Mizzou Oct 21, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers wide receiver Luther Burden III (3) celebrates with wide receiver Theo Wease Jr. (1) after scoring a touchdown against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Southeastern Conference is home to some of the best college football in the United States. There’s a lot of attention, deservedly so, on the premier schools of the conference. Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and newcomers Oklahoma and Texas will always receive much favor and attention. However, one team in the conference is making some serious moves in the hopes of achieving short- and long-term success. Enter the Missouri Tigers.

Mizzou had surprising success in 2023. With potential Playoff expectations in 2024, the Tigers are starting to recruit like one of the best programs in the nation. It wasn’t always like this over the last decade though. So to find out why we’re here, we have to take a step back.

When Mizzou planned to leave the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012, optimism wasn’t particularly high in Columbia. While Gary Pinkel reached daring heights with the program, they probably figured to play from behind simply due to their history and launching recruiting battles with the best teams in the land. The Tigers came into the conference and found extremes on both sides of the spectrum. Missouri made back-to-back SEC Championship Game appearances in 2013 and 2014, but Auburn and Alabama had their way with them. They couldn’t keep up, and for a few years, the program spun out.

Gary Pinkel retired, Barry Odom didn’t work out, and the Tigers decided to change. After the 2019 season, Missouri hired Eli Drinkwitz from Appalachian State. Drinkwitz didn’t find success early at Mizzou, and frustrated fans weren’t optimistic that he’d have much of a future in Columbia.

But along the way, the wheels have spun, and favor has kicked Mizzou’s way. Last season, Mizzou had one of their best seasons to date. They made the Cotton Bowl and beat Ohio State, who might have been ‘undermanned,’ but historically speaking, it stands as one of the program’s signature victories. Coming into 2024, the Tigers have high expectations.

With Brady Cook returning and Luther Burden III around, Mizzou’s offense is expected to be bustling. Burden is arguably the best receiver in the nation and has shown elite potential in his first two years as a Tiger.

What’s more is that favor has spun Mizzou’s way in another way. The launch of NIL has changed college football forever. But NIL in the state of Missouri is a completely different ballgame. And for Mizzou? It’s a brand new advantage to lean into. The state enacted a law in 2023 that allows high schoolers to cash in on their NIL earnings after they sign with a school. This law is very advantageous for Missouri high schoolers and the Mizzou football program. It can incentivize a kid to stay, and to that end, Missouri has honed in on in-state recruiting. They landed the top recruit in the state in 2024, five-star EDGE Williams Nwaneri. In 2025, the Tigers will have the top-rated recruit in IOL, Jack Lange, and the 4th-ranked recruit in EDGE, Daedan Hopkins.

Speaking of recruiting, well, Mizzou just had a terrific recruiting weekend. Wide receiver Jayvan Boggs, Donovan Olugbude, and offensive lineman LaMont Rogers committed to Mizzou on the 4th, 5th, and 6th. They scored three Top 100 recruits in as many days, a massive recruiting victory, to say the least.

While you might not have thought highly of them a decade ago, Mizzou is here. They’ve readied themselves and are poised to make the 12-team College Football Playoff as an at-large potentially. More on-field success could give way to even more recruiting success. With the NIL laws in Missouri in mind, could the Tigers become a perennial contender? Right now, they look as prepared to reach that level as anyone.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022