Wrote this in September of 2012 and believed it.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — We gathered here today to see how South Carolina would handle a step up in competition from East Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham.
We left wondering whether new Southeastern Conference East member Missouri was in fact a step up in competition from ECU and UAB. ... The newly annexed Tigers from the other Columbia looked ill-equipped to compete in the SEC.
Just more than a year later, Missouri may be the best team in the SEC.
Saturday pits the most unlikely opponents in SEC Championship Game history – since Auburn (0-8) and Mizzou (2-6) were two of the worst teams in the conference only a season ago. Coach Gus Malzahn, quarterback Nick Marshall and a healthy does of ridiculous luck got the War Eagle this far.
Mizzou, however, just seemed to find its footing and step up big time.
After the South Carolina bludgeoning a year ago (Gamecocks are still the only SEC East team the Tigers haven’t beaten), Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said this: “That was a pretty dominating performance so we will learn from it and get better.”
Now has his team gets ready to play Auburn for a championship, Pinkel is lobbying for a BCS title shot if all goes right.
“I think any one‑loss team in the SEC, strength of schedule, hopefully that will be taken into consideration for it,” he said. “That’s one thing. I’ve been in the Big 12, now I’m in the SEC. It didn’t take me to be in the league to appreciate and understand the league. I understand the league. I think people should look at that and they should take strong consideration because of strength of schedule.”
Welcome to the SEC, Mizzou. Not only are you walking the walk, you’re talking the talk.
In case you hadn’t been following The Augusta Chronicle’s Football Fever Challenge, my lead that lasted 12 weeks disintegrated in the last half of the season. In the first seven weeks, my weekly winning percentage was never below 75 percent. In the last seven weeks, it was only once better than 70 percent. I ended up tied for third, just seven points behind winner BadgerBob. Turns out picking Clemson to beat South Carolina was the difference maker. If the Tigers had won, the 10-point swing would have flipped the outcome. Oh well.
Time for a bonus Championship Week 15 guesses:
SEC – Missouri vs. Auburn: As charmed as Auburn is, Missouri defense just seems better. TIGERS 31, War Eagle 21.
ACC – Duke vs. Florida State: Good for Duke, but the dream ends here. SEMINOLES 42, Blue Devils 20.
B1G – Michigan State vs. Ohio State: The SEC needs a little help to keep streak alive. SPARTANS 31, Buckeyes 27.
Pac 12 – Stanford vs. Arizona State: If you figure Stanford out, please let me know. SUN DEVILS 28, Cardinal 24.
C-USA – Marshall vs. Rice: Because Annie’s son plays for Marshall, a heart pick. THUNDERING HERD 42, Owls 31.
MAC – Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois: Jordan Lynch will make my Heisman ballot – again. HUSKIES 45, Falcons 35.
MWC – Utah State vs. Fresno State: Bounce-back win after a wrenching BCS-killing loss. BULLDOGS 48, Aggies 38.
Texas @ Baylor: The new pride of the Lone Star State in the Big 12. BEARS 42, Longhorns 35.
Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State: How the hell did OSU lose to West Virginia? COWBOYS 31, Sooners 23.
Louisville @ Cincinnati: Playing for second place in a second-rate conference. CARDINALS 27, Bearcats 23.
Coastal Carolina @ Montana: Seems like the most interesting I-AA second-round matchup. GRIZZLIES 38, Chanticleers 35.
LAST WEEK: 6-5
Winners: Georgia, Florida State, Ohio State, Stanford, Arizona State, Furman.
Losers: Clemson, Alabama, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Southern Cal.
Year-to-date record: 115-39 (.747)
2012 record: 117-48 (.709)
2011 record: 115-51 (.693)
2010 record: 97-49 (.664)
While waiting for Thursday’s semifinals to begin, the eight teams in the NCAA Division II men’s and women’s soccer national championships took time out Wednesday to visit Columbia County schools and spent time with students.
The Carson-Newman University Eagles men’s team spent an hour with students and staff at Martinez Elementary School in the morning.
“I think it’s important for these guys to be involved and give back to the commmunity,” said Eagles’ head coach Richard Moodie. “We’ve got practice today and a banquet tonight, but I think the timing’s perfect for us to do it.”
Players read to students, sang and danced with them and fielded a myriad of questions in the process.
Senior midfielder Bryce Berry was smiling answering questions in Todd Shafer’s fifth-grade class and enjoyed the overall experience.
“We get so much as athletes, so it’s nice to give back as much as you can,” said Berry. “Just getting to take an hour out of our day to come down here has been awesome.”
Principal Wade White was glad his school was able to be involved in the community outreach.
“It was great to partner with the NCAA and Carson-Newman, those guys are a class act,” White said. “I just like my kids being around postive role models and these are role models my kids can look up to. We talk about study habits, we talk about discipline and responsibility and these guys are the epitome of that.”