Missouri battles back into bowl contention

It hasn't been the smoothest of rides for Missouri in its first tour of the SEC.

The Tigers lost their first four league games, and three of those were by 21 points or more. Their offensive line has been decimated by injuries, and junior quarterback James Franklin has also been in and out of the lineup with injuries to his shoulder and knee.

But with two games remaining in the regular season, the Tigers (5-5, 2-5) have fought their way to the doorstep of being bowl eligible. Their first chance to lock up a postseason trip comes Saturday at home in a nonconference game against Syracuse.

“That’s why the win last week (51-48 over Tennessee in four overtimes) was so emotional and so important because of all this team has been through and how we’ve battled back and fought and competed,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We still have a chance to accomplish one of our goals, going to a bowl game.

“But one of the great things about college football is that you’ve got to go do it, and we understand that, too.”

Having a healthy Franklin on offense made a huge difference last week for the Tigers, who’d been held to 15 or fewer points in four of their previous six SEC games.

“James looked for the first time like the healthy guy we expected him to be and made some great throws and did some great things,” Pinkel said. “That’s two straight weeks where he’s practiced and felt good.”