STADIUM: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field (71,004 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1926. MU is 263-170-20 there alltime and has won 36 of its last 44 overall and is 46-13 there since 2003 (2-2 in 2012).
RADIO: Tiger Network. Mike Kelly (play-by-play), Howard Richards (color), Chris Gervino (sidelines), Scotty Cox (producer), Matt Winegardner (director). Carried on over 50 stations across the Midwest, and on the Internet at mutigers.tv.
The game will also be available on satellite radio (Sirius 85 & XM 85).
TV: Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), Tracy Wolfson (sideline reporter), Mizzou grad Craig Silver is the producer extraordinaire.
RANKINGS (AP/USA): MU - None. UA - #1 / #1.
SERIES: MU leads, 2-1, but the teams haven't met since 1978, when Alabama claimed a 38-20 win in their only previous appearance in Columbia.
COACHES: MU:Gary Pinkel (Kent State, '75), 88-57 at MU (12th year) and 161-94-3 overall (22nd year). Pinkel is 0-0 vs. Alabama and Nick Saban. UA: Nick Saban (Kent State, '73), 55-12 at Alabama (6th year) and 146-54-1 overall (17th year). Saban is 0-0 vs. Mizzou and Gary Pinkel.
TIGERS HOST TOP-RANKED ALABAMA
The Missouri Tigers (3-3 overall, 0-3 in SEC play) continue the second game of a three-game home stretch this Saturday, when they play host to the #1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0). The game will be nationally-televised on CBS, with kickoff for the contest at sold-out Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium set for 2:30 p.m. (central time).
The Tigers are coming off a tough 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt. A litany of injuries and critical mistakes proved to be too much for Mizzou to overcome. Three red zone trips for the Tiger offense produced only 9 points, which spoiled a solid overall defensive outing that saw MU allow only 295 yards of offense by Vandy.
Alabama is, well, Alabama. The Crimson Tide come to Columbia as the unanimous #1 team in the nation, according to the latest Associated Press poll. They began the year ranked #2 (behind USC), but quickly ascended into the top spot in the poll after opening the season with a 41-14 dismantling of Michigan on Sept. 1st (played in Dallas). 'Bama has since cruised to home wins over Western Kentucky (W, 35-0), Florida Atlantic (W, 40-7) and Ole Miss (W, 33-14), sandwiched around a 52-0 beat down they laid on Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. in week #3.
THE TIES THAT BIND
Saturday's game will feature a nice tie to history, when Mizzou takes on Alabama. Alabama is coached by Nick Saban, who, along with Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel, is a graduate of Kent State. Saban graduated in 1973, while Pinkel was two years behind, in 1975, and were teammates for Coach Don James' Kent State Golden Flashes. Saturday will mark the first time they will face each other as opponents.
An interesting bit of history that further links the two: Saban got his first head coaching gig at Toledo in 1990. He guided the Rockets to a 9-2 record that season, but left after that one year to become the defensive coordinator for the NFL's Cleveland Browns. Saban gave a recommendation to the Toledo administration that they should look to Gary Pinkel as their next head coach. Pinkel was offensive coordinator at the time for Don James at Washington, and he was eventually selected as Saban's successor at Toledo. Pinkel went on to post a 73-37-3 record there from 1991-2000 (10 seasons), and left for Mizzou as the school's alltime winningest coach.
31-10 at #7 South Carolina
W, 21-16 at UCF
41-20 vs. #7 Georgia
W, 24-20 vs. Arizona State
42-39 at Baylor
W, 17-5 vs. #21 Texas
45-24 at #6 Oklahoma St.
