Today the senior class of Missouri puts the exclamation point on its tenure; it offers a chance to recap all the achievements of the past four years for the Tigers program. This team has given us something truly amazing during its years here, something that gets lost in the frustrations of high expectations and "what ifs."
This is the winningest class ever at MU. What they've done is not simply entertain us, but build a program. True the Tigers are still nowhere near ready to annually compete with teams like Oklahoma and Texas in their conference, but look how far we've come. Four bowls, two of them wins. Back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Ranked up and down the top 25, including a stay - albeit brief - at number 1. As for players, we've had a few. . A Heisman finalist quarterback in Chase Daniel with a slew of Big 12 and Mizzou records to go along with his diploma- oh and in case you missed it, he's still fourth in passing and second in completion rate this year. An NCAA career receptions record-holding tight end in Coffman who just took a Mackey Award, a Big 12 record-holding kicker (Jeff Wolfert), a handful of all-Americans, and possibly the most talked-about wide receiver over the last two years in Jeremy Maclin.
So yes, this year turned out to be a disappointment. But this is nothing short of amazing given where Missouri came from. Think of what it would be like to be a fan of Minnesota or Nebraska these last few years. At least this team gave us adventure. At least they gave us something. Last year's Orange Bowl robbery - and it was - left us hungry for redemption. This time around, we weren't a surprise anymore. Teams were ready, and we weren't. That said, nine wins and a bowl after Christmas day is an awfully good season given the Tigers played two teams that deserved a shot at the national title (Consequently, how are people not picking the Sooners in that game?).
So Missouri gets one more go, a victory lap essentially to finish off their time here. It will be a good game, too. Northwestern is hungry for a bowl win, something they haven't had since 1949. In their defense, they did hit a few speed bumps when they ran into Keyshawn Johnson, then Peyton Manning, then Eric Crouch. Now they face Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman and Jeremy Maclin, the best trio to ever don the black and gold. As Missouri finalizes its run at greatness and the Wildcats look to restore their glory, we're sure to see fireworks. So fire up the grills for one last time, it's time for some football.
J.J. Bailey is a journalism student at the University of Missouri-Columbia