He and his team have flown largely under the radar this season, but Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is quietly putting together an impressive résumé.
With his three sacks in the Tigers' 51-28 thumping of Vanderbilt on Saturday, Sam jumped past some better-known players on the SEC's season sack list and tied Arkansas' Chris Smith for the league lead with six. Sam also claimed the SEC lead in tackles for a loss with 10, good for an average of two per game.
Two of Sam's sacks against the Commodores came on fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter, halting drives when Vandy was attempting to rally from a big early deficit.
It was actually Sam's second straight three-sack game. He recorded the trifecta a week earlier against Arkansas State and also forced a fumble in the Tigers' 41-19 win. The SEC named Sam as its defensive lineman of the week after each of his last two standout performances.
Fifteen players have recorded three sacks in a game this season across all of FBS football, but only Sam has done it twice thus far. He ranks fifth nationally with an average of 1.2 sacks per game and is sixth in tackles for a loss (2.0).
Sam will have his work cut out this week, however. After allowing Clemson to sack quarterback Aaron Murray four times in its opener, Georgia's offensive line has surrendered just three sacks since. With Sam leading the charge, Missouri ranks second in the SEC with 15 team sacks, so that will be one of the key matchups to watch in Saturday's game between the No. 7 Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 SEC) and No. 25 Tigers (5-0, 1-0) in Athens.
Regardless, the fifth-year senior already has posted career highs for sacks and tackles for a loss through just five games, helping resurgent Missouri enter the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since early in the 2011 season. If Sam can help the Tigers keep it up on Saturday, his team will become one of the legitimate favorites to win the SEC East.