Stocking up on front-line beef has always been important; now it's about survival in a conference that dominates the sport on the strength and skill of its heaviest athletes.
Most SEC teams also discourage their quarterbacks from venturing outside the pocket except in emergency situations. Franklin, who had led the Tigers to 123 yards on two possessions, left the game after taking a helmet to the knee on a scramble. The scoreboard for Franklin shows seven missed quarters this season because of hits absorbed in two conference games, and the total is about to grow with Gary Pinkel's postgame announcement Saturday that Franklin wouldn't play against Alabama this week.
Even as the wounded population grew, Mizzou still would have won Saturday and changed the perception of its season with better focus. They couldn't overcome dropped passes and the three points surrendered in the kicking game, among other offenses.
But given the problems, the season isn't lost. Think about where Missouri was at this juncture a year ago.
The record was 3-3, with Oklahoma State, which would go on to win the Big 12, headed to Columbia. The Cowboys rocked Mizzou, and although the locker room wasn't melted by angry voices, Pinkel spoke of the team's “frustration and anxiety ... because they're used to winning at a higher level.”
The muscle memory of success eventually kicked in. By winning the final three regular-season games, the Tigers clinched their seventh straight bowl season. Winning that postseason game gave the Tigers an eighth triumph, and they haven't won fewer since 2005.
The eight-victory 2012 season streak seems out of reach, which makes bowl qualification the primary objective.
For the dreamers who believe Missouri could compete for a division title right off the bat, that won't be enough. But in a new home, and painfully adjusting to a new culture, matching the first-half record of 3-3 would be an achievement.
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