Missouri's Sheldon Richardson suspended

Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been suspended for Saturday's game against Syracuse, according to sources.

PowerMizzou.com and KOMU.com first reported that Richardson was suspended for violating team rules. Sources close to the program told ESPN.com that Richardson was suspended because he missed a class multiple times and refused to go through the punishment given to him for missing the class.

With the Tigers fighting for a bowl berth and having Texas A&M on the horizon, they absolutely have to win this weekend. Better to get bowl eligible now than have to rely on beating the SEC's hottest team.

This certainly doesn't help Mizzou.

Richardson is arguably Mizzou's best player, regardless of position, and has been the Tigers' most consistent player on the roster. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound junior, who has received a lot of NFL love this season, is tied for the team lead with 70 tackles and is second with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He has been tremendously disruptive up front and might have played himself into the first round of April's NFL draft with the season he's having.

But this certainly doesn't help anything or anyone. Richardson was a player who was very outspoken toward his team in the locker room after the loss to Vanderbilt. He flexed his leadership muscles then, but has sucked his chest back in with this transgression. It's hard to look up to someone who shrugs off class and punishment before the most important game of the season.

Syracuse ranks 24th nationally in total offense (469.8 yards per game), while the Tigers are seventh in the SEC and 35th nationally in total defense (353.3). The Orange are fresh off of a 45-26 whooping of previously unbeaten Louisville, and is averaging 36.5 points in the past four games -- three of those are wins. So, the Tigers will need their defense to be in top shape.

Richardson wouldn't have dropped back into coverage and guarded wide receivers and he wouldn't have set foot on offense, but he is such an important part of this team. He puts pressure on quarterbacks, is a great run stopper and players feed off the energy he brings to the field.

But the Tigers will be without one of their most important weapons in a must-win situation, and the reason is a shame. Richardson really let down his team at a critical time.