at all in 2013.
Since starting the season 4-1, Florida has dropped four straight games and needs to win two of its final three games just to become bowl eligible. South Carolina is favored by 12.5 points and it would take quite the upset from Florida to win the game. This is one of the most important non-Missouri games that could decide the Tigers' fate.
Other important games
The BCS only has room for 10 teams in its bowl games. Meanwhile, the rankings are crowded and the number of at-large bids is small. If Missouri doesn't win the SEC, it may be relying on the bowl selection committees to hand it an at-large bid. In that event, Missouri will need to hope for the teams currently ranked higher in the BCS standings to lose.
Ohio State and Baylor are two teams firmly ahead of Missouri in the BCS rankings. Both are undefeated and would stay above the Tigers unless they lose between now and the end of the season. Ohio State travels to play against Illinois on Saturday for an 11 a.m. game on ESPN. Meanwhile, Baylor hosts Texas Tech at 6 p.m. on FOX.