KANSAS CITY, Mo. — And so a crazy college football season ends with one last crazy scenario, so close you can almost smell it. With a win on Saturday in the SEC championship — and some help from Michigan State or Duke — Missouri can stake a claim for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series national title game.
But first things, first, Chase Daniel warns.
And the first thing on this particular table is an 11-1 Auburn squad with some big-time pelts of its own up on that big, bad War Eagle wall.
“They’re already in the (BCS title) conversation,” Daniel, the former Mizzou quarterback and current Kansas City Chiefs backup, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “If (the Tigers) can just take care of business, let the rest take care of itself. If it’s meant to be, they will (do it).
“I think their No. 1 focus, and what Coach (Gary) Pinkel is going to say all week, is, ‘(Let’s) go down and try to beat Auburn.'”
Daniel has been down this path before, only his led to San Antonio. As a junior in 2007, Daniel’s Tigers were 11-1 and No. 1 in the country, fresh off a historic win over then-No. 2 Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium, when they met Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 1 of that year.
The Sooners won, 38-17, handing Mizzou its second loss, a setback that also cost the Tigers a shot at a BCS at-large berth. Mizzou instead dropped to the Cotton Bowl, where it thumped Arkansas, 38-7.
That team finished the season ranked fourth in the AP poll and ranked fifth by the coaches. Daniel’s Tigers the next year went 10-4 and finished 19th in the AP poll, 16th in the coaches after a win over Northwestern in the Alamo Bowl.
Daniel set nearly every major quarterbacking record at Mizzou from 2005-08, ending his collegiate career as the Tigers’ all-time leader in lifetime passing yardage (12,515), passing touchdowns (101) and passing efficiency (148.9). His Tigers won the Big 12 North in ’07 and ’08, but were beaten by Oklahoma in the conference title game on both occasions. On Nov. 9, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk tied Daniel’s school record by throwing five touchdown passes against Kentucky.
“It was awesome to see, man,” Daniel said of the SEC East champions. “(I’m) just so prideful for us, for every Mizzou alum out there.
“For them to go out and do what they have done in the second year of the SEC is pretty incredible.”
It might have been Pinkel’s most incredible coaching job, too, given the dance card — which included trips to Georgia and at Vanderbilt; Mizzou won at both places — and the fact that the Tigers were coming off a 5-7 campaign in 2012 that had left fans and pundits disgruntled.
“I think the jury’s still out on that one,” Daniel said of the comparisons to his era. “We’ll see what happens (this) week and from here on out. Who knows what can happen?”
In the meantime, it makes for some pretty good dessert talk, doesn’t it? According to Sports-Reference.com’s Simple Rating System, which takes into account point differential and strength of schedule, the current Tigers are in the middle of the third-best season in school history (SRS: 21.11) and the program’s finest in 44 years; the ’07 team was seventh-best (SRS: 16.77).
The site ranks Dan Devine’s 1969 Orange Bowl team (23.71) and 1960 Orange Bowl squad (21.88) as the two best seasons ever at Mizzou.
Well, the best to this point, anyway. Check again after Saturday night.
“You can’t worry about outside influences,” Daniel warned. “You’ve got to worry about what is at hand. And right now, it’s Auburn.”
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.