In just their third year in the Southeastern Conference, the Missouri Tigers (10-2 overall, 7-1 in SEC play) will be making a 2nd-straight SEC Championship Game appearance this Saturday, as Head Coach Gary Pinkel’s troops (ranked 14th in the Associated Press Poll, 13th in the Coaches’ Poll) will face the #1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1) for all the SEC’s marbles. Kickoff from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., is set for 3 p.m. (central time), with the game televised on CBS.
Mizzou is coming off a hard-earned 21-14 win last Friday at home over the red-hot Arkansas Razorbacks (who came into the game after consecutive shutout wins over LSU and Ole Miss). The Tigers came into the game as underdogs, despite playing at home, and faced a 2nd-quarter deficit of 14-3, before PK Andrew Baggett connected on his second 50-yard field goal on the day to draw MU to within 14-6 at halftime. After a scoreless 3rd quarter, the Tiger offense came alive to score 15 points in the final period on a Maty Mauk-to-Jimmie Hunt TD pass (4 yards) with 12:41 left (followed by a Bud Sasser-to-Darius White 2-point pass) to tie the game, and a Marcus Murphy TD run (12 yards) with 4:38 left to take the lead. The Tiger defense, which pitched a second-half shutout for yet another outstanding performance, forced an Arkansas fumble with 2:13 left to play. Senior DE Markus Golden won a wrestling match for the ball for the recovery on the MU 35-yardline and the Tiger offense ran out the clock to clinch the win. It was Mizzou’s 6th-straight victory, and improved the Tigers to 14-2 in SEC play over the last two seasons.
A key to Mizzou’s great success in 2014 has been its continued success away from home, as the Tigers went a perfect 5-0 on the road this year. Mizzou has now won 10 straight road games (also went 5-0 in 2013), to establish a school record for consectuive road wins. The 10-straight is currently the nation’s 3rd-longest active road win streak (trailing Ohio State  and Florida State ).
Mizzou became just the third SEC East team to win the division outright in consecutive seasons.
The Tiger’s two SECCG appearances in just three seasons in the SEC are more than six other SEC programs (Mississippi State, South Carolina 1; Kentucky, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt 0).
Mizzou returned just 9 starters from its 2013 Eastern Division championship squad, including 5 on defense, and 4 on offense. The losses on offense were particularly stout, as MU lost its starting QB, TB and top three receivers, in addition to 4 of its top 6 tacklers on defense.
In Mizzou’s last two SEC East-winning seasons, Gary Pinkel’s group has defied the preseason prognosticators. Mizzou won the SEC East in 2013 after being picked to finish sixth in the division in the preseason. The Tigers again were picked to finish in the bottom half of the division this season, checking in at fourth in the SEC East in the 2014 Preseason poll.
Those who follow the Mizzou program know that Gary Pinkel’s outfit is used to winning at a high level. This marks the fifth time in the last eight seasons that Mizzou has won a conference division title (2007, 2008 and 2010 Big 12 North; 2013 and 2014 SEC East). Additionally, in all five of those seasons, Mizzou has reached double-digit win totals as the Tigers went 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008, 10-3 in 2010, 12-2 in 2013, and of course the current 10-2 mark this year. It’s also worth noting that Pinkel played football with Alabama head coach Nick Saban at Toledo.
The Crimson Tide have won seven straight and enter the game Saturday as a 14 point favorite. Bama beat Auburn last week at home in the Iron Bowl 55-44.