Mizzou reigns as SEC East's only undefeated team -- for now
SEP 23, 2013 1:50p ET
Might as well come right out and say it.
I was wrong.
I figured Indiana might beat Mizzou on Saturday, and I was certain the game would be a lot closer than 45-28 in the Tigers' favor. Instead, Gary Pinkel's team played its best game of this young season against the best team it's faced so far. That's a good sign for the black and gold.
Maybe Indiana (2-2) will turn out to be a bust. Or perhaps this Tiger team is much better than I thought. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. But ... this Mizzou football season does seem a bit more promising after Saturday, doesn't it?
Mizzou now sits at 3-0 with one more non-conference game, Arkansas State, to play. Take care of business at home Saturday and Mizzou enters a grueling Southeastern Conference slate -- eight games in nine weeks -- four games above .500.
Meanwhile, take a look around the SEC East.
Every team has already taken at least one lump. Florida (2-1) stumbled against Miami (Fla.) before thumping Tennessee. The Volunteers (2-2) have now lost to the Gators and Oregon. South Carolina (2-1) lost to Georgia after the Bulldogs (2-1) fell to Clemson in Week 1. Kentucky (1-2) has taken L's from Western Kentucky (ouch) and Louisville. And Vanderbilt (2-2) has fallen to Ole Miss and South Carolina.
If this shows anything, it's that every team in Mizzou's division is beatable. And right now, the Tigers are sitting as pretty as possible.
Credit the Mizzou defense for slowing down an Indiana offense that was averaging 50 points per game. Part of the reason for the Tigers' success? A timely interception.
Mizzou defensive end Kony Ealy, who earned Southeastern Conference Defensive Line Player of the Week honors Monday, picked off Nate Sudfeld and returned the ball 49 yards for a touchdown. The play pushed the Tigers ahead by 13 at halftime and added to an impressive trend.
Mizzou now has nine interceptions. That total places the Tigers in a six-team tie for second-most in the nation. Northwestern leads all teams with 10. If the Tigers can continue to pull in momentum-shifting picks, they will keep high-scoring offenses below their averages.
MOVING THE CHAINS
Another stat worth noting is Mizzou's third-down conversion rate. The Tigers are leading the SEC, moving the chains to a tune of 59.6 percent. At the end of last season, that rate was 33.3 percent. Sure, a dip is expected as the competition becomes more difficult, but this unit seems better fit for that challenge.
DARNELL GETS ON THE BOARD
If you're looking for a touching story, check this out.
Nine days after his final treatment for leukemia, Darnell Green-Beckham -- the younger brother of Mizzou star receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- scored a touchdown for Hillcrest High School.
The score sent Hornets players to the bench for an excessive celebration penalty, but it was worth it. It was the first touchdown Darnell, who has been fighting off the disease since before Green-Beckham came to Mizzou, has had in two years.
Darnell has verbally committed to play for Mizzou. He currently stands 6 feet 5, 170 pounds, but is expected to put on weight now that his chemotherapy treatments are over.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
There is only one undefeated team in the SEC East, Mizzou.— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) September 22, 2013
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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