An up and down season for the Missouri Tigers is looking more and more like it could end with a four-game winning streak and five wins in its last six games, including victories over ranked opponents Texas A&M and Texas.
All it would take to accomplish those goals would be getting a home win against a reeling Texas Tech team on Senior Day, a win against the Kansas Jayhawks, who are winless in Big 12 play, and a bowl win.
That this kind of year could end up being the worst of the last five or six years for the Tigers is very telling and says something extremely positive about the state of Missouri's football program.
Yes, the Tigers record sits at 5-5, but of their five losses, four have come against ranked teams on the road by 10 or less points and their worst loss was a 21-point loss to a team that will probably be in the BCS National Championship game this year: Oklahoma State.
If Missouri wants to be an elite program, they will win some of these games in the future, but for a down year, all of the losses are nothing to be ashamed of. Every one of their games has seen some solid play from the Tigers, but most of their losses came because of inconsistency from quarter to quarter. That consistency will come with more experience from James Franklin and the sophomore class.
So how will this team be remembered when the season is all over and all we have are memories of close games and fun times at Farout Field?
Even with a number of disappointing, close losses, there have been some encouraging signs of growth throughout the season. Missouri's 17-5 win over Texas wasn't pretty, but it was a win that had eluded Gary Pinkel for a decade and it was a rare game where the Tigers defense was the reason for the victory.
It is possible that this win and this season will end up being known as the beginning of the downfall of Gary Pinkel's tenure at Mizzou. Recruits could become disinterested, the move to the SEC could hurt recruiting more than people can imagine and the Tigers could go back to wallowing in mediocrity in one of the best conferences in college football. This is all possible, but is it likely?
All signs point to no. In the end, the victory over Texas was the kind of win Missouri needed to show that even with the down year, the program is still in good shape and can compete with anyone in the conference. Yes, there have probably been too many close losses to good teams for the regular fan to stomach, but gaining experience in close games will only help this program and the fact that they are so close in all their games shows the growth of the program. Looking back at this season three to five years from now, people will probably remember it as the season that was a building block for great years in the years that followed.
A program that is continuing to recruit successfully and is replacing NFL players at important positions with relative ease can only be described as a top-25 program in the nation. That is what Missouri is doing right now and there is no indication it will stop any time soon.
That's the kind of program that will fit right into the upper-half of the SEC.