Missouri wide receiver L'Damian Washington celebrates after catching a touchdown pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A surprise no more, No. 9 Missouri leads the SEC East with three games to go.
Win out and the Tigers (8-1, 4-1 SEC) come back all the way from last year's 5-7 dud that prompted doubts they belonged in their new league. Beat Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and they earn a berth in the conference championship game.
Coach Gary Pinkel's crew is a double-digit favorite this week at Kentucky and then there's a week off, perhaps bonus time allowing quarterback James Franklin to return from a shoulder strain at full strength.
South Carolina and Georgia are lurking, hoping for another Missouri stumble that could set up a tiebreaker mess.