W, 38-31 (OT) at #16 Texas A&M
24-17 at #20 Kansas State
W, 52-17 vs. Iowa State
38-28 at #1 Oklahoma
L, 24-17 at #20 Kansas State
37-30 (OT) at Arizona State
W, 69-0 vs. Western Illinois
24-17 at Texas Tech
W, 38-28 vs. Kansas State
TIGERS LOOKING FOR ANOTHER BOUNCE-BACK EFFORT
If recent history is any indicator, then the Mizzou Tigers hope history repeats itself this Saturday. Of late, Mizzou has proven very resilient, and shown a key ability to avoid losing streaks. The Tigers have won five straight times (and 7 out of the last 8 times dating back to the 2010 season) following a defeat. That ability to get quickly back in the winners circle played a huge role in Mizzou's 8-5 season a year ago, as the Tigers rebounded to post wins four times after suffering a defeat. The only time they fell in 2011 on consecutive weeks was in two straight road games at #1 Oklahoma (38-28) and at #20 Kansas State (24-17).
At right is a look at Mizzou's recent history following a defeat.
CAN TIGERS CREATE A REPEAT OF THE LAST #1 TO VISIT?
The last time a top-ranked team came to Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium was in 2010, when the Oklahoma Sooners came to Columbia ranked #1 in the just-released BCS polls. The Sooners, ranked #3 in the AP poll at the time, were considerable favorites over the Tigers, but Mizzou, behind the play of QB Blaine Gabbert (30-of-42 passing, 308 yards, 1 TD), knocked off Oklahoma by a 36-27 score. That game had quite the scintillating start for the sellout crowd of 71,004, as Mizzou WR Gahn McGaffie (currently a senior in 2012) returned the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to set the tone for the night. The victory marked the first-ever win by Mizzou over a team ranked #1 in any major poll, and moved Mizzou's record at the time to 7-0.
Otherwise, when looking AP poll history, Mizzou stands 0-12 alltime against #1-ranked teams. It's last appearance against an AP #1 was a 38-28 loss in 2011 at Oklahoma. Other near-misses by Mizzou against top-ranked teams include a 45-38 overtime loss to #1 Nebraska in Columbia in 1997 (the infamous "Flea-Kicker" game), a 17-13 loss at #1 Oklahoma in 1987, and a 38-20 loss at home to #1 Alabama in 1978 - a game in which the Tigers held a 20-17 lead at halftime.
MIZZOU FALLS TO VANDERBILT, 19-15
Mizzou fell to 3-3 on the season, and 0-3 in SEC action last Saturday after suffering a tough 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt. Here's some postmortem thoughts:
It's been a theme all year for Mizzou, and while Head Coach Gary Pinkel won't use it as an excuse, there's no denying that injuries played a major factor in the outcome. The Tigers started the game without the services of senior co-captain and leading tackler, LB Will Ebner, who couldn't go because of a bum hamstring. As if that wasn't enough adversity, game-breaker TB/PR Marcus Murphy (with a nation-leading 3 punt returns for TDs in 2012) dislocated his right ring finger at the end of a 25-yard run on MU's first possession of the game, and he was lost for the night. Perhaps the biggest blow came on the next offensive series, when junior QB James Franklin broke off an exciting 23-yard run that set Mizzou up at the Vandy 13-yardline. The drive stalled out, and the Tigers had to settle for a second-straight short field goal, and a 6-0 lead. Franklin came up gimpy after that run, however, and was lost for the rest of the game due to a sprained left knee. Under Franklin's guidance, the Tiger offense had drove 123 yards in its first two possessions, and looked to be ready for a big night, but his absence proved difficult to overcome the rest of the way. To cap off the injury news, sophomore starting center Mitch Morse was lost for the game in the 3rd quarter, when he suffered a sprained left knee, as well. He did not return either, and the status of all four of those significant contributors is currently unknown going forward...
Redshirt freshman QB Corbin Berkstresser relieved Franklin, and led the Tiger offense to two scores on the night, but he faced constant pressure from the aggressive Vandy defense, and with defenders in his face most of the night, was held to 9-of-30 passing performance, for 189 yards an 1 TD...
