Oct 19, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk (7) hands off to running back Henry Josey (20) during the second half of the game against the Florida Gators at Faurot Field. Missouri won 36-17. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports
With one week left in October, the SEC East Division race can be defined in simple terms: Barring a final-month collapse, No. 14 Missouri can cruise to the divisional title in its second year as a member of the conference.
The Tigers' 36-17 win against No. 22 Florida, which moved Missouri to 7-0 overall, 3-0 in league play, is augmented by losses by No. 16 Georgia and No. 9 South Carolina - leaving Missouri, a preseason afterthought, as the lone East Division team with fewer than two losses against SEC competition.
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It took an afternoon to clear up what had been a muddied, unsettled division. Missouri put up 500 yards on offense on Florida's defense, the Gators' worst single-game performance since a 2008 Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan. The Gators' offense gained only 151 yards, a program-low since 1999.
At the same time, over in Tennessee, two ranked teams were sent tumbling on the road: Georgia lost 31-27 to Vanderbilt - the Bulldogs' second loss in a row - and South Carolina lost 23-21 to Tennessee, with the latter loss perhaps defined by the Gamecocks' late-game clock mismanagement.
So where do things stand today? Missouri caps the regular season with five games against SEC competition: South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M at home, Kentucky and Mississippi on the road. Although quarterback James Franklin's shoulder injury against Georgia raised a red flag, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk's confident performance quiets the team's greatest concern: whether the offense could continue to move the football behind the backup quarterback.
Georgia is reeling, now 3-2, and must rebound before taking on Florida to open November. In essence, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Bulldogs stand three games behind Missouri in the loss column - since even if Georgia wins outs, Missouri would need to finish 5-3 to finish behind the Bulldogs in the final standings. (Unless multiple teams tie for first without any deciding tiebreakers, in which case the BCS standings would decide the divisional winner.)
South Carolina's two-pronged loss: One to Tennessee, the other an injury to quarterback Connor Shaw, a left knee strain that could derail the senior's final season. Like Georgia, the Gamecocks are 3-2 in the SEC; the Bulldogs also own the tiebreaker.
Florida's a mess offensively, as has been the case throughout coach Will Muschamp's three-year tenure, but Saturday's defensive collapse paints UF as a team in drastic need of a wall-to-wall overhaul - not necessarily a good sign for the program's hopes of a second BCS berth in a row.
It's fair to include Tennessee in the conversation after the Volunteers' first SEC win under coach Butch Jones, but only temporarily: UT, now 1-2, is set to embark on a three-game gauntlet of Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. Optimistically, perhaps the Volunteers can be 3-3 heading into the end-of-year stretch against Vanderbilt and Kentucky; realistically, UT could very well be 1-5, on the outskirts of bowl eligibility, before closing against the Commodores and Wildcats.
For Georgia, South Carolina and Florida, hope comes from Missouri's remaining schedule - not necessarily the opponents themselves, but the idea that the Tigers have five SEC games to go, all in a row, beginning with the Gamecocks on Oct. 26. But a win Saturday would give the Tigers yet another tiebreaker, perhaps settling what already seems in the cards: The SEC East is Missouri's to lose.
Paul Myerberg, a national college football writer for USA TODAY Sports, is on Twitter @PaulMyerberg.