One more win and Missouri earns one more game. Same goes for Syracuse.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — One more win and Missouri earns one more game. Same goes for Syracuse.
Bowl eligibility is the carrot for the two .500 schools on Saturday night. In the home finale, the Tigers (5-5) will be trying to clinch their eighth straight postseason game, and the Orange (5-5) will be trying to qualify for the second time in three years.
Both schools have momentum. Last week, Syracuse whipped previously unbeaten and 11th-ranked Louisville 45-26 while Missouri rallied from two touchdowns down at Tennessee to win in four overtimes.
The less talk about implications, the better.
"We know the significance of this game without even mentioning it," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "When we start talking about it, we're getting off what's most important, and that's taking care of business. When we were scheduling we thought we were going to have a pretty good team, but I didn't know if they were going to be this good. And they are very, very good."
Syracuse scored three touchdowns in the second quarter against Louisville, which had been 9-0. The upset was secured by halftime and the Orange piled up 524 total yards with big games by Alec Lemon, who had nine catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and Jerome Smith, who topped 100 yards for the fourth straight time and also scored.
Syracuse is 4-2 in the Big East but just 1-3 on the road and must win at either Missouri this week or Temple next week to reach its bowl goal. So, it's already elimination time.
"It's more like a bowl game, more like a playoff game," quarterback Ryan Nassib said. "But at the end of the day it's just one game. It doesn't make or break our season. It's one step that we need to get closer to where we want to be."
Last season, Syracuse faded after its biggest victory of the year, losing five straight Big East games after an upset of 11th-ranked West Virginia.
This week, it's been about avoiding feeling too satisfied.
"All we did was talk to each other about staying steady and not getting too high or not getting too low," defensive end Deon Goggins said. "We'll celebrate everything at the end of the season once we reach our goals."
Missouri has an 18-game winning streak against non-conference opponents at home dating to 2005, including victories this year over Southeastern Louisiana and Arizona State. But it hasn't been the typical clean slate at Faurot Field, with losses to then top-ranked Alabama, Georgia and most damaging, Vanderbilt in the Tigers' first SEC season.
No matter how hot Syracuse is, this week appears to be Missouri's best chance at getting to six victories. The finale next week is at ninth-ranked Texas A&M, which knocked off Alabama last week.
"I'm not going to take any special mental pictures, I'm not going to do anything different," senior defensive back Kip Edwards said. "I'm going to prepare like I have prepared for the last 10 games. All I want to do is win."
The Tigers do have that big Tennessee building block.
Franklin threw four touchdown passes, all in the final minute of regulation or in overtime, to spark a comeback that put the program back in the picture a week after a narrow loss at Florida. The game-tying score came on a 25-yard pass to freshman Dorial Green-Beckham on fourth-and-12 with 47 seconds remaining in regulation.
Safety Ian Simon was a hero in the fourth overtime, breaking up a fourth-and-3 pass that set the stage for a 35-yard game-winning field goal by redshirt freshman Andrew Baggett.
Kendial Lawrence added 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns for Missouri, which rallied after getting outgained 383-64 in the first half.
Making it easier for Missouri to keep focus: they've yet to win consecutive games this season.
"Obviously, we're going to do our best to not let it affect this upcoming week after having an emotional win like that and staying on top," Franklin said. "The focus is kind of taking the positives from it but not letting it feel like we just won a championship."
Syracuse hasn't beaten an SEC team on the road since topping Vanderbilt in 1990, and this opponent will be riding on the emotion of senior day. Coach Doug Marrone anticipates it'll be the toughest crowd of his four seasons on the job.
"If you're focused on what you have to do, and I'm talking about an extreme high level of focus, then you don't have to worry about the crowd," Marrone said. "It's kind of like when you go to the Grand Canyon. You don't want to walk in there wide-eyed."