No discredit to Vanderbilt whatsoever, but there's no doubt that Mizzou felt like it gave the Commodores their first 9 points of the game. Mizzou held a 6-0 lead late in the 1st quarter, but was pinned deep, and had to punt from its own 2-yardline. Punter Trey Barrow (who had a nice game, averaging 41.0 yards on 6 punts) had the snap slip through his hands, however, and the ball squirted out of the back of the endzone for a safety, cutting MU's lead to 6-2 with :30 seconds left in the quarter. Meanwhile, the Tiger defense was lights out in the first half, allowing a total of 18 yards of offense for Vanderbilt in their first 5 possessions, which ended in 4 punts and one turnover on downs. Midway through the 2nd quarter, the Commodores put together their first drive, going from their 24-yardline, to the Tiger 36, before a 3rd-and-7 pass went incomplete. Vandy punted the ball away, but a crucial call went against Mizzou, as DT Sheldon Richardson was penalized for the new safety rule of leaping over the personal protection shield for the punter. That 15-yard personal foul gave Vanderbilt new life, and four plays later, Zac Stacy ran it in from 5 yards out to give the Commodores a 9-6 lead with 3:47 left in the half...
That's how the score stood at halftime, despite the fact that Mizzou had allowed only 84 yards of offense to that point (76 of which came on VU's penalty-extended scoring drive)...
Mizzou CB Kip Edwards picked off Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers with 9:12 left in the 3rd quarter, and he returned it 31 yards to the Vanderbilt 45-yardline, but the Tiger offense couldn't move the ball and had to punt it away. The Commodores drove into MU territory before punting it back, and the Tigers put together a promising drive. Starting at their own 8-yardline, MU got some breathing room when Berkstresser hit WR Marcus Lucas for 17 yards. Lucas fumbled the ball while being tackled, and Mizzou WR Bud Sasser alertly picked it up and raced 16 yards further, putting MU at the Tiger 44-yardline. The drive continued to a 1st-and-goal at the Vanderbilt 9-yardline, but a pair of rushes could push it only to the 4, and Berkstresser's 3rd-and-goal pass into the endzone was incomplete, forcing a third Andrew Baggett field goal, which he made from 22 yards to tie it up at 9-9 with 0:30 seconds left in the quarter...
Needing a stop to keep the momentum, the Tiger defense was quickly on its heels as Vanderbilt had consecutive gains of 18, 24 and 10 yards to reach the MU 22-yardline. Stacy then took over, running for 8 yards and capping off the quick 5-play, 74-yard drive with his 14-yard touchdown to make it 16-9 with 13:32 remaining...
While the Mizzou crowd was deflated after that series, they got pumped up quickly on the following Tiger possession, as Berkstresser found Sasser down the right sideline for an 85-yard touchdown with 12:11 to play. That marked Mizzou's longest touchdown pass since 1976 at Nebraska (98-yarder from Pete Woods to Joe Stewart). Another special teams mishap struck again next, though, as the PAT snap was off the mark, and holder T.J. Moe was unable to complete a pass after being forced to scramble with the ball, leaving Vanderbilt with a 16-15 lead...
The Commodores converted a pair of 3rd-and-longs on their next series, and drove for a field goal for a 19-15 lead with 7:20 to play. Mizzou responded right back, and got to a 1st-and-10 at the Vandy 24-yardline, but couldn't score, as a rush for a loss was followed by three straight incompletions. Vanderbilt ran out the clock from there to sew up the win...
(MU Leads, 2-1)
W, 35-10 *
* - 1968 Gator Bowl
MIZZOU-ALABAMA SERIES HISTORY
Mizzou and Alabama will meet for only the 4th time when they square off Saturday in Columbia. The Tigers are in the minority of schools who own a winning mark against the Crimson Tide, as Mizzou leads the alltime series, 2-1. Certainly, it's been a long time since the schools have faced each other, and Saturday's game will be the first since 1978, when 'Bama claimed a 38-20 win in Columbia in their only other appearance here to date.
