The Missouri Tigers are going to their 4th straight bowl game, they won the Big XII North for the second straight year and they are on the verge of winning 10 games for the second straight year for the first time in school history. So everyone is happy in Boone County and beyond right?
The success that Missouri football has become has raised the bar and what happened this year is and has been a disappointment. This is the team that was supposed to be playing for a national championship. Instead they are going to a bowl game in San Antonio playing the Northwestern Wildcats. That is not where everyone thought this program should be. But the reality is the Missouri football program is exactly where they belong. In a middle-tier bowl game with the chance to finish a respectable season.
As much as it pains me to write this the Missouri football program is nowhere near the elite status that we all thought they were. Their talent level is not on the level of Oklahoma or Texas. Becuase it is college football you have a shot on any given Saturday but week in and week out the Missouri Tigers are just not there yet.
Gary Pinkel said it best after the game Saturday night saying that the Missouri football program has not arrived until they win a Big XII Championship. He is 100% right on that assessment. Division titles are nice and they should not be taken lightly but until they are playing in a BCS game as Big XII champion you cannot be considered an elite program.
Short term the best thing that can happen for the Tigers is they go to the Alamo Bowl beat the snot out of Northwestern and give Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin (most likely) a terrific sendoff. They will go down as the most successful group in Missouri history and that will be tremendous.
Long term everyone in the Missouri program got a wakeup call. It is time to take it to the next level. That means recruiting even better athletes then the group that is there. That means taking a look at the offense and more importantly the defense and seeing if there are better things both sides of the ball should be doing to play winning football. That also means Gary Pinkel is going to have to change some things. He has shown signs of stubborness (which has been an asset at times) but hopefully he has what it takes to make the changes he will need to make the program elite.
Missouri climbed up into the clouds and thought they reached the summit. They have now realized they just reached a ledge. There is still a long way to go but Gary Pinkel and the Mizzou faithful now can see the true top of the mountain. Let the journey begin.