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Missouri Tigers 41, Georgia Bulldogs 26: The Tigers Win and Upend the SEC East

A team almost written off before the season takes out the presumed division front-runner, and suddenly the ticket to Atlanta looks up for grabs

Kevin C. Cox

Missouri just blew open the SEC East. The only question is whether they sunk their own chances to win the division in the process.

The Tigers took a huge lead against Georgia in the first half, then gave most of it up early in the second half, only to break the game open and break the division narratives with a 13-point run that put things out of reach. Left in a thousand pieces all over the field were the Dawgs' national title hopes and any semblance of a consensus about who claims the SEC East title from here.

South Carolina was ripping apart Arkansas in Fayetteville at the same time, and Florida was kicking off against LSU just a few moments after Missouri iced its win. But the Tigers have already done something that South Carolina failed to do and Florida hasn't done yet: Beat Georgia. If nothing else, that gives them a bit of the edge in the race for Atlanta.

But, then there's the little matter of James Franklin being taken off the field in the second half, and returning to the sidelines in street clothes. There are only so many times you can use a Maty Mauk to Bud Sasser to L'Damian Washington double pass to get a critically needed touchdown, which is exactly what Missouri did after Franklin left with the Tigers only leading 28-26. Franklin wasn't all-world in this game, but he was good -- 18-of-27, 170 yards and a touchdown passing, and a rushing touchdown -- and Missouri would like him to be health. Perhaps he is.

For its part, Georgia is not anywhere close to out of the race for the division. They still hold the tiebreaker over South Carolina and could have at least some of their battered offense back in time for the Florida game. Missouri now returns to Columbia to take on Florida and South Carolina, either one of which is capable on its best day of beating the Tigers, though no one who watched Saturday's game would be stunned to see Missouri win either game, and maybe both.

But there are obstacles for the Dawgs. Don't believe the "Aaron Murray can't win the big one" meme as it re-emerges this week, but the Georgia quarterback had almost as many mistakes as he had highlights. The stat line isn't terrible -- 25-of-45 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions (one in junk time) -- but it's also not Heisman-worthy. Murray needs to carry this team through much of the season if Georgia's going to take the East, and he wasn't quite able to do it Saturday.

The Georgia defense was good as the Dawgs got back in the game, allowing just 35 yards to Missouri in the third quarter, but allowed 340 yards in the remaining three quarters, and remains a question mark going forward. That's no small matter with a potentially tricky game against Auburn looming on the schedule even if Georgia can win the Cocktail Party.

All of which means that the SEC East is going to be enormously fun to watch this season. Throw out all of the assumptions that you carried into the season, and all of them that shaped up after the first month. Missouri blew them all up in a stunner on Saturday, and the smart money says that there will be at least one more surprise before the curtain falls.