The first-ever meeting between Mizzou and Alabama came back in the 1968 Gator Bowl, when Dan Devine's Tigers downed Alabama by a 35-10 score. Mizzou used a punishing ground game that accounted for 402 rushing yards, and a dominating defense which sacked 'Bama quarterbacks 12 times (returning one of them for a fumble). Legendary Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said after the game: "We were really horsewhipped...We did not expect anyone to run down the field on us like they did, like they were playing a barber college. They toyed with us like children." The 25-point loss was Bryant's worst at the time in his 11 years there, and it also prevented the Crimson Tide from ending the season in the Associated Press Top-10 for the first time 10 years. Mizzou finished that season 8-3 and ranked 9th in the AP poll.
The next meeting saw Mizzou, under Coach Al Onofrio, go to Birmingham, Ala., and upset the 2nd-ranked Crimson Tide, 20-7. The Tigers entered the game as three-touchdown underdogs, but took control with a dominant first half. Mizzou allowed only 56 yards of offense in the opening half, while the Tiger offense scored on four of its first five possessions to grab a 20-0 lead at intermission. 'Bama got the only score of the 2nd half to account for the final tally, but it was Mizzou's defense which was the story, holding the vaunted Crimson Tide wishbone attack to only 31 rushing yards on 34 carries.
The last meeting came in 1978, with Coach Warren Powers on the sidelines for Mizzou. Alabama came into that game ranked #1 in the country as well, while the Tigers were ranked #11, after they opened the season with a 3-0 road win the week before at 5th-ranked and defending national champion Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide shot out to a 17-0 lead, but Mizzou answered with 20 unanswered points in the 2nd quarter to take a 20-17 lead at the half. Included in the rally was a dazzling 69-yard option keeper for a score by QB Phil Bradley and a 30-yard pick-six interception return by Russ Calabrese. Alabama regrouped in the second half, and scored on a blocked punt in the 3rd quarter to regain the lead, while adding two more scores to pull away for the 38-20 victory.
FAUROT FIELD HAS BEEN A TIGER'S LAIR
Mizzou has enjoyed quite a home field advantage at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium (nicknamed "The Zou"), as the Tigers stand 51-20 overall at home (71.8%) in Head Coach Gary Pinkel's tenure (2001-present).
Here are a few more facts related to Mizzou playing at home:
From 2006-present, Mizzou has gone 33-8 at home, for a winning percentage of 80.5%...
From 2006-present, Mizzou has gone 16-8 at home in conference games, for a winning percentage of 66.7%...
Six of those 8 home losses since 2006 came at the hands of ranked opponents.
Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has been playing at a high level all season long, as he's looking to establish himself among the best in a league with a reputation for having the best defensive linemen around.
With 38 tackles through 6 games, Richardson is amazingly Mizzou's 2nd-leading tackler, despite being a defensive tackle. He also ranks 1st in the SEC among defensive linemen with his 38 total tackles, and his per-game tackles average of 6.33 ranks him 27th in the SEC among all players, and 2nd among defensive linemen (Damontre Moore of Texas A&M has 7.00 per game in 5 games).
Richardson had a QB sack and 1.5 TFLs in all last Saturday against Vanderbilt, as the Tiger defense limited the Commodore offense to just 295 yards on the night. He finished the game with 5 tackles and added a QB hurry to his stat line, as well.
Prior to that, Richardson continued his all-star caliber play in Mizzou's Sept. 29th win at UCF. Richardson was again a high-impact performer, as he contributed with 9 tackles, 2.0 TFLs, 1.0 QB sack, and 2 QB hurries. Additionally, he pounced on the game-saving fumble with 2:29 to play in the game near midfield, which gave Mizzou possession while holding onto its 21-16 lead.
The previous week at South Carolina, Richardson was in on virtually every defensive play in the 1st quarter. First, he had a QB hurry which forced what proved to be the only pass incompletion of the day by Carolina's Connor Shaw. Then he sacked Shaw, and on the very next play forced a fumble after a completed pass to give the Tigers the ball back on their own 16-yardline. He added another tackle in the quarter, and ended the day with a 7-tackle outing.
