Sports

No. 5 Missouri soaring to surprising new heights in 2nd season in SEC

  • Missouri's L'Damian Washington, right, Darius White, center, and John Gibson, left, celebrate with fans after they defeated Florida 36-17 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

    Missouri's L'Damian Washington, right, Darius White, center, and John Gibson, left, celebrate with fans after they defeated Florida 36-17 in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)  (The Associated Press)

  • Missouri running back Henry Josey, left, celebrates in front of teammates Dorial Green-Beckham, right, after he scored on a 6-yard run in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

    Missouri running back Henry Josey, left, celebrates in front of teammates Dorial Green-Beckham, right, after he scored on a 6-yard run in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)  (The Associated Press)

  • Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk throws a pass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

    Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk throws a pass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)  (The Associated Press)

Few outside of the Missouri locker room expected the Tigers to compete in the Southeastern Conference in just their second season in the league.

Predicted to finish sixth in the SEC East, the team is now ranked fifth in the country and holds a two-game lead in the division. The Tigers (7-0, 3-0 SEC) remained healthy until quarterback James Franklin and cornerback E.J. Gaines sustained injuries Oct. 12 at Georgia.

Yet Missouri didn't miss a beat, as Maty Mauk led eight scoring drives in a 36-17 win over Florida on Saturday. Now its challenge is to focus on No. 20 South Carolina (5-2, 3-2).

Coach Gary Pinkel has called this year's team as "special" and said Monday his players and staff are trying to have more fun this season.