That was a follow-up performance to a big game Richardson had the previous week against Arizona State, when he was a big part of Mizzou's solid defensive effort in a 24-20 win over the Sun Devils. In that game, Richardson notched a career-high 9 tackles, with 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-QB sack thrown in the mix, to go with 1 QB hurry as well on a night when it seemed he was either in on, or influenced every play.
Mizzou's defense held Arizona State to 236 yards and 34 points below their average offensive output, as the Sun Devils entered the game averaging 532.0 yards and 54.0 points a contest. Richardson's effort was a big reason why the Tigers held ASU to just 296 yards of total offense and 20 points.
In his last 4 games, Richardson has amassed 30 tackles, 3.0 QB sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 1 recovered fumble.
Middle Tenn. St.
TIGER DEFENSE TAKETH AWAY - FOR THE 24TH STRAIGHT GAME
Defensive coaches preach takeaways at all levels of the game of football. Mizzou's coaches have gotten their message through to the Mizzou defense of late, as the Tigers carry an active streak of 24 games having gained a takeaway into Saturday's game with #1 Alabama. The last time Mizzou's defense didn't come up with a turnover was Oct. 30, 2010 at Nebraska (a 31-17 loss).
Mizzou managed one takeaway last Saturday against Vanderbilt, courtesy of a Kip Edwards interception in the the 3rd quarter (his team-leading 2nd of the season, 5th career). The turnover streak came oh-so-close to ending the previous Saturday at Central Florida, but just like that, with only 2:29 remaining in the game, junior CB E.J. Gaines popped the ball loose from a UCF receiver after a short catch, and junior DT Sheldon Richardson gladly pounced on the fumble to effectively end the game.
Mizzou's defenders are doing something right in terms of getting the ball out. Their 9 forced fumbles so far this season is tied for 3rd-most in the nation. Here's a look:
PINKEL HAS THIRD-MOST WINS IN MIZZOU HISTORY
Mizzou Head Coach Gary Pinkel is in his 12th season at MU (22nd overall as a head coach) and touts a career record of 161-94-3 (63.0%).
Pinkel, who has led MU to a combined record of 66-32 (67.4%) over the past 7+ seasons, and to bowl games in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, has a 12-year record in Columbia of 88-57 (60.7%). Dating back to the 2005 Independence Bowl win over Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, Pinkel has gone 60-27 in his last 87 games overall (69.0%). MU's win in the 2008 opener against Illinois gave Pinkel his 50th MU win, and he now ranks 3rd on the coaching wins list at MU, with 88. The win over Kansas in 2010 was the 150th of his career.
Pinkel is in a select group of Mizzou coaches that includes College Football Hall of Famers Don Faurot and Dan Devine, as well as Warren Powers, to be the only coaches to have an MU record of above .500 (with at least one full season coached) dating all the way back to 1935.
In 2007, Pinkel guided the Tigers from unranked in the pre-season to a team which won a school-record 12 games and a final ranking of #4 in the Associated Press Top-25. Mizzou ascended to #1 in the BCS rankings following the regular season, and stood just one half away from playing in the BCS National Championship Game (before Oklahoma pulled away from a halftime tie to win the Big 12 title game). For his efforts in 2007, Pinkel was a finalist for several national coach of the year awards, including the Robinson, Bryant and Munger awards. He was also named the National Coach of the Year by FieldTurf in 2007, and his 7 bowl games is an MU record.
Pinkel has directed Mizzou to 8 winning seasons (8-5 in 2003, 7-5 in 2005, 8-5 in 2006, 12-2 in 2007, 10-4 in 2008, 8-5 in 2009, 10-3 in 2010 and 8-5 in 2011), with those representing 8 of MU's 10 winning campaigns dating back to the 1983 season.
The Big 12 North Division titles won by Mizzou in 2007, 2008 and 2010 represent the only football conference titles of any kind Mizzou has won since 1969 - the last time it claimed a share of the old Big Eight Conference crown. In April of 2011, Pinkel agreed to a two-year contract extension, meaning he'll patrol the Tiger sidelines through the 2017 season.